Project Scorpio specs are here, raising questions about the future of consoles
Ever since video game consoles were first introduced, there has been a very clear pattern to new console releases. Manufacturers release a new console, they let it mature for five to eight years (give or take), and then they jump to the next generation with an entirely new piece of hardware that shakes up the industry. That model now, however, seems outdated.
Today, Microsoft released its Project Scorpio specs through Eurogamer’s Digital Foundry, giving us our first real look at the console that was initially introduced at E3 2016. And the specs are impressive. The new system (which still doesn’t have an official name yet) will be the most powerful console on the market by a fair margin whenever it is released. It also joins Sony’s PlayStation 4 Pro in upending the traditional console hardware market.
You’ll find the specs below. More after the jump.
The new system will offer a host of advancements, but until we see it actually running and hear more of what Microsoft has planned, it’s mostly academic. It’s absolutely an impressive set of specs though, and the comparison above lays it out nicely against its competitors.
Digital Foundry also stated that Project Scorpio is at least six months from release, but it’s apparently running ahead of schedule. Microsoft showed them a Forza running at 4K at 60 fps, confirming that it is far enough along to run software well enough to show off to press. Still, there’s a lot we don’t know about the new console, including how much it will cost. The PS4 Pro debuted at $399, which would make sense for the new Microsoft system, but Project Scorpio is also more powerful. That might be reflected in the price.
For the last year or so, it has been public knowledge that Microsoft and Sony were both planning new iterations of their current hardware that wouldn’t make the current hardware obsolete, but instead would offer a powerful new alternative for gamers looking for something more. The details were vague at first, at least until Sony officially unveiled the PS4 Pro in September 2016.
Sony and Microsoft’s new consoles will both play current PS4 and Xbox One games, and both manufacturers have stated that their new systems will play the current gen games – Project Scorpio will even offer Xbox 360 support (although it will probably be somewhat limited to select titles, much like it is on the Xbox One).
On the surface, this is a good move for both companies. They can continue to push new hardware and peripherals to go with it, all without alienating their current customers. The real question is how dedicated are Microsoft and Sony to supporting an aging customer base, and will the software become too much for the current gen?
If Microsoft and Sony can guarantee that these incremental hardware updates won’t affect the software development – which they claim it won’t – then gamers can rejoice at the idea that they won’t need to buy a new system anytime soon. The PS4 and Xbox One are barely three years old, and developers are still just finding their groove with the systems. This year alone we’ve already seen at least three games that are already in the discussion for game of the year – Horizon Zero Dawn, Persona 5, and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (which, admittedly, is being presented more as a Switch launch title, but it was initially developed for the Wii U).
One of the primary selling points of the PS4Pro and Project Scorpio are their 4K capabilities, but that’s still a very small percentage of the TV market. It’s unquestionably growing, but it will be years before 4K sets are a dominant force. Until then, most gamers will probably be perfectly content with their HD sets and Ps4/Xbox Ones.
There’s also another major question that may make this all seem like a moot point -can Microsoft properly handle the messaging of its new system?
When the Project Scorpio was first officially confirmed at E3 2016, it was part of the same show where Microsoft officially introduced the Xbox One S. It was a ridiculous contradiction, as Microsoft tried to encourage people to buy a new version of the Xbox One while simultaneously telling people that there is something even better coming soon.
On reflection that messaging looks even worse, given that Project Scorpio won’t be released for at least a year after the initial announcement, probably much more. The poor Xbox One S became an afterthought in the competition between Microsoft and Sony.
With the Project Scorpio, Microsoft needs to walk a thin line. Sony managed to downplay the PS4 Pro, ensuring that PS4 owners didn’t feel like they are being left behind. The flipside to that is the PS4 Pro hasn’t really had much of an impact. Sony has claimed the sales are strong, but it has yet to release any numbers to back that up. Microsoft will need to hype up the new system without alienating its current users, and that will require a delicate touch, something it hasn’t really proven itself to possess.
For now though, this is all academic. The PS4 Pro hasn’t hurt Sony, and Project Scorpio isn’t hitting shelves for a long time. Even when it does, it will probably be a year – possibly years – before we know how this truly impacts the development cycle of the consoles. Will we see a PlayStation 5 at some point, or will there just be a PS4 Pro2 that plays PS4 games? Will there be another Xbox (XboxTwo?), or will Project Scorpio be Microsoft’s last entry for several years to come? Time – and sales – will tell.