In 2005, Microsoft launched Xbox 360: a piece of hardware at least a year ahead of its time from a technological standpoint, introducing multi-core CPU processing and state-of-the-art advanced graphics technology. PlayStation 3 arrived a year later – an absolute age in technological terms – but the Xbox 360 still shone through. It was the product of a company determined to do everything it could to create the most powerful games console ever made. After the media missteps of Xbox One and the loss of performance leadership, Project Scorpio is a return to that fierce determination to produce the best possible box. This is the result of an Xbox team with something to prove – exactly the reaction we hoped for.
Microsoft’s invitation to Digital Foundry to talk tech and exclusively reveal specs is a bold, brave move that at once highlights the platform holder’s confidence in its new hardware, and continues its strategy of keeping users informed well ahead of time, as opposed to seeing carefully laid plans exposed via a relentless, inevitable trickle of leaks. The tactic worked at E3 (albeit at the cost of annoying some Xbox One owners, and gazumping the announcement of Xbox One S), and it continues to pay off with this reveal.
Across one extremely packed day just over a week ago at Microsoft’s vast Redmond campus, I met with silicon architects, hardware designers, corporate vice presidents and P3 himself: head of Xbox, Phil Spencer. I can’t think of any example of access at this level so far in advance of the launch of new hardware, but fundamentally, Project Scorpio is aimed at a very different user to prospective Xbox One S owners, making this coverage potentially less impactful to sales of the existing device. These days, Xbox One has skewed towards value, while Scorpio will be a piece of hardware with a premium price-point. My sense is that the price differential will be fairly wide and that there’ll be less crossover in the audience than there is with PS4 and Pro.
Coming out of my visit and talking to colleagues, the main questions I was asked mainly concerned things that either I can’t talk about or don’t know. What does it look like? How big is it? What are the games like? What’s it called and how much will it cost? On the latter point, we can at least have some informed speculation. PS4 Pro launched at £349/$399. Scorpio has a larger processor (the most expensive single part of any console), 4GB more memory, a faster hard drive, a UHD Blu-ray drive and a state-of-the-art cooling solution. All of these add cumulatively to the bill of materials and if I had to guess – and I’ll stress that this isn’t based on anything I might have heard on my visit – Project Scorpio is going to cost in the region of $499.
What’s it going to be called? Again, there are no hints here from anyone at Microsoft, except to say that there’s lots of talk about Scorpio being a part of ‘the Xbox One family of products’, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see the machine named appropriately. The core concept is that Scorpio sits alongside Xbox One offering the same games, the same fundamental gameplay, separated not just by 1080p and 4K display ownership, but also by how committed the users are to owning the latest and greatest technology. Compared to last year though, the messaging to 1080p users – and indeed the delivery of features – is more firmly defined, an area where Microsoft has also learned from Sony’s missteps with PS4 Pro.
Read the rest at Digital Foundry