Microsoft has torn up the rule book on traditional console cycles with Project Scorpio. First revealed at E3, the console features more powerful hardware and 'seamless' software, Scorpio marks a new beginning for Microsoft's role in the gaming space.
The Xbox One S, on the other hand, provides an smaller, less substantial upgrade, bringing HDR gaming and 4K entertainment thanks to its 4K Blu-ray player. In a nutshell, it's a smaller, prettier and more efficient Xbox One.
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Watch our Xbox One S video review
Xbox Scorpio release date: When can you buy one?
The Project Scorpio console will be available in the holiday season of 2017, Microsoft has confirmed. For previous console launches, this has been around November, so barring any delays it’s safe to assume that’s when you’ll be getting your hands on one.
Phil Spencer recently confirmed via Twitter that both Xbox Scorpio games and hardware are already in production. With the console due out in just over a year, it's hardly surprising, but nonetheless very exciting.
Xbox Scorpio: The end of console generations?
In an interview with Engadget, Xbox head of games marketing Aaron Greenberg said that the Xbox Scorpio marks the beginning of the end of traditional console life cycles for Microsoft.
"We think the future is without console generations," Greenberg said. "we think that the ability to build a library, a community, to be able to iterate with the hardware -- we're making a pretty big bet on that with Project Scorpio.
"We're basically saying, 'This isn't a new generation; everything you have continues forward and it works.' We think of this as a family of devices."
Greenberg goes on to say that, is the Scorpio is a success, then it will "change the way we think about the future of console gaming."
Xbox Scorpio games: Will there be exclusives?
Initially, Microsoft stated that Scorpio wouldn't have platform exclusives, but that position isn't as clear cut as we first thought. All current Xbox One games will work on the upgraded console, but Microsoft isn't ruling out exclusives.
Speaking in an interview, a senior Microsoft spokesperson said it was 'up to developers' to decide if they want to develop games exclusively for Project Scorpio.
"I don't know about that. We'll see. It's up to the game development community; what do they want to do," said Shannon Loftis, GM of Game Publishing at Microsoft.
Related: PS4 Pro vs Xbox Scorpio
Since the original announcement, CNET published an interview with Xbox's Head of Operations Dave McCarthy, station that Microsoft is looking for a 'seamless' experience for developers, with developers able to work easily across Xbox One, Scorpio and Windows 10.
McCarthy has previously said that the Scorpio would 'wipe out' the console upgrade cycle, with games working across platforms. This makes complete sense when you consider that the Xbox Play Anywhere scheme entitles gamers who buy games digitally through Microsoft's own stores to play them on both PC and Xbox One.
We can safely assume this approach will also apply to the Scorpio, making it look even more likely that actual hardware upgrade cycles will get much shorter, like that of PC components, but with consumers able to stick with their current console for multiple years before it's gradually phased out. All speculation of course, but a logical step nonetheless.
Xbox Scorpio performance: How powerful is Project Scorpio?
Project Scorpio will have an 8-core CPU from an unknown manufacturer and a graphics card with 6TFLOPs (trillion floating point operations per second) of power. It’ll also have 320GB/s of memory bandwidth.
In simple terms, the graphics core will be more than capable of going toe-to-toe with today’s top-end graphics card – comparison, the brand-new Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 has 6.5TFLOPs of performance. By the time Scorpio launches, it’ll be equivalent of a mid-range PC in 2017, which is how most consoles tend to launch.
This is a console made for VR. In the announcement video, Fallout 4 VR was clearly mentioned, as well as the fact that the console would be capable of playing games in 4K resolutions at 60Hz. This makes total sense, as 4K TVs are becoming the standard for buyers looking to invest in high-end equipment.
Phil Spencer, the head of Xbox at Microsoft, told The Verge that Scorpio will feel like a new generation in terms of graphical fidelity.
"I actually think the upgrade to Scorpio in terms of visual fidelity will feel as dramatic of a change as we're used to seeing in new generations," said Spencer.
This is a bold claim to make, especially since all future games will run on both the Xbox One and Xbox One S.
Following the full reveal of the PS4 Pro, Microsoft has gone on a full offensive regarding how Sony's new hardware stacks up with Scorpio. In a recent interview, head of Xbox Albert Penello claimed that the PS4 Pro won't be able to hit native 4K, whereas Xbox Scorpio will.
"I think there are a lot of caveats they're giving customers right now around 4K," he said. "They're talking about checkerboard rendering and up-scaling and things like that. There are just a lot of asterisks in their marketing around 4K, which is interesting because when we thought about what spec we wanted for Scorpio, we were very clear we wanted developers to take their Xbox One engines and render them in native, true 4K.
“That was why we picked the number, that's why we have the memory bandwidth we have, that's why we have the teraflops we have, because it's what we heard from game developers was required to achieve native 4K.”
It's clear Microsoft is coming out strong in the battle for console supremacy against Sony, and the new consoles will play a big part in deciding a winner.
What about Xbox One?
Microsoft has fended off all your questions before you even asked them: Xbox as a platform won’t change.
“We add to the capabilities of the Xbox One and Xbox family without forcing gamers to abandon all the games and the community they love so much,” the announcement video said.
The firm added that accessories and games would continue to work on Scorpio. However, it wasn’t clear whether all new games launched would get both an Xbox One version and a Scorpio version.
Based on Microsoft’s strategy of making games available for Xbox and Windows 10, it would make sense for the company to continue releasing games for both, essentially creating a mini ecosystem of devices with different specifications for people on different budgets.
Xbox Scorpio price: How much will Project Scorpio cost?
Nothing has been announced so far. The console is so far away it’s hard to predict, but considering the specifications and assuming Microsoft will sell it with narrow profit margins, we’re looking at a console costing in the region of £500 or around $600.
Xbox Scorpio – How has Sony responded?
The most interesting fallout of Microsoft's bold new direction for console gaming has been how Sony has responded. Following the PlayStation Meeting, both company's cards are now on the table, and it's clear Sony is taking a different tact to its biggest rivals. With the unveiling of the PS4 Pro, a more powerful console than the PS4, but one which pales in comparison to the Scorpio, Sony is looking to offer what it considers to be the pinnacle of the current console generation. However, it is not looking to blur the lines between generations.
One phrase consistently used by lead system architect Mark Cerny was this: "PS4 Pro is not the start of a new console generation, nor is it a console that is going to blur the lines between generations". This is interesting, as the phrasing use shows a clear demarcation from the Microsoft strategy. But as things stand, the Scorpio is set to be the most powerful console on the market by the end of 2017. Will Sony respond with a third console refresh? We don't know, but it's a very interesting time for gaming.
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