Project Scorpio, other than sounding like a knock-off Alex Rider novel or James Bond film, raises but one simple question: what does this project really mean for Xbox and Microsoft as a whole?
An EA executive in a recent interview described it (and the PlayStation Neo) as “upgrades to the hardware that will actually extend the (Console) cycle. I actually see it more as an incredibly positive evolution of the business strategy for players and for our industry and definitely for EA.”
But is this really just an extension of the current generation for Xbox? Phil Spencer did say the catch-phrases “beyond console generation” and “without boundaries” a fair few times during the console’s unveiling at E3, but there will still be the Xbox One and Xbox One S with Phil later saying that users would see no benefit from the new system if they don’t have a 4K capable TV.
That’s pretty much the case according to the developers. The Scorpio will play all the same games and use all the same peripherals as the Xbox One, but with significantly upgraded hardware. An eight core CPU processor with a clock speed of 2.1GHz, speculated 50-60 Graphics Core Next (an AND GPU microarchitecture term) units computing between 800 and 850MHz, memory consisting of “over” 320GB/s bandwidth (good for streaming of fast digital downloads) and potentially 12GB of DDR5 RAM all combine together to form something truly formidable.
That all sounds very nice, but the main problem for consoles is not the state of the hardware, but rather how it can’t be modified. Even with the aforementioned speculative information, the Scorpio will very much be on a parity with high-end gaming on the PC. However, this will only be temporary. Come Christmas time 2017, the PC may well have moved on. Six Teraflops of processing power might be a mid range feature, and as the price of current high-end hardware, like the outrageously overkill GTX 1080 graphics card, inevitably falls, the PC will once again be reassert itself as the Master Race.
So what can Project Scorpio do for Xbox? Well, for one, it can more closely unite the Xbox and PC gaming library, as a more powerful console will be able to, for a few years at least, keep up with the more demanding PC titles. The developers will be able to play with the most powerful console hardware ever created (unless Nintendo’s NX is as powerful as Star Trek’s NX class Enterprise that is) and push it to, and maybe beyond the limits.
Gamers will also see the benefits: 4K resolutions, Virtual reality support, and PC features from Windows 10, such as Cortana, could all be very handy when the user runs low on Mountain Dew and Doritos, or wasn’t to upload their 3 kill no-scoped headshot montage to YouTube.
So is project Scorpio worth getting? Perhaps. Well it’s not even 2017 yet mate, and we still haven’t actually seen the console in the flesh, or the concrete final specs. They may unveil it at E3 next year, have a Nintendo style separate event dedicated to it or just wait for the Reddit leaks to see what the official specs are closer to the time, we just simply don’t know. The most important factor however is the price. How much will this frankly brilliant piece of console hardware cost, particularly when you add the price of Xbox Live and yearly season passes into the mix. Hopefully I’m being pessimistic, and that the console will be as Phil says, beyond generations and therefore a pre-made PC with the Xbox logo on it. We’ll all see come Christmas 2017.