Xbox Series S has finally been revealed, however, developers are not happy about the extra work they’ll need to do to optimize games for the entry-level, next-gen Xbox.
The main disadvantage of Xbox Series S is RAM, to keep costs as low as possible, Xbox designed hardware that features a significantly slower memory compared to Series X’s. It has been reported that this RAM issue will limit the performance of Series S in regards to backward-compatible titles.
Axel Gneiting and Billy Khan from id Software criticized the Xbox Series S as the system will require heavy optimizations to run Series X games, something that has led the developers to define the Series S as a console “hard to work with”
Really bummed about this RAM situation on the Series S. This isn't easy to compensate and drags down base spec quite a bit for next gen multi platform. RAM increase was already small compared to previous gen, now it's almost non existent. RT BVHs also need a lot of mem on top.
— Axel Gneiting (@axelgneiting) September 10, 2020
“The S is significantly nerfed compared to X ( 4 vs 12.5 TFLOPS / 20 vs 52 CU ) but still much beefier than a base One. It’s a good option for Xbox exclusives if you buy a PS5 and don’t want to buy another expensive console.” Says Dustin Land from id Software.
“The memory situation is a big issue on the S. The much lower amount of memory and the split memory banks with drastically slower speeds will be a major issue. Aggressively lowering the render resolutions will marginally help but will not completely counteract the deficiencies”. Explains Billy Khan, Lead Engine Programmer at id Software.
id Software’s worries are in accordance with the comments of Remedy’s Senior Technical Producer, Sasan Sepehr. The veteran affirms that from a customer standpoint, he loves Series S, but as a Technical Producer, he sees trouble.
Co-owner and Design Lead of TeamBlurGames, Gavin Stevens has come out in defense of Xbox Series S in a long Twitter thread, he suggests that RAM design is somewhat controversial as he did not expect a drop in RAM speed but he defends the decision as the small console is not rendering games at 4K.
“Well, this is another interesting area, as this isn’t what I was expecting. Truth be told, I was expecting it to be the same speed, just less. However, as you can see, RAM has not only dropped in size but speed too, 10GB 560GB/s versus 8GB 224GB/s for the fast and 6GB 336GB/s versus 2GB 52GB/s. That’s a rather large drop, no? In all honesty, if any concerns or issues pop up for developers, it will be because of this.
But let’s look closer. First of all, the obvious. A drop in resolution also means a massive drop in VRAM utilization, and as such, you can strike off a shed load of that memory right away. In fact, 4k traditionally uses 8gb of VRAM, while 1080p just 2-6gb, and 1440p 4-8gb. With such a large cost reduction it’s possible to hold more *other* data in memory, meaning that you already need less speed.
However, let’s take this further. Smart delivery will be used for delivering ONLY the assets you need. What does this mean exactly? Well, on an XSS you could have lower resolution textures or lower polygon models, as a possibility. I don’t see this becoming a norm, but it IS possible, so I need to mention it. Hence they would require substantially less memory.”
Certainly, next-gen projects are already over-demanding for developers, Xbox’s strategy might be a tough pill to swallow for most of the third-party developers who sees PlayStation a more friendly platform to produce next-gen games.