Xbox Scarlett, The Future of Console Gaming?
With the E3 conference this June there came a lot of big announcements, even some by companies and developers who chose not to attend. Among the most notable, though, was Microsoft’s announcement and press video for their next-gen console Project Scarlett. While every new console gets its moment in the limelight before being released, this particular announcement came with some hints at where the future of console gaming is headed as a whole. In this article we’ll not only take a close look at everything we know about Project Scarlett, but we’ll also try to see what we can speculate about how gaming will look in the future, at least for Microsoft.
To see how the world of console gaming is poised to change in the future we should first take a look at the past to see how it’s evolved to its current position. For most of console gaming history companies would release one major piece of hardware at a time. Think of the PlayStation One, then the PS2, PS3, and so on. Similarly, Microsoft released the Xbox, then the Xbox 360. This linear release schedule was a fairly standard way that gaming companies released their consoles, but everything began to change with the most recent generation.
With Sony’s most recent console, the PS4, there was a standard or slim option, and a “pro” option. Likewise Microsoft released a standard or slim option alongside the Xbox One X, their “pro” version of the most recent console. It appeared then with this most recent generation of gaming hardware that there would be a more standard version offered at a lower price and a high-end version for consumers looking for better performance at a higher price. While this seemed for a while to be the direction that consoles were headed in, with Sony and Microsoft’s next generation of consoles this “regular” and “high-end” dual hardware strategy appears to be left behind.
Before the announcement of Project Scarlett at this year’s e3, there were rumors that Microsoft planned to release a high end console such as Scarlett alongside a less powerful and more budget-friendly console supposedly codenamed “Lockhart.” These rumors were put to rest once Scarlett was announced, however, as Microsoft said that there was no second console coming with the new generation. The high-powered and likely expensive Project Scarlett will be the only console offered by Microsoft this generation.
This move towards one high-end console can be seen with Sony as well, as they have only spoken about one single console to be the replacement of the PS4 lineup. Moving towards a single, more expensive unit seems curious at first, but is readily explained by the newest member of the gaming community: subscriptions. The more budget friendly consoles likely won’t disappear with this next generation of systems, but will rather take the form of subscription services instead. With new offerings such as Google’s Stadia, Playstation Now, and Xbox Game Pass, it’s easy to see that companies are committed to offering subscription game services across any platform they can to reach the largest audience possible.
Usually these services only cost around $10 to $20 a month making them easily accessible to gamers that might not have access to the highest-end hardware. It appears that these cross-platform subscription services will be the new “budget” console that companies offer alongside their pricey powerhouse consoles. The Project Scarlett announcement video even directly supports this thought by mentioning multiple times their emphasis on cross-platform play and backwards compatibility with Game Pass.
While there hasn’t been a direct announcement of the PS5 from Sony, they did have Mark Cerny give an interview revealing some vague thoughts on the console and directions that it would move in. Cerny made sure to be very clear that this next console would be a completely new system and not a mere upgrade. With 8K capabilities, a next-gen custom AMD CPU, and a new form of faster SSD, it’s very clear that Sony will also be releasing one single powerhouse console to replace the PS4. In the interview there was also mention of the fact that with this next system there would be an emphasis on cloud gaming and Playstation Now in particular. This single high-end console and subscription-based budget gaming appears then to also be adopted by Sony with this up and coming console generation.
So with all that speculation out of the way, let’s look at some cold, hard facts that have been given to us about Project Scarlett. After all, how do we really know that this next console will really be all that high-end? Firstly, in the announcement video the SSD seemed to take center stage for the new hardware that Scarlett will be sporting. With games being able to load much quicker, and even using SSD storage as virtual ram, Microsoft says that this console will have over forty times an increase in performance from the previous generation. The CPU is no slouch either, with an AMD Zen2 Navi that’s 4 times more powerful than the Xbox One X there will clearly be much more capability.
While there wasn’t any mention of how much RAM would be in the system, it was stated that Scarlett would be running the newest GDDR6 format. All of these specs lead to a console that will support 120fps, 8K gaming with real-time ray tracing. If this all sounds pretty incredible, Microsoft thinks so too, even going as far as to state in their announcement video that “This generation is going to be a bigger leap than any generation we’ve done before.” In the announcement there was also a heavy amount of mentioning the Game Pass subscription service across multiple devices as well as promising 4 generations of backwards compatibility and cross-platform play. Apparently, according to the video, your previous generation of accessories and accounts will even carry over to this new platform.
What can we learn then from all this jumbled mess of speculation and pre-release facts? While it truly seems that everything is pointing towards this next generation of consoles moving into a single high-end piece of hardware with a low-cost subscription service as a budget alternative, we ultimately won’t know anything for sure until next year when these new consoles are released. No matter what the future of console gaming holds, though, we can be sure based on the specs we have that Project Scarlett will be one hell of a console.
Thanks for taking the time to read this article by Gaming Instincts! Make sure to check back to hear about the newest Project Scarlett details and rumors.