Microsoft has officially confirmed what we all thought was coming; Project Scorpio announced at E3 2017. The next generation of consoles is on its way and the countdown has officially begun. With the Digital Foundry spec leak behind us, there has been a lot of speculation at what the console can and can’t do. The question does still remain, “what CAN Project Scorpio actually achieve?” Here are some thoughts I have been tossing around for a while about this console, but I’ve been holding them in until the right time, and now I feel that time has come to express my opinions on Project Scorpio:
Native 4K Gaming:
4K SUHD has been on the rise, and sales were up 32% this holiday season (2016) from the previous year. Studies have shown that people are cutting the cable cord and moving towards streaming services. Netflix is the most popular, mainly because of the 4K streaming capabilities (personal opinion) it has to offer. In April of last year, Netflix raised their prices in order to provide 4K streaming content. I even had a friend that I worked with tell me “I bought a 4K TV so there was no reason for me to have cable anymore.” Asking him why, his response made sense: “Cable companies don’t offer 4K, only 1080i and it looks blurry on my 70in TV.” While cable companies are being asked to provide content in 4K, the infrastructure just isn’t there yet, and with Net Neutrality (almost) a thing of the past, cable cutters can now have unlimited streaming capabilities in native 4K.
If you don’t know the difference between native 1080p and 1080i, allow me to explain on a simple level. When you’re watching a sports event on your big TV with your cable box, you’ll notice the picture is blurry and that’s what is called “1080i.” It means the picture is coming into your cable box at only 720p, but the hardware ports it up to 1080i and spreads the picture across the screen to fit the larger screens. Native 1080p is when you’re watching a Blu-Ray movie and the picture is clear and concise, hence the name “Native 1080p.” What the PlayStation4 Pro and the Xbox One S do is essentially what the cable box does; ports the picture up to 4K and manipulates the picture like a cable box, just at a much better resoultion.
But cable companies and gaming companies are different, right?
Immensely. So then why bring this up? While it’s only one person, my friend proved my point of people buy a 4K TV to have 4K content on that TV. You don’t spend $2,000 to watch a blurry sports game or 10 year old DVD’s, or even play your Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 in SD on it. As someone who has worked for the Geeksquad installing TV’s and HT equipment, I can say definitively that some TV manufactures are completely moving away from the SD ports and are moving on to HDMI inputs exclusively. Why do you think the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One only came with HDMI ports? TV technology has advanced so far in the past decade, it’s nearly impossible to keep up with it.
Whats important for Microsoft to do is make the games native 4K, not port ups like what the XBO S does. Native 4K gaming is a must for this to be successful, especially with the TV technology being where it’s at today. Project Scorpio needs to have something that the XBO S can’t do. If all that’s different about Project Scorpio from the XBO S is simply that it can play games in 4K, I’ll save my money and by an S model. They also have to get the messaging on what the console is and what it can do. The Xbox One reveal was a mess and quite honestly, Sony was laughing as the ship was sinking to the bottom of the ocean, burning the whole way down. Microsoft has to nail this.
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As Phil Spencer has stated multiple times during interviews, the Xbox is first and foremost a gaming console. Consumers will buy an Xbox to play games on it, all the streaming services are extras that are added on. If a consumer wants Netflix, they can get it from a new 4K Smart TV, a Roku and a million other devices now, even Comcast cable boxes are offering Netflix services’ now.
Up to this point, all we’ve heard about Project Scorpio is it’s going to be a beast. From the specs that were leaked we can make a hypothesis that “yes, it can handle native 4K gaming,” the only problem with that assumption is the lack of evidence we’ve seen to support the statements Microsoft has announced. Seeing gameplay in true 4K would be the best thing for the E3 press conference. Scorpio has to hit home on all the right points and games need to be the top of that list.
Phil has promised games to be the focal point of the Xbox when he took over, and so far he’s delivered; sort of. The cancelation of scale bound has caused an uproar and even caused others to leave the platform completely. Sony has gone more towards the single player exclusive with games like Nioh, The Last of Us, and even Bloodbourne promising us fantastic story with awesome gameplay. Microsoft has gone more towards the Multiplayer aspect with games such as Sea of Thieves and the original Titanfall, keeping it’s player base engaged with each other.
When launching a new console, it’s hard to get the new games to sell like the last generation did. When the Xbox One launched the lineup was scarce, and looking back on it, wasn’t very strong. Four of the 15 games were on the previous console: Battlefield 4, Call of Duty: Ghosts, Assassins Creed IV: Black Flag, and Madden 25. A launch lineup that has strong games after a strong showing is the most important goal for Microsoft post E3. We need to see Crackdown 3, Gears of War 4, and some of the future AAA exclusives in 4K on stage running on Project Scorpio.
E3 2012 was a disaster for Microsoft. The briefing that included a full work-up of the streaming capabilities and not much of the games besides Forza. The messaging was clear on one thing though; DRM.
What exactly is DRM? Imagine a platform where used games sales go out the window. Once you buy a game, you can’t resell it. That disc is now locked to your console. Imagine a key code for Xbox and once you put that code in, not only can you not trade it in for other games, you can’t return it if you have an issue wth it. Essentially, it’s preventing the resale of games and preventing the used games market. While there is a negative effect for DRM, there is also a positive. Digital Rights Management prevents the piracy of video games, thankfully the console manufactures have been able to notice if the game is illegal or not and can turn your console into a brick, even going as far to ban your serial number from Xbox Live/PlayStation Network completely.
Microsoft was clear that DRM would be a focal point of their new console but didn’t explain much after that. The fans were in an uproar after the conference. The messaging was not clear and many fans who were thinking of early adopting or even pre-ordering the console were now backing down from that notion and moving towards the PS4. Couple that with the Xbox One reserving some resources for the Kinnect that Microsoft was forcing you to use in order to navigate the console efficiently, it’s no wonder the PS4 is outselling the XBO. The resources that were being reserved for the Kinnect were those that would have helped get the native 1080p that the PS4 was achieving already.
While Microsoft was seething with frustration, even the Head of Xbox at the time Don Mattrick was alienating those without internet access stating:
“Some of the advantages that you get, of having, a box that is designed to use an online state, so, that, uh, to me is the future-proof choice, and I think people, could’ve arguably gone the other way if we didn’t do it and fortunately we have a product for people who aren’t able to get some form of connectivity, it’s called Xbox 360.”
So as the sequence of events has now gone form poor messaging, to poor statements, the Xbox brand was burning to the ground; quickly. This was a huge problem with the Xbox One launch. It was marketed as an “All-in-One” console with cable controlling, voice commanding, and streaming first device instead of a gaming console with all the aforementioned add-ons as front runners for marketing the console. Microsoft needs to give us games for a gaming console. Period. Without games, the brand will fail.
I by no means want this console to fail, I’m merely being skeptical of what the conference will consist of. Microsoft has always had weak conferences on a big stage such as E3, (personal opinion) but when the Origional Xbox and the Xbox 360 were announced, they were at their own event and the spotlight was on them and only them. Why not do that? Why not do your own event instead of being surrounded by hundreds of other games?
With that being said, they have always righted the ship and have been successful in the long run. Microsoft is very good at marketing after they mess up, and with Phil Spencer at the helm, I’m trusting they’ll keep games first. I hope Project Scorpio is a success and the reveal is a success. I’m simply asking for expectations to be tampered because of the previous console reveal in 2012.
So lets recap what we need and why.
Native 4K Gaming: With the rise of 4K becoming ever more mainstream and prominent, Microsoft has to hit that 4K threshold with Project Scorpio and difference itself from the Xbox One S. If the only thing that’s different from the XBO S and Project Scorpio is a separate box, it’s going to fail. Microsoft needs to be clear on what the difference is.
Games: The most important part of choosing a gaming console is the games that come with it. Games are the most important thing for a console, and should be put first in the conference. We need to see what this console can do and why we should buy it.
Messaging: Being clear, concise, and easy to understand is the most important part of this conference. Microsoft needs to be clear on what is different from this console and from the others they have made in the past.
What are your thoughts on the new console and what are some thoughts you have on it?
Phil Spencer and the Scorpio Development Team are “very confident” on what they’ll show on stage at E3.