E3 2019 - Microsoft's "monster-eating" next-gen Project Scarlett console might be its best, but it won't be its last.
Project Scarlett is shaping up to be quite beastly with 8K support, 120FPS gaming, and an AMD Zen 2 CPU and Navi GPU enabling 4 times the Xbox One X's power. But it's not going to be the definitive end-all final Xbox. Even with Project xCloud game streaming on the way, Microsoft isn't giving up on consoles and sees a dedicated future beyond Scarlett.
If anything streaming will increase the number of devices gamers use--or at least that's what Xbox VP of gaming Phil Spencer thinks.
"We're not planning for Scarlett to be our last console. We're continuing to invest in our hardware team, we're going to ship Project Scarlett and we think it's an important design point in the balance between CPU and GPU that we've just never really hit on a console before, which is going to help us with feel and frame rate and refresh rate synced with game loops and stuff," Spencer said in a recent interview with Giant Bomb at E3 2019.
Spencer goes on to briefly chronicle why certain Xbox consoles were made. The Xbox One X was specifically designed to deliver 4K gaming, whereas Scarlett is all about synergizing CPU, GPU, and other console hardware points to deliver more immersive experiences. It's a tightening and dramatic expansion of everything the Xbox One X did while introducing a brand new generation.
The console beyond Scarlett will follow a similar path...but Microsoft doesn't know that main motivation just yet.
"The thing for us past Scarlett is what is that next inflection point of experience that would actually be meaningful. We thought 4K would be meaningful [with the Xbox One X], and we wanted to make sure we had the memory bandwidth and the GPU to deliver 4K gaming."
"I think we have something meaningful with Scarlett that frankly that both of us [Sony and Microsoft] are just about at. Beyond that I don't know. But we're not planning for not doing another console."
Project xCloud won't threaten dedicated console gaming, Spencer says, especially not the future of Xbox hardware.
The reality is that game streaming isn't nearly advanced enough to deliver the same quality of gaming that consoles or PCs can (especially the latter). If anything Project xCloud and services like Stadia will be secondary, complimentary, and ancillary to console gaming. It won't replace it.
Streaming is a convenience feature, but the main event will still be dedicated boxes with built-in hardware where games are stored locally.
"I don't think in that timeline that game streaming will deliver the same gaming experiences as Scarlett. I could be wrong. We're going to continue with our xCloud work, but we look at it as a specific analogy. I'm a Spotify subscriber, I'm a Netflix subscriber, it's not like streaming has led to fewer devices. If anything I have more devices around me. And the price point of a console isn't for everybody, but it's not $1,000 bucks.
"So the idea that I have a dedicated machine in my house that plays games really well doesn't seem foreign to me even if I'm streaming games a lot of the time."
Microsoft and Sony kicked off a sub-generation of iterative consoles that boosted internal hardware. But that might not happen with Scarlett, or at least its generation will last longer.
"But we don't yet know what comes after Scarlett, what would be the thing. We don't have a need to do one 2-3 years after that. We would just continue to focus on delivering meaningful experiences in new ways," Spencer said.
It's refreshing to see Microsoft is grounded about game streaming and doesn't see it as an end-all experience like Google does with its Stadia platform. It'll take a while before streaming is truly up to par as latency and bandwidth issues are always a roadblock to the accessibility it sells, and consoles should live on for a long, long time even as server technology ramps up.
After all, gamers like to play games they actually own and can play offline.
Project Scarlett is due out by Holiday 2020. No pricing was announced. Check below for everything we know about Project Scarlett so far:
Project Scarlett confirmed details:
- Zen 2 CPU
- Navi GPU
- 4x as powerful as the Xbox One X's 6TFLOPs of perf
- Super-fast SSD that can be used as VRAM (likely PCIe 4.0)
- Supports 8K resolution (likely media playback)
- 120FPS gaming
- Can deliver up to 40x more performance than Xbox One in specific use cases
- Raytracing confirmed
- Backward compatible with Xbox, Xbox 360, and Xbox One games
- Compatible with Xbox One accessories