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Microsoft clarifies next-gen Xbox Series X game enhancements

'Optimized for Xbox Series X' actually means a few different things. Microsoft finally clarifies what to expect from next-gen game perf.

2 minutes & 38 seconds read time

Microsoft has finally explained exactly what Optimized for Xbox Series X actually means, and it aligns with our older predictions on next-gen enhancements.

Microsoft clarifies next-gen Xbox Series X game enhancements 4

Just as we predicted, developers have two ways to approach optimizations on next-gen consoles: Release a next-gen only version of the game that's built from the ground up to leverage the higher-end specs, or roll out enhancement patches that push existing current-gen games past their current perf targets.

The Xbox Series X approach combines both iterative and next-gen strategies together. The upgrades to existing games is similar in practice to the Xbox One X Enhanced program which boosted FPS, resolution, and added HDR. The other half is the pure next-gen exclusive optimizations, which is the kind of thing you'd see in a true hard generational reset.

Here's how Microsoft defines the new optimization banner:

Optimized for Xbox Series X is the indicator for games that take advantage of the full power of Xbox Series X.

Titles displaying the Optimized for Xbox Series X badge can include:

  • Brand new games built natively for the Xbox Series X such as Halo Infinite.
  • Previously released titles in which a developer has enhanced their title using the Xbox Series X development environment to dramatically leverage the power and features Xbox Series X has to offer, like Gears 5.

When you hear a game has been Optimized for Xbox Series X, you'll know that the developer has either natively designed or fully rebuilt their game to take full advantage of the console.

As always, devs have full discretion and choice in how they utilize the Xbox Series X's power. There's lots of options including:

  • High frame rates up to 120FPS
  • Native 4K resolution at 60FPS
  • HDR
  • Ultra-fast load times with 3.5GB/sec PCIe 4.0 SSD and Velocity Architecture
  • Custom game installs
  • Smart Delivery
  • Ray tracing (audio and visual)
  • Variable refresh rates
  • 3D audio
Microsoft clarifies next-gen Xbox Series X game enhancements 6

Some games will be pushed pretty far, even those that aren't optimized. The console will actually natively scale and push certain games to higher perf targets without any optimizations. So every game you play on the Xbox Series X will play better than any other Xbox. These native upgrades include tighter FPS and improved visual quality.

Other optimizations can dramatically change how games look, play, and feel.

Gears of War Ultimate, for example, has been upgraded to native 4K resolution on the Xbox Series X. This could also be applied to other backwards compatible games.

"Native Resolution is an Xbox Series X backwards compatibility enhancement for select Xbox One games that allows them to render at native 4K even if they weren't originally designed for 4K."

Other games like Gears 5 will get even more dramatic upgrades. The Coalition has upgraded Gears 5 to run at Ultra equivalent PC settings with visual quality akin to an RTX 2080 GPU, all with ray-traced global illumination.

The potential here is staggering, but we should still expect to see first-party Xbox games to push their limits farther than third-party titles.

The Xbox Series X releases Holiday 2020. No pricing or exact launch date have been revealed.

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Derek joined the TweakTown team in 2015 and has since reviewed and played 1000s of hours of new games. Derek is absorbed with the intersection of technology and gaming, and is always looking forward to new advancements. With over six years in games journalism under his belt, Derek aims to further engage the gaming sector while taking a peek under the tech that powers it. He hopes to one day explore the stars in No Man's Sky with the magic of VR.

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