It’s E3! Microsoft have given us the first details on the shape of their next generation offering, coming in late 2020, titled Project Scarlett. Since I did write down some thoughts on the details Sony released, in a Wired article, about the PS5; I thought I should do the same for the next Xbox. First impressions are good, so far, for both of them.
Head of Xbox, Phil Spencer, said that they have heard their fans and that consoles should be “optimised for one thing and one thing only. Playing games. ” This is exactly what I wanted to hear. It’s the core purpose of the machine, it is good to hear that it is their focus once again, everything else is a bonus. Of course I expect it will still have all of the functionality we’ve come to expect like playing Netflix etc, but it’s rightly seen as a bonus feature on a gaming machine. Phil Spencer has done a lot of good work to turn things around for Xbox since he took charge. I trust him to deliver an excellent product when the time comes.
Microsoft have also gone for a Solid State Drive which is excellent news. Sony’s tech demo showing load times in Spider-Man being cut from 8 seconds to less than 1 second show just how much potential there is here. The advantages of using an SSD over a standard HDD in terms of loading times being reduced and being eliminated altogether in some circumstances are clear. The only downside is that SSDs are more expensive than HDDs but both Sony & Microsoft are having theirs custom made; Rather than taking an off the shelf product so hopefully, some savings can be made as a result.
In terms of raw CPU power they are expecting Scarlett to be 4 times more powerful than the Xbox One X. Certainly a step up. Allowing them to name drop 8K resolutions, real time ray-tracing and increased frame rates up to 120fps. Much the same as Mark Cerny did when talking about the expected capabilities of the PS5. It’s all sounding rather lovely to be honest. While I’m not too bothered about the increased resolutions, the other benefits of the enhanced graphical power do bother me. I’ll be looking to see how it affects the draw distances, foliage densities and hair physics believe you me.
Until we get the final specs of both machines, and see them in action, there isn’t much to compare. It sounds like both will be in the same sort of ballpark, which is to be expected, with similar design focuses underpinning their approaches to building the machines. It’s shaping up well so far and if it does turn out that they are broadly similar, the focus can shift back to what matters; the games.