After months of rumors, Sony finally confirmed the existence of the PS4 Pro at an event called The PlayStation Meeting in September of 2016. This new system boasts numerous hardware boosts that will result in 4K gaming, HDR support, and better graphics/frame rate for current and upcoming titles. Of course, Microsoft was quick to remind us that Xbox 2 (Project Scorpio) will still be much more powerful.
That’s all well and good, but Sony has a massive head start. PS4 Pro is releasing in November of 2016, while Xbox 2/Project Scorpio isn’t coming until holiday 2017. Join us as we look at Microsoft’s comments and what we think they should do during this time gap to keep people excited about Scorpio.
Microsoft: Scorpio (Xbox 2) Will ‘Obviously’ be More Powerful
Looking at the raw numbers, PS4 Pro outputs 4.3 teraflops of processing power. In contrast, Microsoft’s Project Scorpio (Xbox Two), is promised to bring 6 teraflops of power. This means that, at least in raw data, Scorpio is way more powerful in terms of CPU capacity.
Of course, we still don’t know how the RAM and GPU stack up, but Microsoft isn’t too worried about it judging by the public comments they’ve been making. In a phone interview with Polygon, Microsoft’s director of product management and planning, Albert Penello, seemed unphased by PS4 Pro.
"I feel pretty good about the decisions we’ve made," he said. He went on to say that Microsoft is also confident in Xbox One S as an entry-level option. In regards to power, Pennello said “the performance delta will be obvious,” but declined to say more about the unknown aspects of the system’s specs.
When asked about the year between the PS4 Pro and the Xbox 2 (Project Scorpio), Penello said,
"We announced this year to give developers more time to familiarize themselves with the hardware. It’s interesting that we’ve arrived in a similar place. The PlayStation Pro gives developers a road map for 4K Gaming."
Microsoft’s stance is that developers will be able to, essentially, work out the kinks with 4K gaming during this year and come to Scorpio with fresh eyes. Despite their confidence, there are still several things Microsoft needs to do during this year to keep gamers from losing interest and jumping ship.
3 Things Microsoft Must Do During The Year-Long Gap
Give or take a few weeks, we essentially have a year to wait for Scorpio. During that time, Sony will be selling the PS4 Pro and continuing to add to their lead over Xbox One. While it’s clear there’s an interest in Xbox 2/Project Scorpio, Microsoft can’t simply sit by and wait for their console to release.
Here are three things I believe Microsoft must do to keep gamers interested in their new console:
• Keep Scorpio in the Public Eye
• Leverage the Power Difference
• Give People (Compelling) Reasons to Buy Xbox One S
These three things will allow Microsoft to give gamers the information and the hardware they need to keep them happy and on the Xbox side of things until Scorpio's release in holiday 2017. Let's take a deeper look into these points:
1. Keep Scorpio in the Public Eye
Their original announcement at E3 2016 was very vague and simply made the promise that it would be “the most powerful console ever built.”
While that’s impressive, we’ve seen little to nothing about the system since that announcement. Sony’s confirmation of PS4 Pro brought Microsoft back out to remind everyone that they still have the edge, but we’re still not seeing details.
There’s something to be said about mystery, but Microsoft’s complete silence on the particulars of Scorpio makes it hard for gamers to find a reason to wait and save their cash for another year when Sony is promising a 4K system in a few months.
I’m not saying that Microsoft should just go and reveal everything at once, but even just a little tidbit every few weeks would keep gamers interested and engaged. Rumors and speculation can only carry them so far.
The biggest mistake they can make right now, is to let people forget about Scorpio. It should be on the minds of gamers as much as possible, not just when Sony does something new.
2. Leverage The Supposed Power Difference Between Pro and Scorpio
Moving on, our second point involves. We know there’s a good sized gap in processing power, but there are still plenty of mysteries to solve.
One thing we do know, is that Xbox 2 (Project Scorpio) is set to deliver native 4K gaming experiences. This is important to hardcore 4K gamers as it represents the difference between a true 4K image and an upscaled one from 1080p.
The PS4 Pro does not produce native 4K, which is something the Xbox 2 is promising. This is a major factor that could give Microsoft an edge with the higher resolution audience.
You’ve also got the major controversy surrounding Sony’s decision to not support 4K UHD Blu-ray in the PS4 Pro. As the creators of Blu-ray, it seems like an odd decision, but Sony claims that users would rather have streaming 4K content.
Even so, it’s left many 4K enthusiasts frustrated. Microsoft’s response was that they have an "intention to deliver it" with Scorpio. Beyond these 4K details, we don’t know how much Xbox Two/Project Scorpio will affect those who play in 1080p.
Phil Spencer has said in the past that if you own a 1080p television, then you should just get an Xbox One S, because Scorpio isn’t for you. His exact words during an interview with Eurogamer were as follows:
"Scorpio is designed as a 4K console, and if you don’t have a 4K TV, the benefit we’ve designed for you, you’re not going to see. Clearly you can buy Scorpio and if and when you decide you want to buy a 4K television to take advantage of the increased performance, obviously the console will be ready for you."
Driving away 1080p owners isn’t the best idea when Sony is saying that they too will see improvements to their games, even if they play in 1080p. I can’t imagine developers won’t be able to use the extra power in Xbox 2/Scorpio to improve game experiences, and if that’s the case, Microsoft should make that a focus as well.
Then there’s VR, which Sony is bringing in October of 2016. Microsoft has said that Xbox Two/Project Scorpio will support high-fidelity VR, but they’ve said nothing beyond this. How does it compare to PlayStation VR? What’s in it for gamers who wait? These are the questions we need answers for.
3. Give Gamers (Compelling) Reasons to Buy Xbox One S
For now, Phil Spencer is telling us to buy an Xbox One S, which brings me to my last point. If Microsoft wants to keep gamers on their side of the fence, they need to give them.
Right now, the Xbox One S exists in kind of a middle-state. As a current Xbox One owner, I don’t see a ton of incentive to upgrade. While Xbox One S does support HDR and 4K video, those things alone aren’t enough.
Now, if you own a 4K TV, those are compelling reasons to stay with Xbox during this next year, but what about the games? Well, we know that everything you own will carry over to Xbox 2/Project Scorpio, which is great.
Microsoft would do well to partner with retailers to offer upgrade plans for those who own Xbox One S when Scorpio is coming out. If you can soften the blow when it comes time to upgrade, people will be far more inclined to do so.
To further sweeten the deal with Xbox One S, Microsoft needs to start talking about big gaming experiences that bring people over to Xbox.
I know they can’t wave a magic wand and make better exclusives, but Sony is crushing it with their titles lately and Microsoft is really just banking on Forza Horizon 3 and Gears of War 4 this holiday season. Great titles, but not enough to make Xbox stand out from PlayStation as much as it should.
Even if it’s something in early 2017, Microsoft should showing gamers why they should be gaming on their platforms. The addition of backwards compatibility is another point in their favor, but with exclusives like ReCore failing to meet expectations and critical praise, they need to find new titles in their catalogue to win over the gamers.
If Microsoft can convince gamers to hang out with the Xbox One S crowd, they’ll secure them for the Scorpio upgrade in holiday 2017 when it releases.
Do you own an Xbox One S or a 4K TV? What does Microsoft need to do to keep you on their side and upgrade to Scorpio? Let us know in the comments!