The Xbox One S has finally hit store shelves, and we’re hearing some interesting and exciting things about it.
Digital Foundry, among others, have recorded a clear improvement in the GPU speed on the new console, which translates to a noticeable improvement in performance. This applies to many Xbox One games, and maybe even more so to backwards compatible Xbox 360 titles. This brings up questions about where it stands in terms of that generational leap we’re always waiting to get a glimpse of.
When we think of Project Scorpio people tend to consider it to be the half-step between this generation in the next, but is that the case? The Xbox One S may be a better example of that philosophy than simply being a new, smaller SKU, with Scorpio acting as the true start of the next generation.
Back in June when Microsoft announced Project Scorpio they made a big show of its power. It’s set to be the most powerful console by far, even leaving PS4 Neo in the dust, but they also made a point of addressing its software philosophy.
Scorpio will be compatible with all current and future Xbox One titles, including backwards compatible 360 games, and, for now, the Xbox One will be compatible with Scorpio titles. This seems like a clear cut case of Microsoft aiming for an ‘Xbox as a service’ kind of a deal, but that probably isn’t the whole picture.
Hardware grows older, software technology advances, and eventually, inevitably, the Xbox One and its littler, beefier, brother will be left behind. From this point owners of Scorpio will likely be free to play Xbox One titles, but will have exclusives of their own. At this point “Xbox as a service” shifts into a fancy way of saying “backwards compatibility”.
In fact, Project Scorpio will likely have the most robust form of backwards compatibility yet seen in the industry, launching before the end of its predecessor’s lifetime and sharing titles as it marches towards the light of hardware heaven. The 360 backwards compatibility library will continue to grow and be shared between the two newer models as Scorpio’s library of exclusives does the same.
In contrast the Xbox One S is a stepping stone. A better way to play the games you already own but with features that drag it into the middle ground between the current and the future. HDR improves colour depth in line with modern display tech. 4k upscaling is in place to make sure you’ve got something that can actually utilise that wall-mounted televisual monstrosity. It will improve your experience on the games you still enjoy while offering objectively better experiences on upcoming titles that you can still buy on the Xbone, but while missing out on the extra perks.
I can’t think of any clearer example of what a .5 of a console generation should be.
When we’re looking at Project Scorpio, we’re not looking at a half-way point. Phil Spencer himself scoffed at the idea of releasing a console that acts as a half-step. He’d seem to want to get rid of the idea of console generations, but I think he’s more interested in changing the way we think of them.