I can’t help but feel absolutely down about the Scorpio. On one hand, it’s great to have a console that is a real powerhouse compared to current offerings. On the other hand, I’m wondering, what’s the point?
Last week, Digital Foundry had the honour of announcing the specs of the Scorpio’s innards as well as providing some cold hard performance stats. I won’t go too much into specifics but compared to the Xbox One its processor is 30% faster, moving the clock speed from 1.75GHz to a lower latency 2.3GHz. The GPU capable of delivering 6 of those heavily lauded terraflops, 1.8 more flippy-flops than the PS4 Pro. Arguably the biggest game changer is the inclusion of hardware integrated DirectX12. Essentially, this will reduce computing resources by half on games that support the architecture.
It’s all very impressive but it comes at a cost, quite literally. Estimates for the console on release are floating around the $500-$600 price range. It makes you wonder, who this console is for?
This doesn’t really excite a PC gamer like myself as I could just spend that money and upgrade my computer even further. You can get a GTX 1080 Ti for a similar price, sporting double the amount of flippy-flops and far superior technology. Many of the Xbox One titles are playable on PC at no extra cost, so an upgrade just makes sense. I understand Microsoft wants to create some synergy with their platforms but Xbox Play Anywhere gives me one less reason to own a Scorpio.
I see it appealing to people who have a low to mid-range PC, possibly. They most likely already own a console and if they’re looking to get into 4K gaming this could be their only option. If so, they’ll need to pony up the dough for the TV. That’s another $400 for a low-end display. Sure the resolution will be the same, but a TV is the kind of investment you want to go big on so you’re covered for at least five years. If that’s the case you’re looking at $700-$1,000. That suddenly makes this whole venture an unrealistic one for the average consumer who’s been on the fence.
Another hammer to the knee cap of Microsoft is the Nintendo Switch. It has proven that people don’t actually care about the power of a console. It’s all about the games and Microsoft is sorely lacking in terms of interesting exclusives (the only titles that will truly take advantage of the Scorpio’s power). Year after year, consumers are growing more concerned about convenience, rather than bleeding edge technology. The Switch has given them that.
It genuinely feels like Microsoft are releasing the Scorpio just so they feel like the big boys again. “The best console on the market” was their thing back with the 360 and they want to hold that title again. Apart from the “hard-to-please” gamers complaining of weak, dated consoles, no one has actually asked for the Scorpio. The only ones that feel like they really need it are Microsoft.
A plus I see coming out of this is that, if developers are on board, games will start to look even better. This has the potential to give the industry a huge leap in graphical fidelity. I’m sure you’ve heard the analogy that consoles are holding the PC back, so to have a potential solution to this is interesting. This is a double-edged sword, though. Bigger leaps in power mean more frequent upgrades, and this is bad news.
While I’m sure we all like to see video games getting better (mainly in terms of visuals) this is going to burn consumers out. Hardware iterations will ramp up and then, because consumers refuse to buy, it will slump again. This disrupts the pacing of the industry, something I feel has found its sweet spot. Also, let’s not forget that the other consoles still exist. This makes me wonder if developers are going to prioritise the Scorpio or even show an interest.
While we all scoffed at Sony for the PS4 Pro, it turns out that it is taking the right half-step these play-making giants are aiming for. Consumers are content with 1080p gaming and it has been a real struggle for companies to push us into 4K. Sony is making a compromise by deciding not to opt for a native 4K solution and therefore makes it an affordable one. Most consumers haven’t experienced 4K yet so most would be none the wiser, or simply wouldn’t care. We played a lot of the previous generation in 720p despite having Full HD TVs so why would faux-4K matter?
When is all is said and done, it’s about the games. This is the reason I haven’t bought an Xbox One and it’s why I’m struggling to find a point to the Scorpio. Great, the tech is fantastic and achieves 4K gaming, but what can I play on it? Another Halo? Gears of War? I’m sorry, but I think I’ll pass. Gamers go where the games are, and Microsoft have been cancelling games and closing studios left and right.
This E3 will certainly be an interesting one…well I hope. Most Scorpio talk has been downright boring, but I’m curious how they plan to market this console. It’s not for your average gamer, little Jimmy’s parents aren’t going to fork over the cash when he already has an Xbox One and Call of Duty. Switch owners certainly won’t care, and neither will PC gamers.
Who is this for? You tell me.