What We Know and Don’t Know, About Microsoft’s Next Gen Consoles

Posted on March 4, 2019 by Brad Sams in Games with 19 Comments

It’s no secret that Microsoft is working on its next-gen consoles under the umbrella name of Scarlett. The company has at least two devices in the works code-named Anaconda/Lockhart and even though we have learned quite a bit about the company’s plans for the next generation consoles, it’s important to keep in mind what we do know, and the questions that are outstanding.

This year at E3, Microsoft will begin to peel back the onion on its Scarlett strategy including talking more about its next-gen consoles. The strategy for these products is to have the most powerful gaming console ever, with Anaconda, and a value priced option called Lockhart.

The idea behind two options is to make ‘next-gen’ gaming available to wider audiences with a lower price of entry. While we don’t know the pricing and do not expect it to be announced until much closer to launch, Microsoft will make Lockhart cost less than the next generation PlayStation and Anaconda should be about the same price as Sony’s device.

Even though we don’t know the full specs of either device yet, I do know that the consoles will finally ditch platter drives for proper solid-state storage, possibly of the NvME variety. But specs for this generation are likely much less important than they were in the prior years.

Microsoft has already shown that it is capable of producing a 4K gaming machine with the Xbox One X and with Lockhart being more powerful than the Xbox One X, 4K gaming at 60FPS should be a minimum benchmark for next-generation gaming. But beyond 4K/60FPS, the value diminishes significantly: would you pay $100 more for $4k/75FPS gaming? Probably not, once you hit 60 FPS, the value of more frames per second is diluted.

The bigger innovation that is happening is the software that drives the next-gen gaming experience known as GameCore OS. This new tooling that will be part of the new console generation will bridge the gap between the console and the PC to bring these platforms significantly closer together.

We have already started to see some work for the foundation of GameCore materialize in builds of Windows 10 and knowing it will be a core part of the next-gen gaming experiences brings up the question about current gen consoles.

Microsoft has built a legacy on its ability to support backwards capability with the Xbox One but what about forwards capability as well. It is my understanding that Microsoft is trying to bring GameCore support to the Xbox One family of devices but if this means true forward and backwards compatibility, we don’t know yet.

If Microsoft can make so developers can build one game that targets, Xbox One, Xbox Next Gen, and PCs, this means they have a significantly larger target market to convinces developers to bring their content to the Microsoft ecosystem. While you could argue that this may reduce the number of next-gen consoles sold, and it’s a valid argument, Microsoft would rather sell more games overall, than a few more pieces of hardware. For Microsoft, royalties from games is a much more lucrative revenue stream than selling hardware where margins are typically low.

The easiest way for Microsoft to enable true backwards and forwards capability is with their streaming platform, xCloud. The service, which will enter trials later this year, opens up a much wider door for consuming Xbox content. The company envisions bringing console-quality gaming to every screen that is connected to the Internet. It’s not hard to imagine that when you buy a Samsung TV, there is an Xbox app pre-installed that allows you to stream Halo without the need to buy another piece of hardware (besides a controller).

What we don’t know yet is how Microsoft is going to sell its xCloud service. It would make sense that they bundle it in with GamePass and offer it as a subscription service, but would you also need Xbox Live Gold too? That’s a question that is outstanding and bundling Xbox Live Gold, GamePass and xCloud into one subscription service could be too expensive for casual gamers and hardcore console gamers are more likely to buy consoles.

Later this month Microsoft will be attending the Game Developer Conference where they will start to educate their partners on their next generation hardware. And in June, the company will also talk more about these devices and its plans for the future of Xbox which means we don’t have to wait too much longer to learn more about how Microsoft plans to move forward into the next generation of console gaming.

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Comments (19)

19 responses to “What We Know and Don’t Know, About Microsoft’s Next Gen Consoles”

  1. Avatar

    Subhadip Sen

    Great summary, looking forward to E3. They must be very confident to do so this early. (Yes, I know they revealed Xbox One X as early, but there was no Osborne effect there as the One S was a decidedly entry-level product.)


    Check out Game Informer's interview with the CEO of Obsidian. He actually lets slip pretty explicitly that Microsoft is buying studios to bolster the Game Pass portfolio. It's clear - Microsoft is shaping up to become the next Netflix, with xCloud and Game Pass offering gaming experiences irrespective of hardware. With this, they will likely overtake Activision Blizzard as gaming's largest publisher in short order. More importantly, they'll make a heck of a lot more money publishing games on a streaming service than selling consoles.


    We hear the 60 fps dream every generation, but the reality is that most AAA developers will focus on improving graphics instead. The FPS, driving games will continue to be 60 fps, or have 60 fps modes, I'm sure; but the next-generation titles will be more demanding and graphically intensive. Backwards compatibility games from the X1X that ran at sub-native 4K/30 (Yes, some games do run at native 4K, but many are in the ~3.2K range; some like Apex Legends closer to 2.5K) then will now run at native 4K @ 60 fps, sure; but a majority of the next-gen titles will target 4K/30 with superior graphics. We have seen this happen every single console generation, the trend is clear and unambiguous. Minor improvement in resolution, same frame rate target, but dramatically better graphics.

    • Avatar

      Chris_Kez

      In reply to Sen1:

      I'm not sure there's any tremendous concern about an "Osborne effect" in this case since 1) any E3 discussion will be nearly a year and a half ahead of release; 2) the improvements over the One X will be incremental rather than generational; and 3) the likelihood of backwards compatibility mitigates concerns about being "left behind" or that purchasing a One X is a "wasted" investment. I imagine the One X will be a few dollars cheaper than last year, and there will be a new entry-level option to keep people happy until 2020.

  2. Avatar

    Omen_20

    I don't see why Lockhart should be anything more than the One X. Just update it and announce support for One X and Two. Keep compatibility for two machines at any given time. Then in 3 years when the Two X is delivered, drop support for One X. 6-7 years of life for any SKU.

  3. Avatar

    deadlives

    This digital shit is really pushing me off I have to have the physical copy disc game no bullshit 1 dlc for my games is ok I goto store buy redeem card then download the dlc for my games + system updates then its offline I physically own all my games none of this steam,streaming bullshit no internet no games fuck that shit I'll always say if the next gen xbox is discless then I'll never buy it I had high Hope's for it but so far it's dead now


  4. Avatar

    bsd107

    But beyond 4K/60FPS, the value diminishes significantly: would you pay $100 more for $4k/75FPS gaming? Probably not, once you hit 60 FPS, the value of more frames per second is diluted.


    That is not really the point. The extra power would go to more detailed graphics, farther draw distances, etc.


    We see this all the time with consoles, including back to the XB360 and PS3, as well as current gen. There are always some games that choose to push the detail up, requiring running at less than full resolution to achieve this.

  5. Avatar

    zybch

    Dropping cheap high capacity disc storage in favor of expensive yet tiny to middling capacity solid state options is utterly crazy.


    Having a solid state solution like Optane or M.2 NvME working in conjunction with a large (at least 4Tb) spindle based drive on a next gen console is the only way to go. Even the 500Gb drive on the original One was soon filled and having a stack of external drives sitting next to your console is just messy. My 1Tb One X was filled within a week and I am forced to use multiple 8tb external drives unless I want to waste time loading and unloading via the pathetic internet thats all I have access too.

    Solid state is all well and good, but the size of games when they all begin to have 4k textures is going to render any internal solid state storage unusable very quickly.

  6. Avatar

    IanYates82

    I bought my xbox one a month or two before the S was announced. I had a little buyer's remorse at the time, but I got a great deal and a large internal drive (I can see why they were on sale now of course).

    I have thought about upgrading, but with the X's replacement coming next year I'd rather hold off for the reason that we just don't know if the games will be forward & backward compatible. If they are, then I'd feel great about an X.


    I'm sure the new consoles will play current console games - they've done that hard work (really amazing achievement at a technical level). Forward compatibility would be amazing and give my older console some more time.


    The cloud streaming could well be the way to make it happen if the games aren't able to "scale down" to the older hardware.

  7. Avatar

    Stooks

    I have yet to use a streaming gaming service that worked as well as local compute gaming.


    I wish Microsft the best of luck.

  8. Avatar

    Daekar

    I find it very difficult to believe that next gen consoles will deliver 4k 60fps with good detail settings. That's still crazypants amounts of number crunching...

  9. Avatar

    Ron Diaz

    I have a radical idea for Microsoft.

    If they want to sell more games how about developing some decent games?

    Microsoft’s first party games this console generation have been a total dumpster fire.

    • Avatar

      Stooks

      In reply to Hypnotoad:

      I bet 95% of console gaming between both the PS4 and the Xbox is 3rd party games that are on both platforms. Exclusives IMHO do not matter much. The only Xbox exclusive I play is Forza. On the PS4 I did play a few but 98% of my time on the PS4 was 3rd party games.


      Nintendo is different with mostly exclusives. Personally I was never a fan of anything Nintendo but is does have its supporters.

      • Avatar

        Rycott

        In reply to Stooks:

        Sony had some amazing exclusives in 2018. God of War and Spider-Man were both fantastic.


        The thing is, these are console sellers. Even if 95% of all gaming are games that are cross-platform, the exclusives are what sell the console.


        If they both play the same games but one has better exclusives then why choose the other one.


        Besides... it's not like the exclusives are nothing. Bother God of War and Spider-Man sold over 3 millions copies in their first 3 days. Spider-Man is over 9 million sold as of November last year. God of War sold 5 million in its first month.


        God of War also won a crap-tonne of Game of the Year awards. That's all free press.


        This is why hopefully now Microsoft bought some studios we can see some quality games from them. I assume at this point they will mostly be next-gen console games anyway,

        • Avatar

          Stooks

          In reply to Rycott:

          I disagree that exclusives sell consoles. I will eventually play God of War (latest version) when I can get it for less than $20. I will never play Spider-Man not even if it was a fee download. Same goes for cuphead.


          Consoles sell well based on what platform your friends are on so you can play 3rd party MP games on. My friends are mostly on Xbox and that is my main platform, Xbox One X. PC next then PS4 which I can’t remebrt the last time I turned it on.

    • Avatar

      Subhadip Sen

      In reply to Hypnotoad:

      They are committed to this since Phil Spencer joined the senior leadership. Games by existing studios are being given more time and resources than ever before (Halo Infinite will be 5 years in the making) and precisely why they have been buying high quality independent studios, and giving them the right resources and time. Even opening a new one with AAA talent.


      Contrary to popular belief, not everything has to be polarised. Many of Microsoft's first party games have been lacklustre or mediocre, sure; lagging behind Sony and Nintendo's best, sure; but hardly any (let alone all) of them are "a total dumpster fire". There have even been some excellent games too like Forza Horizon 3/4, Cuphead, Ori and the Blind Forest.

  10. Avatar

    BigM72

    4K60 is an eventual target but a very boring thing. The small improvements in graphical fidelity at this point really don't move the needle on gaming enjoyment.


    How about making casual gaming more accessible again? Like the Wii did.

    How about using the cloud to make interesting, new games with permanent virtual worlds that run even when you're not playing the game?

    How about expanding the number of people you can game with? (Yes they are doing this one via Xcloud).

    How about making VR/AR more mainstream and interesting for gaming?


    Continue - that's what I like about Nintendo - it's not about pushing more pixels, it's about gameplay

  11. Avatar

    Rycott

    There is no way a $US400-500 console is going to be doing 4k/60fps in most games any time soon.


    AMD's top of the line Radeon barely does that and it costs that by itself. Consoles still have a way to go before they will hit that magic mark without advanced trickery and still be affordable.

  12. Avatar

    deadlives

    I'll never own one if they do that shit steam,streaming, download games only fuck all that. 1 you'll never really own any of your games 2 ya rights to but what if you get your account banned, hacked, identity theft, your internet takes a shit or you didn't pay your internet bill then you can't play any of your games 3 download dlc is ok but I want to play my game now not wait install is ok because it saves on disc eye but having to download the game fuck that shit it would take to long fuck all that shit I put the disc in install it and I'm gaming hell my system is never hooked up to the internet ok only for system updates and DLC I take it over to my cousins to get online update,dlc then my system is offline then home I don't play my games online because that's leads to bullshit that I don't want I don't even have or want the internet and if the next xbox is discless then I'll never buy it

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