Since the dawn of modern gaming, we’ve always expected consoles to go through a cycle before gracefully bowing out as a new generation takes center stage. With the Xbox One and now Xbox 2 (Project Scorpio), all of that is changing.
Microsoft isn’t even sure if they’re going to do another generation of consoles after they release Project Scorpio/Xbox Two. Of course, these kinds of claims send a ripple effect through the industry, but I’m here to put your mind at ease. Join me as we discuss Microsoft’s comments and why console players have nothing to worry about.
Looking Past The Headlines: What Microsoft’s Comments Really Mean
Xbox Games Marketing head, Aaron Greenberg, made headlines when he said that the current generation of consoles, Xbox 2/Project Scorpio included, would be the last one you will see from Microsoft.
At face value, that seems like a death knell, but it’s not. Microsoft is trying to change the game, literally. Speaking with Engadget at Gamescom, Aaron Greenberg went into more detail on this bold statement:
“I think it is … For us, we think the future is without console generations, we think that the ability to build a library, a community, to be able to iterate with the hardware, we’re making a pretty big bet on that with Project Scorpio. We’re basically saying ‘this isn’t a new generation, everything you have continues forward and it works.’ We think of this as a family of devices.
But we’ll see, we’re going to learn from this, we’re going to see how that goes. So far I’d say based on the reaction there appears to be a lot of demand and interest around Project Scorpio, and we think it’s going to be a pretty big success. If the games and the content deliver, which I think they will do, I think it will change the way we think about the future of console gaming.”
Instead of consoles coming and going, Microsoft is looking towards a future where the platform doesn’t fade. Part of this is already in motion with Xbox 2 (Project Scorpio) being compatible with all your Xbox One games and accessories.
Microsoft has also promised zero exclusive titles for Scorpio, but that doesn’t extend to VR. We know that this new console will support virtual reality, and these experiences will be exclusive to the console since the other Xbox platforms don’t have the power to do VR.
We’ve heard Xbox boss Phil Spencer talk before about consoles that continued to innovate instead of staying static for seven years or more before being replaced. This, combined with the notion of an Xbox Family that leaves no game or accessory behind when you upgrade, is all part of this initiative to blur the lines between consoles and generations.
Microsoft cites the smartphone industry as their main inspiration for this new plan. Greenberg explained by saying:
”For us, we think the future is without console generations; we think the ability to build a library, a community, to be able to iterate with the hardware, we’re making a pretty big bet on that with Project Scorpio. We’re basically saying, ‘this isn’t a new generation; everything you have continues forward and it works. We think of this as a family of devices.”
Okay, so given that information, let’s break down this news:
- Microsoft isn’t stopping their game business after Project Scorpio (Xbox 2) releases
- Microsoft will continue to make new hardware in the future, they're not going to stop with Scorpio.
- They are focusing on creating a singular platform across multiple devices, thus removing the hard boundaries that define console generations.
- Instead of major leaps forward every seven years, we’ll probably see more consistent console releases from them.
Now that we’ve discussed the facts, it’s time to start speculating. Will this new venture work for Microsoft, and if so, how does it affect the other members of the console industry?
Microsoft’s Bold New Steps: How Will Sony and Nintendo React?
It seems that smartphones have been a major influence on the console industry, because Microsoft aren’t the only ones taking cues from the resident kings and queens of portable devices. Sony and Nintendo have been busy changing their strategies as well.
For example, if we look at the rumors surrounding the PS4.5 (PS4 Neo), everyone expected a reveal at E3 2016, but Sony decided to wait. PlayStation boss, Andrew House was especially surprised when Microsoft decided to announce Xbox 2 (Project Scorpio) over year in advance.
Speaking with The Guardian, this is what he had to say:
”I was surprised by the step of announcing something over a year ahead of time. The dynamics of the tech industry are such that there’s a much heavier emphasis on immediate gratification than there was. A lot of that is to do with how Apple has very cleverly and elegantly managed the ‘available now’ approach.
We experienced this ourselves, when, in 2013, very much in line with our previous strategies, we announced a concept and a name for PlayStation 4, and everyone said ‘where’s the box? How dare you?!’ That was the point we realized, well, we hadn’t changed, but the world around us had.”
Further on in the interview, Andrew House explained that the PS4 Neo is meant to be a high-end PlayStation 4 and not a next generation console. In addition, he said that smartphone has taught customers to expect a different rhythm of innovation in their technology.
That being said, he also cautioned against turning the traditional cycle into a 18-month/two-year rhythm because then we would lose out on the big “wow” moments that a new piece of hardware provides. It’s a balance for them, because House also mentioned that Sony typically loses gamers during the later years of a cycle because they are heading to PC where the graphics and technology are more current.
A high-end PS4 would keep them inside the PlayStation brand, and that’s similar to what Microsoft is doing. The PS4 Neo is also reported to use the same accessories and games you would use on a PS4, similar to how Microsoft is focusing on leaving no gamers behind.
In the case of Microsoft and Sony, both are playing and both are clearly looking to the smartphone industry for inspiration. Nintendo, however, has been extremely quiet on their plans for the future. We know their new console, the NX, is coming in March of 2017, but we know very little about it.
That being said, rumors suggest that it will be a console/portable hybrid. Top this off with the release of the widely popular Pokemon GO app, and it’s clear that Nintendo is also taking cues from the mobile phone industry.
So in the end, what does this mean? Well, if Microsoft is truly setting the example for the future, we’re going to see consoles come out more often, similar to the way smartphones get newer models every few years.
The idea is that these aren’t “next-generation” consoles. Instead, they’re a newer and more high-end option that keeps pace with technology. You won’t be pressured into buying it, though, because when you are ready to upgrade, everything you’ve bought will work on the new box.
Because there’s no hard boundary between any one of the consoles, the concept of a “generation” as we know it, ceases to exist.
Now, Microsoft never said they would release a new console every two years, but you can bet that they won’t wait 7-years either. We’re going to see new hardware over the course of a lifecycle. This is right in line with Phil Spencer’s comments at the Xbox 2016 Spring Showcase:
”When you look at the console space, I believe we will see more hardware innovation in the console space than we’ve ever seen. You’ll actually see us come out with new hardware capability during a generation allowing the same games to run forwards and backwards compatible because we have a Universal Windows Application running on top of the Universal Windows Platform that allows us to focus more and more on hardware innovation without invalidating the games that run on that platform.
In addition to playing your games on any version of Microsoft’s console, they are also promising (at least for now) zero exclusives to the Xbox 2 (Project Scorpio). Games will look and play better on the new system, but they will also work on any version of the Xbox One.
Combine this with the announcement of the “Play Anywhere” program that lets you have copies of certain games on both Xbox and Windows PC, and you’ve got all the trimmings of this universal “single generation” future Microsoft is planning for.
At the end of the day, Project Scorpio (Xbox 2) won’t be the last console from Microsoft. It’s the first in a new breed of consoles that tear down the boundaries between generations. This may be the last generation, but it’s not the last we’ll see of Xbox. You can count on that.
How do you think Microsoft will progress with this new plan of theirs? Are you excited about this potential change in the industry? Let us know in the comments!
Note: The thoughts expressed in this article are the opinions of the author (Bradley Ramsey) and do not yet represent facts or the opinions of Microsoft. Although it will probably be accurate, for now it is pure speculation. Thanks for reading!