The Xbox Two, otherwise known as Project Scorpio, and the Xbox One will undoubtedly have a period where they will overlap and both will be available to purchase. This was made evident during E3 2016 when Project Scorpio/Xbox 2 was announced. The question is how long until Xbox One goes the way of the 360?
More important, how will the Xbox One sing its final swan song? Will it go out with a bang or a whimper? How will Project Scorpio enter the playing field next year and assert itself without alienating the current owners? Perhaps even more important is how Xbox One S fits into all of this. Microsoft is clearing trying to juggle multiple generations at once, so let's take a look at how this master plan could pan out.
Bye Bye Xbox One? (Image via Microsoft)
First things first, let’s take a look at the Xbox 360. This greatly loved console was always reputed to have a ten year lifespan, running from 2005 until 2016 which is the year that Microsoft have promised to support the console until. The launch of the Xbox One in 2013 results in a three year overlap for the two consoles, so a three year overlap seems like a sensible assumption for an overlap between the Xbox One and the Xbox Two.
The Xbox 360 to the Xbox One may have been a seven – eight year gap, but if we look back further there was only four – five years between the original Xbox and the Xbox 360. This puts the release of Project Scorpio (Xbox 2) within this same type of cycle. With the Xbox Two launching in holiday of 2017, there are going to be new games exclusive to this new system.
That being said, unlike the past few Xbox releases, Project Scorpio is promised to be backwards compatible with all Xbox One games and accessories at launch. This is a new historic milestone for the consoles, and pushes the concept of an "Xbox Family" that Phil Spencer discussed during E3 2016.
Welcoming Xbox Two and Xbox One S to The Family
The Xbox E3 2016 press conference carried a lot of information with it. We learned about Microsoft's plan for the future which includes the "Play Anywhere" program that allows you to buy games for Xbox One and play them on Windows 10. You can even transfer and continue your game on either platform.
This was just the beginning. Phil Spencer also announced two new Xbox One consoles. We have the Xbox One S and of course, Project Scorpio which is really Xbox 2 in Disguise.
Walking out of the conference, it was easy to see that Project Scorpio is indeed Xbox Two and a next generation console. The six teraflops of power alone is a huge jump, not to mention the claims from Phil Spencer himself that the system is four and a half times more powerful than Xbox One.
The promises that came from E3 said that Project Scorpio will be the most powerful console ever built. With the kind of specs we're hearing about and suspecting, this is clearly a next generation console. With the release date coming in holiday 2017, what's to stop developers from jumping ship and focusing on Scorpio?
In an interview with Eurogamer, Phil Spencer was asked some big questions about Project Scorpio/Xbox Two.
One of the most pertinent questions was: "Why would people buy an Xbox One S with Project Scorpio coming out?" Here's what Phil had to say:
"Scorpio is designed as a 4K console, and if you don't have a 4K TV, the benefit we've designed for, you're not going to see. Scorpio is for the person who's got a 4K television, who's really focused on 4K gaming. It's going to be a premium price over what we're selling this one for, and both of them will exist in the market at the same time. Scorpio is for your 4K gamer. And that's what we designed it for."
So essentially, Phil Spencer's stance is that only people with 4K televisions should pick up Xbox Two. That of course, begs another question as to whether the console will also look and play better overall? Aaron Greenberg, a Microsoft executive, tweeted that there would be no Scorpio exclusives. Phil Spencer elaborated:
"When you're buying a console game from us, you know that console game will run on your original Xbox One. No-one gets left behind. We said that on stage. They're all part of the same family. And we want to make sure just like when you're buying your music today, you don't worry about upgrading to a new phone that somehow won't play your old songs or your new songs. We think about your Xbox One collection of games that will move with you between those different consoles."
He went on to say that Scorpio will take advantage of 4K and the six teraflops of power, but he said quote: "There won't be Scorpio exclusive console games. Absolutely Not."
At this point, you would be forgiven for thinking that Project Scorpio is not Xbox Two, but that's only true because of the wording Microsoft chose to describe their new plans. The term "Xbox Family" is used almost constantly when discussing these consoles.
"That's why we say beyond generations. The idea, is this is part of the previous generation or the next generation gets a little blurry. For you and I, we usually think about generations in terms of what games will it play? This thing [Project Scorpio] will play Ryse: Son of Rome, a launch game for your Xbox One. And we'll have launch Scorpio games as well that are playable on an Xbox One, Xbox One S, and Scorpio and look great on all three of them."
While it's clear that Project Scorpio/Xbox 2 is meant to fit into this new "Xbox Family," the Xbox One will have to be retired eventually. When that time comes, what will Microsoft do with the power and technology at their fingertips in regards to Scorpio?
Let's discuss a future when Xbox One and Xbox One S are no longer in production.
There’s one element of gaming technology that could drastically adjust our predicted timelines of course, and that’s this little thrown around statement that this is a console that will feature extra processing power with the use of cloud computing.
Essentially when you’re playing a game, data will be sent to the banks of computers waiting to make your experience streamlined; that data will be processed and sent back to your console so that the hardware on board has less to think about in order to make things run more smoothly. It’s an interesting idea, and one that could work very successfully for calculations that aren’t needed by the console immediately.
The limitation when it comes to cloud computing is more often than not related to the bandwidth of your internet connection. At present the computations completed by the processors away from your own Xbox One console will not be those that affect the here and now in the game that you’re playing, as you can imagine the frustration of waiting for a new scene to render or suffering from a bad frame rate in the midst of a firefight because your little sister starts downloading a movie.
Cloud computing is certainly a technology to watch however, as it may be implemented into Xbox Two to further enhance its processing power.
The End, or an Evolution?
So here's the thing: we're all used to getting another box when the next console comes out. Well, we've already considered on multiple occasions that the Xbox 2 may not be a traditional console like we're used to.. For now it seems, Project Scorpio (Xbox Two) is going to be a physical box. A powerful one, but a box none the less.
Microsoft had some pretty radical ideas for the Xbox One that were ultimately shot down, but what if these things could be brought back in another form? We remember the always online, no used games, and so on. We hated it because it restricted us from things we wanted to do with our consoles. Plus, internet isn't widespread enough or cheap enough to say that the console must always be online.
In 2020, when we expect to see the Xbox One taking it's final steps into the horizon, internet is going to be far more prevalent. How can I make this claim? Well, for starters the founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, wants to beam internet to developing countries using drones. If that's not enough proof, I don't know what is.
So, assuming people have internet almost everywhere, and millions of people already own an Xbox Two, that creates a unique opportunity for Microsoft. You see, we expect this huge jump in graphics and power, but with cloud-based options becoming more and more ideal, Microsoft could easily just stream our Xbox 2 games to the Xbox One. The Xbox One would become a glorified antenna, yes, but it would remove the need for people to buy a new console. At that point, we'll also have the HoloLens in our hands, which could remove the need for controllers altogether.
All of the new games would be handled by a remote cloud in this scenario. All of the video cards, RAM, liquid cooling, and anything else would be somewhere else as the game is streamed to you. So, people who have the Xbox One just continue using that box, and people who don't can buy a small receiver to do the same thing. Guess what that means? Backwards compatibility since you're still using the same box. You could probably just switch it back to the regular Xbox One dashboard when you're not streaming cloud-based Xbox 2 games.
Think about how many problems this solves. Microsoft could hype it up too as the "Evolution" update and make it this whole live event that people can tune into just before the big update goes live. Would it be weird? You bet, and people would probably have a hard time swallowing the whole thing, but if the games are being streamed anyway, why not just use the box we have?
This could be a way to keep the Xbox One relevant past its expiration date, even if it simply becomes a streaming device, it will never truly leave that "Xbox Family" Microsoft is building. It may become the grandfather who plays blu-rays and talks about the good old days of 1080p, but it will still have its uses in this scenario.
It all depends on how far back Microsoft wants to go with their backwards/forwards compatibility approach. For now, though, it seems Xbox 2 will exist alongside the original in the interest of not leaving any gamers behind.
Back to Reality
I know I'll probably get some heat for that last section, but with discs going to the wayside and cloud-based gaming on the rise, it's a cost effective solution that fixes the problem of backwards compatibility and ultimately allows for a smooth and instant upgrade to the new system. The "Evolution Upgrade" may not happen, but if it does, you owe me a coke.
If things stay the same, and the Xbox One does fizzle out, we expect it to be phased out in the early 2020s. The exact date and the lifespan of this console will depend on a number of factors, such as the success of its cloud computing, general improvements to technology and, of course, whatever rivals Sony and Nintendo get up to. When do you think you’ll be trading your Xbox One in for the next generation of console? Will you purchase Xbox 2/Project Scorpio at launch, or will you wait? Let us know in the comments!