What Can We Expect From Microsoft for the 4K Project Scorpio in 2017?
Stephan Jukic – March 05, 2017
Without a doubt Microsoft is going to make an increasing amount of publicity noise about the power and features of their Project Scorpio native 4K gaming console in the weeks and days leading up to its expected 2017 Holiday release. Importantly, the company will also certainly make the Scorpio into the centerpiece of the major push into 4K gaming that they’ve publicly declared themselves to be aiming for in this year and beyond.
The big question however is, Will the supposed 4K prowess of the Scorpio live up to its hype?
This is something we ask for a couple of different but equally important reasons. The first of these is the strong speculation that the Scorpio, for all its massively beefed up specs in comparison to 2016 consoles like the Xbox One S and the PlayStation 4 Pro, won’t really have the chops for robust, fluid native 4K gaming.
The second reason is that the Scorpio’s 4K chops might not even end up being that important for gamers, particularly if alternatives and “nearly-as-good” pseudo-4K gaming solutions exist side-by-side with the Scorpio. Basically, as analyst Michael Goodman of Strategy Analytics recently told the website We Write Things, ““Can you really tell the difference between playing games in upscaled versus native 4K?”
In other words, the native 4K gaming chops of the Scorpio will more likely be a large piece of marketing hype than a real reason to buy the device for actual 4K gaming. Users who just want a great HDR gameplay experience with upscaled 4K or HDR-enhanced HD games could also easily choose to go for the undoubtedly cheaper Xbox One S or Sony’s own PlayStation 4 Pro and get an experience that’s visually indistinguishable from native 4K gameplay without really close scrutiny.
The PS4 Pro itself does claim to offer native 4K gaming with HDR but as we’ve shown in our previous pieces on this subject, the new Sony console’s processing power for real, fast-paced, high-detail 4K gaming are extremely weak at best.
Going back to our first concern above, a major suspicion of ours is that the Scorpio, despite its hype, will also lack the power needed for effective native 4K gaming. Microsoft is boasting of a 6 teraflop GPU for the Scorpio, along with other still mostly unspecified heavy increases to this console’s power over that of what the PS4 Pro or the Xbox One S can now do. While it’s still early to tell how some Microsoft games will end up being optimized to flow along smoothly in real native 4K on the Project Scorpio when it’s released, we can safely say that right now as things stand, 6 teraflops is just above the minimum needed for even half-decent 4K gaming at modestly smooth frame rates.
We know this from PC GPUs like NVIDIA’S GTX line of 2016 cards and AMD’s major 2016 graphics units. Among all of them, only a couple can really handle native 4K UHD at decently high detail levels and very smooth frame rates. These, such as the GTX 1080 or new 2016 Titan X all offer far more than 6 teraflops, with the GTX 1080 delivering 9. GPUs which work at 6 or slightly more TFLOPs, like the GTX 1070 and the 2015 Titan X just barely sit at the border of being 4K-friendly. The Scorpio will also have to handle HDR in those 4K games and while adding in high dynamic range doesn’t affect processing requirements nearly as heavily as resolution, it does add to the level of detail present in a given 4K game.
Thus, we can probably expect more than a bit of hemming and hawing or hedging from Microsoft around the console’s release date about what the Scorpio is really best for. We expect the company to play up the Scorpio’s HDR, checkerboard rendering and 4K upscaling prowess if it turns out that native 4K gameplay is weak on the device. Again though, in all honesty, the visual difference between upscaled 4K gaming with HDR and native 4K gaming with HDR will be small enough for most users to love the visuals in either one just fine. This will particularly apply to gaming on smaller 4K TVs and displays.
And while there’s no doubt that the Project Scorpio console will be much more powerful than its Sony PS4 Pro rival or Microsoft’s own Xbox One S, Microsoft is pursuing other additional angles to make their device even more appealing. One of the biggest is the Xbox Games Pass that will be launching soon. This new subscriber program will give its users and owners of Xbox devices unlimited access to over 100 games that even come with backwards compatibility for the Xbox One and Xbox 360 consoles. Total price of this package: just around $10 per month and it includes access to best-selling, popular games like Halo 5: Guardians, Payday 2, Gears of War: Ultimate Edition, Mad Max, Terraria and NBA2K 16.
Games Pass is also designed to allow full downloads of games to compatible Xbox consoles, meaning that customers won’t have to worry about internet bandwidth or streaming issues even as 4K gaming expands with the release of the Scorpio.
The bottom line for the Xbox Project Scorpio is that it might surprise us with still unknown new specs enhancements for native 4K HDR gameplay but we suspect that the reality will be a wickedly strong HDR gaming console for superb upscaled gaming and HD gameplay but with little traction for native UHD.
In related news, the PR and Social manager of Xbox Spain, Juan Carlos Gonzalez has revealed recently that there will be a launch of several new games which are designed to be optimized for whatever new hardware the Scorpio comes built with. According to Gonzalez, the games will have “respective benefits of the new hardware.” This is still an informal announcement from a Microsoft representative but it slightly concretes the whole concept of a new gaming experience with this console.
Questions about the possible price of the Scorpio are however being completely evaded. Asked about this, the Xbox Spain rep simply stated that:
“We still do not have information we can share about the Project Scorpio price. What I can say is that there will be several launching games for the game console, with the respective benefits of the new hardware.”
We’ll probably have more details on this after E3 later in 2017.
Story by 4k.com