For the first time since the dawn of gaming, we’re seeing new hardware coming out in the middle of a generation. I’m not talking about a “slim” model either. The PS4 Neo (PS4.5) and Project Scorpio (Xbox 2) are true leaps forward in terms of power. Both are confirmed, but the specs haven’t been finalized for either one.
Even without that information, there’s still a lot to be found when we read between the lines. Microsoft is confident that Project Scorpio will be the most powerful console ever built, but their focus is all out of whack. Meanwhile, Sony’s made it clear that PS4.5 is all about power. Read on to find out why this gamer believes the PS4.5 will crush Scorpio when it releases.
Project Scorpio: Microsoft’s Caged Beast
When Phil Spencer took the stage at E3 2016 and announced Project Scorpio, the crowd went wild. I was personally surprised that they were talking about a new console over a year before its release. He didn’t provide many details beyond the fact that it would be “the most powerful console ever built.”
This had the PlayStation fan within me worried, but since that big announcement, new information from the big man himself makes me wonder what Microsoft is planning to do with Scorpio. During an interview with Eurogamer, Phil Spencer shed new light on Scorpio’s purpose and place in the new Xbox Family.
In the same breath that he announced Project Scorpio, he also announced Xbox One S. One is clearly more powerful than the other, so why would anyone purchase the S when they can have the power of Scorpio in holiday 2017?
In Phil Spencer’s words:
“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. Clearly you can buy Scorpio, and if and when you decide you want to buy a 4K television to take advantage of the increased performance, obviously the console will be ready for you.”
He told customers that they should just stick with Xbox One S, because Scorpio isn’t going to do anything for you unless you have a 4K TV. We all know that extra power is needed to run games in 4K, but if that’s all Scorpio is going to do, what about all that talk concerning the most powerful console ever built?
This is where Microsoft’s other decision to create an “Xbox Family” comes into play. Microsoft is planning on keeping everything level with their new releases:
“That fact that when you buy an Xbox One and start creating your game library and when you buy Scorpio those games and accessories and everything are going to run, make it feel like part of the Xbox One family to me. That’s why we communicate it that way. That was also part of the design point of the box.”
I’m all game for backwards compatibility, but Microsoft has also said that Project Scorpio won’t have any exclusives. Here’s a Tweet from Aaron Greenberg:
“Great thing is with Project Scorpio as part of #XboxOne family all your games will work, no Scorpio exclusives, so no one gets left behind.”
So, everything that comes out in compatible on any version of the current hardware. Games will run in 4K on Scorpio, but the rest of that power is going to be left on the table from the sounds of it. Phil Spencer has made brief mentions of developers being able to take advantage of the power, but it’s clearly not the focus.
This is where we come to my confusion with Project Scorpio. You can’t promise the most powerful console ever built and then tell me you’re keeping it in a cage. Microsoft makes it sound like they have a Ferrari in the garage, but they won’t let you drive it on the highway.
The ability to bring all of your games and accessories forward is great, it really is, but taking out the possibility of any games that truly harness the hardware just seems like a waste. So, even is the specs on Scorpio are monstrous, they don’t mean much if Microsoft isn’t willing to use them.
Let’s see what Sony is doing, shall we?
PS4.5: True Power Unleashed
Sony is taking an almost completely opposite stance with PS4.5 (Code named PS4 Neo). There are plenty of rumors out there about the specs, but they’re just that: rumors. Microsoft and Sony have been doing this dance for years and Microsoft has underestimated them in the past.
As usual, Microsoft is playing their hand confidently and Sony is keeping their cards close. Without any official specs, there’s still the possibility that Sony is going to wow everyone when they finally reveal the console.
At the very least, the focus on this side of the fence is extremely different. For example, people expected Sony to showcase the PS4.5 at E3, but they confidently put this rumor to rest before the event even began.
After E3 2016, PlayStation boss Andrew House sat down with The Guardian for an interview where he discussed PS4 Neo and his reaction to Project Scorpio. His reasoning behind not showing the console at E3 was simple: it wasn’t time.
Furthermore, he didn’t want to disappoint fans, which is why he revealed that, yes, PS4.5 is real, but we’re not showing it at E3 2016. He did this prior to the event so they could go in with a level expectation from the fans. This all contributed to a stellar showing complete with a full orchestra.
After the dust has settled, House clarified in the interview, saying:
“In terms of the right time to talk about Neo, just like every other hardware launch, VR being a good example, it’s when you’ve got a full range of experiences that you can showcase to say this is why this product’s great and that’s why we’re offering it. And that time is not right now.”
I couldn’t agree more. Microsoft teased a box and a few small tidbits of information, but they didn’t show us anything. Sony is waiting to showcase PS4.5 until they can give you the “why” to match the “what.” That’s why Andrew House was surprised at Microsoft’s announcement.
He referenced the tech industry, and how customers expect instant gratification. To announce something over a year out is an outdated strategy in a post-Apple world. He pointed to Sony’s announcement of the PS4 as their moment of revelation:
“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.”
Sony’s very confident that the PS4.5 is going to be a high-end PS4 option for gamers. It’s not a generational shift, and that’s not something they are trying to suggest. In House’s own words:
“I’m not suggesting we want to bring the games industry to an 18-month-two-year cycle because than you would lose an awful lot of the fixed platform benefits we’ve enjoyed that allow for those really great leaps in game experience.”
Yes, precisely! Sony is making total sense with their approach, which suggests a keen understanding of not only the industry, but of gamer’s desires as well. Ultimately, Sony’s thought process with PS4.5 was to keep the high-end gamers from jumping ship and going to PC towards the latter half of the cycle:
“We’ve traditionally seen that some of the core audience tends to gravitate back to high-end PCs at some point because these are the people who want the finest graphical performance. So here’s a great opportunity to have them stay within our ecosystem.”
That statement alone says that PS4.5 is more powerful than we think. If it’s supposed to convince PC gamers to stay on a console, it’s going to need one heck of a hardware lineup. But even hardware may not matter.
Let’s remember that consoles have, for a long time, been able to squeeze more horsepower of out their hardware than the PC equivalents. This lies in the custom design of the consoles and in the talented work of the developers who work on them. Numbers don’t mean everything, it’s how you use them.
The Experience Matters Most
Let’s put this into a hypothetical situation:
The specs come out and Scorpio is indeed more powerful than PS4.5. This is the point where people will cry foul at my opinion here, but we’re not done yet. Microsoft boasts all this hardware, but they’re still tied down to their “Xbox One Family” concept and their 4K focus, so the experiences they show aren’t that different than what we’re used to.
Now, we look at Sony, who has been waiting for the right time to showcase PS4.5 and we see that the games on this upgraded console look objectively better than they did on the PS4. Not only this, but we see the performance boost for PSVR and we see that leap forward that high-end gamers want.
Do you see the difference? Microsoft can’t win you over with massive hardware improvements if the core experience is still the same. Sony can show you genuinely better games and better experiences. Which one do you choose?
In the headline I suggested that PS4.5 would crush Scorpio’s performance. What I mean by that is a shift in the way our games play on the new console. Better textures, more effects, higher frame rate, these are all things Sony is promising.
Meanwhile, Microsoft is promising backwards compatibility and 4K. For being the “most powerful console ever built” Scorpio isn’t promising much.
What do you think, though? I want to hear from my fellow gamers. Do you want a 4K box that plays all the games from your last system the same way you’re used to, or do you want a console that offers enhancements in ever facet of the experience?
Let your voice be heard 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 Sony Computer Entertainment. Although it will probably be accurate, for now it is pure speculation. Thanks for reading!