Asked about PC inevitably outpacing the new console hardware, Xbox chief highlights value of ‘having these consumer points where we know there’s volume’

Phil Spencer: Xbox Scorpio is designed to make transition easier for PC devs

Xbox’s upcoming Project Scorpio machine plans to once again close the gap between PC and console development, Microsoft has said.

The improved box was the final reveal of Microsoft’s E3 press conference, with the company reeling out a slew of recognisable devs to highlight its dedication to attracting game makers to its “most powerful console ever”.

Among the Scorpio’s touted features is six teraflops of graphical processing power, eight CPU cores, 4K support and VR-friendly stats.

“[Developers] are already building 4K PC games, which is why we went out and talked to them explicitly about what it takes to build a 4K PC game, to make sure Scorpio was a spec that they could look at what they’re doing on PC and say, okay, I understand exactly how I’m going to make the Scorpio version of my game because I’m doing it on PC,” Xbox chief Phil Spencer told Eurogamer.

Although the Scorpio has specs comparable to a higher-end PC, Spencer admitted that the machine would also deliberately limit its hardware to maintain a mass-market appeal.

“What a developer’s looking for is a real sweet spot of install base and users,” he explained. “We’ve got tens of millions of people who have Xbox Ones. Developers are gonna see that and, frankly, as the platform holder, we’re going to make sure games come out and support Xbox One.”

“That’s why we picked 4K and not something kind of weird in the middle. We could have done a new update this year. We actually looked at it. We went all the way to, we had the spec in front of us: should we ship something that’s less than Scorpio this year? But, in truth, you can’t do a true 4K console this year. And I just didn’t think anything between what is effectively a 1080p console and the 4K console, like, from a consumer television standpoint there’s nothing in the middle. So let’s go focus on 4K and next year was the right year to do that.”

Scorpio will arrive towards the end of 2017, by which point the fast-moving world of PC hardware will have undoubtedly already crossed the next processing hurdle.

With Spencer already saying that the new machine won’t be aiming for the very top of today’s PC capabilities, is there a concern, that 18 months from now, building for Scorpio will hold developers back? 

“We’ve seen this in the PC space,” he observed to PCGamesN. “Every game that comes out has a recommended spec, and developers will decide how much beyond the recommended spec they want to push.

“I think having these consumer points where we know there’s volume is a good thing for developers, because the game industry is all around developers being healthy and successful and building great games that people buy. So if there’s a large install base of people who buy at certain price points and certain capabilities I think that’s a good thing. With our Universal Windows Platform, making sure developers have the capability to go to 6K, go to 8K – whatever they want to do with our platform – is critical.

“Because consoles plug into TVs, it’s a little different in their ability to take advantage of all that. HDR is one of the things we’ve added – and HDR even within the PC gaming space, some games use it, some games don’t. We think we can even help with the adoption of HDR gaming, that’s why we support HDR gaming on the Xbox One S and on Project Scorpio. I’ve seen some really interesting results from one games when they show me their HDR builds, but not all games are doing it. I’d love to see PC monitors support HDR and game developers go utilise it.”

Develop asked a number of creators for their feelings on the Scorpio’s prospects, with responses ranging from "Any increase in horsepower is always welcome" to suggestions that "all of this is redundant if games for it have to be backwardly compatible with the Xbox One".

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