More Powerful PS4 and Xbox One Consoles "a Great Step Forward" for Gaming, Epic Boss Says
"I think it's really the ideal model."
Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney might not agree with everything that Microsoft does, but he is a big fan of the newly announced Project Scorpio console. After initially sharing his thoughts last week ("absolutely thrilled," he said) Sweeney has spoken to GameSpot about why he thinks the idea of mid-cycle hardware upgrades, including Scorpio and Sony's Neo, is a "great step forward for the industry."
Sweeney said one of the most challenging elements of the console gaming world is that, traditionally, when new hardware comes out, all of the games and accessories for the older device are rendered useless. This won't be the case with Scorpio and Neo, as each system will be backwards compatible with games and accessories from their respective predecessors, the Xbox One and PlayStation 4.
"If we incrementally upgrade the hardware, then we can bring more performance to gamers without wiping the slate clean. That's incredibly valuable," Sweeney said. "To be able to invest the kind of money it takes to build a high-end game today requires a base of tens of millions of users. By doing these incremental updates, the industry can move forward technologically at a much faster pace without those business challenges.
"I think it's really the ideal model: bringing the best upgradability of the PC with the reliability of the console kept, so you're never going to have to deal with driver problems on a console, but you will get the newer hardware."
He added: "No console company would desire to start over from scratch, but would continue to deliver more and more performance with hardware upgrades every few years. I think that's an incredibly smart approach, both to benefit gamers and to make industry economics more palatable for game developers."
Sweeney also touched on what it might mean for developers who are supporting machines with different specs, following concerns from some about this. Sweeney pointed out that there will only be two per console family (Xbox One/Scorpio and PS4/Neo), which is not nearly as extensive as what exists in the PC space.
"The problem with the PC is it's such a continuum. Pick any performance number and somebody has a PC with that number. It makes it hard for us to make specific choices about what to do on this machine, and what to do on that machine," he said. "I think console with two performance points is going to be a very easy target. We can decide exactly what features we can turn on in each of the two cases, and really polish the game heavily for both cases and not have to worry about all of these intermediate points."
Both Microsoft and Sony have talked about being inspired by smartphones for their new consoles in that consumers expect hardware improvements on a faster cadence than once every seven years. But could the cadence accelerate one day to once every two years or possibly yearly?
"Well, let's see... there's a cost and complexity to an upgrade bidding," Sweeney said. "Upgrading every year would be ... would create so many points that developers would have to consider and support. That would be hard. I think revisiting console tiers every several years, as there's potential for significant performance gains, is very interesting."
Sweeney's take on new consoles is just one area that our full interview touches on. You can read the complete interview here, in which Sweeney also criticizes Microsoft's Universal Windows Platform program and Oculus Rift.
Scorpio is scheduled to come out in holiday 2017, but Microsoft will release the slimmed-down Xbox One S beginning in August. Sony's Neo is rumored to launch this year, while a smaller PS4 could also be on the way for 2016.