Possible Xbox One Hardware Upgrade in the Pipeline, Says Phil Spencer

"You'll actually see us come out with new hardware capability during a generation."

344 Comments

Microsoft has said it is building towards a future where its games consoles will be upgradable, allowing the company to keep hardware viable by incrementally increasing its power instead of replacing it with an entirely new device.

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Speaking at a recent media event, as reported by Polygon, Xbox boss Phil Spencer said he believes that Windows 10 could be used as a ubiquitous operating system that unifies all its devices, while the various hardware it runs on evolves, similar to the way PC are upgraded.

"We see on other platforms, whether it be mobile or PC, that you get continuous innovation that you rarely see on console,' he said. "Consoles lock the hardware and the software platform together at the beginning of the generation. Then you ride the generation out for seven or so years, while other ecosystem are getting better, faster, and stronger. And then you wait for the next big step function."

He continued: "When you look at the console space, I believe we will see more hardware innovation in the console space than we've ever seen. You'll actually see us come out with new hardware capability during a generation allowing the same games to run backward and forward compatible."

Since Microsoft has "a Universal Windows Application running on top of the Universal Windows Platform," it will be able to improve hardware "without invalidating the games that run on that platform."

It is not clear whether this means second-gen Xbox One games can run on first-gen hardware.

He continued: "We can effectively feel a little bit more like we see on PC, where I can still go back and run my old Doom and Quake games that I used to play years ago but I can still see the best 4K games come out and my library is always with me.

"Hardware innovation continues while the software innovation is able to take advantage and I don't have to jump a generation and lose everything that I played on before."

You'll actually see us come out with new hardware capability during a generation

Phil Spencer

Asked to elaborate later, Spencer noted that Sony is doing something similar to this in the way it is adding VR capabilities to the PS4. When PlayStation VR launches, it will include a standalone device with its own processor to handle computation for the device.

"Sony is doing this with VR and adding VR capabilities mid-cycle to the PlayStation 4 and they are doing that by adding another box. I don't mean that as a negative. But it's not changing what the core console is about.

"For consoles in general it's more important now than it's ever been, because you have so many of these other platforms that are around. It used to be that when you bought your console you were way ahead of the price performance curve by so much, relative to a PC. But now PCs are inexpensive and your phones are getting more and more capable."

Despite all this, Spencer did not provide any concrete details on whether Microsoft plans to upgrade the Xbox One, or introduce a whole new platform in the future that can be iterated on in the way described above.

"I'm not going to announce our road map for hardware," he said. "I want to make sure that people see that what we are doing enables us to be more committed to what consoles are about than we've ever been and innovate more consistently than we ever have. That's the key for me."

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Avatar image for NickAnguiano
NickAnguiano

I wonder if this was something the console developers maybe always had in mind. One of the biggest pros of console gaming is that a console is much cheaper vs buying a computer. May this will become a new trend. Think you just need to drop like $400-500 on a console, but then find out a year or two later you need to buy a seperate $400-500 attachment to boost graphics or perhaps increase processing power. It's like Sony and their $400 VR attachment. I guessing they are hoping most customers will think "well, it's been a while since I got my PS4 so this is fine"

Avatar image for CaptWaffle
CaptWaffle

I've been hoping something like this would happen for a while.... then again- aside from RAM there really aren't many inexpensive components that would serve as a substantial upgrade..... unless, perhaps, Sony or Microsoft cut a deal where a custom gpu or cpu could be made in huge numbers.... maybe getting price down enough to make this possible. If i remember correctly the PS4 cpu and gpu are comparable to a decent, couple year-old gaming pc..... the problem is a 200 buck gpu wouldn't be a massive upgrade but jumping up to gtx 960/970 levels can get up to where it's getting too expensive to justify a console upgrade.... even 200 would be steep. Shoving extra ram would be cheap but you get rapidly diminishing returns when you keep adding more. If you could somehow subsidize the cost by getting something back on the existing gpu it would suddenly be much more reasonable but there are likely piles of reasons why that won't work. Oh..... maybe an SLI/Crossfire situation would work.... just add a second "just alright" graphics card to gain substantial "oomph". Then again i imagine the boards in question won't allow it.

Avatar image for deactivated-58a613a89f5e9

I think it's a great idea. The chances of it working well are very sound. The chances of Microsoft ever actually delivering on it.. different story.

Avatar image for nunolincho
nunolincho

Look at this cool Xbox concept!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Am8Xt9UBJFA

Avatar image for gunnmetal
gunnmetal

nintendo had something like that on the 64

Avatar image for DarkReign2022
DarkReign2022

This defeats the whole purpose of being a console. People use consoles because they're not familiar or comfortable or able to upgrade their PC They just hand over money, get their machine, and they're good to go for a number of years with a machine guaranteed to function properly and run the games they buy for it without having to evaluate specs for each game individually.

Being said, how do you propose to upgrade a console? If you give players the freedom to install any type of hardware (and I don't even want to get into the concept of upgrading the CPU and GPU, all of which are integrated directly into the motherboard and not actually upgradeable) than there's going to be compatibility issues with case sizing as well as functionality with various games while releasing proprietary upgrade software will undoubtedly cost a fortune (seeing as how Microsoft couldn't even give it's fanbase a 120GB HDD on the 360 without it costing a small fortune.) If you simply release another machine with better hardware already packaged in, it's simply a new console (made even worse if you continue to call it the Xbox One because it will run into the same issue that the Wii U had. Everybody will think it's the same device or just some add-on and nobody will buy it.)

Remember, you're catering to console gamers. Most people who main consoles are morons, children, and clueless parents and all you're going to do is confuse everybody and shoot yourself in the foot with this approach.

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Hippystank

The evolution of consoles...... Trying to make them emulate PCs.... Why not just PC?

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jasongm

Phil, just make your consoles and let it last every 10 years or so, then repeat the cycle. There is a reason why people buy consoles (So they don't have to upgrade their pcs every few months).

Trust me no one wants that, or they will leave and go to the other guys.

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Myles_Dyson

This is great.

Avatar image for kadaverhagga
kadaverhagga

Straight from the horses mouth... the consoles are underpowered from the getgo. But if they do this why would I go with proprietary hardware and pay for online and have all the restrictions when you can go pc and be free of all that. Any arguments console gamers have about an even playing field due to hardware is null in void anyway if consoles goes this route.

Avatar image for DWalker131
DWalker131

my xbox one has been acting up abit, its been beeping and ejecting the game disc out randomly for the last 2 - 3 days... anyone hear anything about that before ?... i got power saving mode on.. so its not on standby... i got no kinnect so didn't voice activate it by accident... and i only got 1 controller and its sitting comfortably on the table next to the console so i didn't bump it by accident... anyone got any suggestions ? for now i took the disc out hoping if it has nothing to eject then it'll stay off hahaha

Avatar image for deactivated-58183aaaa31d8

Unless they make a modular system I don't see how that is going to happen. In which case why even bother with a console when you can just buy a PC?

I'm sure as hell not buying a console every three years just so developers can make games shinier and increasingly boring.

The reason PC is backwards compatible is because the actual system itself hasn't changed in design that much over the years. They have simply added better hardware to the existing PC design. It has nothing to do with how the hardware advances.

It is just that previous consoles were designed with custom hardware architecture and software to go with it. So emulating a PS3 is like trying to figure out the Divinchi Code. It is almost like the designers were being deliberately obtuse and makes the process borderline impossible.

Emulating PS4 on the other hand shouldn't be needed at all if they stick to DDR5 memory and a standard system design. All they'll need to do is slam a patch into the games to make some tweaks and it should run on the new hardware. Faster than it did previously as well.

Not to mention the patches will be created by the developers. Unlike on PC where most patches are just mods created by a fan and is a pot luck as to whether it will be any good or not.

Avatar image for Suaron_x
Suaron_x

@dexda: I think all consoles are gravitating toward a standard architecture similar (if not identical) to the PC. On the PC, you can select games from a range of Minimum to Recommended settings. Instead of releasing a console that sets the maximum performance limits, MS/Sony could make a console with a minimum and maximum range. So if you buy at launch, the minimum spec'ed console will sell for say $500 and the maximum spec'ed console at say $3,000. As time marches one the cost of the electronics will trickle down and the lesser hardware of the launch system will be phased out. You can either force all games to still render games to the minimum specifications or brand your console in a way that clearly identifies which grade of game it's capable of playing. As long as the consoles designed to run in the maximum range at launch can play all that generations games, I don't see much of a problem. People buying a lower end system will know they may be limited in the future and need to upgrade.

One way this can be achieved can be to color code the system/games. Say Green for the low end games, Blue for the Mid range games and Red for the High End Games. If you have a green system, you can only play Green boxed games, Blue plays Green and Blue and Red plays all three. Towards the end of the generation, the Red consoles will be priced at the launch price of the Green consoles.

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Moonco

First micro upgrade - make games look as good as those on the PS4. Pre-order today and save $50

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MAXTHUNDER99

I guess Micro$oft is hurting for money (sarcasm) if they are introducing hardware upgrades because were they not hyping this cloud gaming thing out the wazoo that it would make your XBOX One like 20x more powerful and it seems they haven't mentioned that as much for quite sometime. Probably because they want the consumer to forget all about cloud gaming so they don't need to pay for extra servers and gouge the customer for extra hardware sales. Sounds kinda like the 360 launch console "if" you want wireless wifi you need to buy this adapter for 100 bucks and "if" you want it to play HD DVDs then you need to buy this extra peripheral to play them for $250 bucks in Canada.

Avatar image for the-games-masta
the-games-masta

Why are people not seeing how easy this would be to implement? In the same way that a pc game has a minimum requirement, the standard Xbox one would be the minimum requirement. The upgraded x1 would provide higher resolutions such as 4K or offer 60fps. No need for separate games, easy to implement and adjust according to the hardware you own, just like with a pc. Simple really

Avatar image for troll_elite
Troll_Elite

@the-games-masta: Exactly! I'm amazed at how many fan boys are freaking out over this. The whole point of a "Universal Windows Platform" translates to every Xbox One game being compatible with every Xbox One system (and PC for select titles). The new SDK that MS will give to developers will simply optimize the game's graphics settings based on which system you're running it on.

Avatar image for slypher9
Slypher9

Noo just Nooooo, when that happens you fragment the console space and that one of the uniqueness of console all X1 is equal, all ps4 is equal and so on and it allows dev development that much easier... Upgrade-able parts of a hardware should remain a pc thing sorry..

Once you come out with new hardware person are less likely to buy the upgrade, its the same reason a majority of pc are low to mid range base...

Keep forcing the issue to buy a new upgrade we already have a choice to upgrade or don't when a new hardware is released.. opening upgrade-able hardware is more work for dev, now they'll have to optimize for the lesser hardware as well as the top piece of upgrade..

They are just being lazy and cheap, and think console games want to be like pc gamers.. First they want to change the console cycle from 5yrs and now this..

Avatar image for lostn
lostn

@slypher9: You won't be upgrading the console. You can't. What port would they connect to?

They will just release new models that have better specs inside. Same thing happens in the smartphone and tablet industry.

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Stelios

Why shouldn't I just buy a Win 10 PC then? In general i'm all for Phil Spencer, he really went above and beyond to improve XBOX but it seems to me that they are trying to enter full PC territory. A very tricky territory mind you, which already has thousands of upgrade options and seemingly, MS's support via the Win 10 store.

It kinda loses the already hindered advantage consoles had over PC, just plug them and play. No options, optimaizations etc all in an easy and simple ecosystem.

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e3man01

Whatever the long term plan MS has, I trust it enough because of Phil. MS's last great leader was Peter Moore, look at MS after he left, starting going downhill. That's my ONLY concern, how long will Phil be in charge? Can these plans come to true fruition without him at the helm?

Avatar image for kdawgnmann
kdawgnmann

I do hope they at least upgrade the HDMI ports to make it compatible with incoming hardware. Without HDMI 2.0 and HDCP 2.2, they're gonna suck pretty hard for people with 4K setups. It'd be nice to see the XBox One upscaling to 4K

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mrjoeyyaya

I'm holding off to get XBOX ONE, but I will.

Avatar image for eternaldragoonx
eternaldragoonx

smart man

Avatar image for obsidian_born
OBSIDIAN_BORN

This is exactly what I want. I knew Xbox was moving in this direction. Its why I am digital only now.

Avatar image for myles_dyson
Myles_Dyson

@obsidian_born:

Digital-only will kill games and the joy of owning them. I just went physical-only.

Avatar image for hystavito
hystavito

@obsidian_born: Don't get too excited, fully streamed games will kill this idea off before it really gets rolling :).

Avatar image for mikemurphy80
mikemurphy80

@hystavito: I think we're a long way from fully streamed games at this point. Yes, its been done before, but no one has figured out how to do it on a massive scale and more importantly how to make it cost effective. On top of that, internet connectivity for every single person needs to be both very fast and very reliable. Some people have this today, but many do not and we are a long way from that happening on a global scale.

Avatar image for hystavito
hystavito

@mikemurphy80: Yeah it's a long way off, but I think the next generation will be the start of them getting really serious about it, sort of a hybrid generation where they transition to eliminating physical completely. So like heavily discouraging physical while heavily encouraging digital download, and then also bringing in streaming options.

Avatar image for lostn
lostn

@mikemurphy80: Full streaming box would have to come with a catch. You no longer have to buy a $400 console, and MS on the other end would be paying for all the processing power. Instead of everyone buying a $400 box that has the RAM, HDD, CPU and GPU to run the game, MS would have to pay for that hardware out of their own pockets for every user. Since the box will be free or very cheap, everyone will claim one, including people who couldn't normally afford a console. That's going to be a lot of hardware to pay for.

They would also have to pay for the massive amounts of bandwidth going to the tens of millions of gamers. That's a lot of revenue lost and costs added. Where are they going to make it back?

Game prices increasing? Games getting shorter? More DLC? Everyone needs to pay for a subscription service on top of the game's price?

Avatar image for obsidian_born
OBSIDIAN_BORN

@hystavito:

Perhaps! But the platform wouldn't change that much though.

Avatar image for GH05T-666
GH05T-666

Would be nice to see a PS4 and Xbox One both pumping out 4K one day

Avatar image for AyatollaofRnR
AyatollaofRnR

This is a really interesting move from microsoft. Certainly leverages the PC side if things and stands to mix up the console space.

The potential for platform iteration will mean we won't have the specs limiting Devs as they often do on console. And if the Xbox and PC play well together then it means more games will head to Xbox.

Your move Sony.

Avatar image for joshrmeyer
JoshRMeyer

I think I'd rather just spend $400 every 4 years for a new console with the following requirements: Every game is BC for the last 2 gens, hd comes with enough space to last 4 years and/or external HD support, ability to use previous gen controller... A console that last 4 years at $400 is still cheaper than upgrading the gpu, possibly cpu, ram, and hd. Not sure how upgrading your console is going to benefit anyone in terms of savings. This whole cloud based crackdown stuff won't be feasible until the rest of the world can use it. Global wifi from satellites? Possibly. N64 was the last system to require an upgrade to play certain games and it was a free upgrade.

Avatar image for ditronus
Ditronus

Very good news. I hope to becomes a standard to have console hardware that I can expand.

Avatar image for TruthSerum808
TruthSerum808

Hardware upgrades on consoles don't work and do nothing but fracture what was once a unified market.

If a dev makes a game for a 2nd generation XB1 what happens with the people that didn't upgrade? If they do end up releasing a hardware upgrade they better make sure ALL games work on ALL versions of the console, both new and old. If MS doesn't make it mandatory that all games work on all versions of the console it would be a failure of absolutely devastating proportions.

Tread lightly with this one Phil.

Avatar image for ditronus
Ditronus

@TruthSerum808: It doesn't segment gamers on a PC, and consoles more closely resemble a PC than ever. They won't do something if it would fracture their market, so I wouldn't worry and instead try to embrace beneficial change and design opportunities when they come; I don't want another 10-year stagnating console generation.

Avatar image for TruthSerum808
TruthSerum808

@ditronus:

PC is insanely fragmented with system requirements. Seriously when was the last time you didn't see the internet completly explode with complaints about some newly launched AAA game not working on various configs of different PC gaming rigs.

"I have the base Xbox One and this new game runs like crap !!! "

I can see it already.

Avatar image for lostn
lostn

@ditronus: It means an X1 game case will need to show system requirements similar to a PC. Instead of the Xbox One logo guaranteeing that anyone who has an X1 can play it, they will need to read the fine print on the back and make sure their hardware can run it.

Avatar image for wrestlingdude
wrestlingdude

@TruthSerum808: You have Graphical Options to optimize the console for the hardware. The Division will be the first game to offer Graphics customization on PS4 and Xbox One.

No other company has done this right, yet, but if Microsoft manufactures new Xbox Ones with new hardware with a hot swappable socket for DDR4 RAM and ZIF sockets for future CPU and GPU architecture the console will be able to hit 4K in one swoop and take full control of DX12. Remember the upgradable parts will be Xbox branded and packed in those nice little green boxes of joy.

If you have an older console, it will just run the game assets on the default graphical setting i.e. 900-1080p 30-60fps. Upgraded Hardware for example: 4K 60fps Max Anti Aliasing & AF, Bloom, etc

Avatar image for mikemurphy80
mikemurphy80

@wrestlingdude: I highly disagree this means hot swappable hardware upgrades for console. The comparison to commodity hardware such as smart phones is an important one. I think MS wants to turn the console into commodity hardware you upgrade every 2-3 yrs. You replace the whole box with a new one, keep gaming with same games. Just like a phone/tablet. You upgrade your phone, your "previous gen" games don't just stop working on your new phone does it? This will be the same. Only cheaper than a phone.

Avatar image for Pyrosa
Pyrosa

100% agreed. The last time a console was upgradeable -- and it was actually popularly used -- was the Sega Genesis, IIRC.

Using extensions to the PCIe bus is the way to go here -- use a standard, not some proprietary garbage, either.

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juboner

@Pyrosa: I was thinking N64 with its ram pack.

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kazeswen

@Pyrosa: The upgrades like 32X, Sega CD, Sega CD 32X is what killed Sega.

Very bad example of what you wanna follow. Unless you wanna go out of business.