Why Microsoft Is Making Xbox Scorpio

Offering a more powerful version of the same system is what consumers expect these days thanks to smartphones, Mike Ybarra says.


Microsoft engineer Mike Ybarra has provided some additional insight into why the company is releasing a new, more powerful console, Project Scorpio, alongside the existing Xbox One.

In an interview with The Guardian, Ybarra said Microsoft's efforts have been inspired by the smartphone business model.

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"In the phone market, people are more used to upgrading fast and wanting the latest of everything," he said. "But with phones, your new apps had better work on that phone and the next one. According to what they're telling us, the consumer expectation is: games and apps had better work even if I upgrade.

"We're looking at the console business and asking how do we provide that choice to users? It resonates with them because other devices are doing that."

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Another major point of focus for Microsoft going forward is compatibility between Xbox One, the slimmed-down Xbox One S, and Project Scorpio. In previous generations, when new hardware came out, if often meant your games and accessories were rendered useless. No more.

"Compatibility has always been the thing that makes console generations define themselves: when you leave one and got to the next, you give up your games, you usually give up the hardware or throw it in a closet--that's what we want to remove," Ybarra explained. "We're focusing more on how do we deliver gaming in a boundless way to our players. We announced three platforms--today's Xbox One, Xbox One S, and Scorpio. We're giving gamers the choice to say, 'I want to invest in these particular games and this particular hardware, and I want those to work going forward, I don't want to have to worry about giving that up.'"

Microsoft Studios general manager Shannon Loftis added that "many" developers are already making games with an eye toward support for Scorpio down the road.

"Taking advantage of dynamic scaling and things like that, a game they make for Xbox One today will run beautifully on S and run beautifully and look better on Scorpio," she said.

For its part, Sony has confirmed it's making a more powerful PlayStation 4 (and maybe a slimmed-down PS4), which could go on sale this year. Project Scorpio, meanwhile, isn't slated to arrive until holiday 2017. Xbox boss Phil Spencer reiterated that Microsoft could have launched a more powerful Xbox One this year, but decided against it.

"We had the ability to look at doing an interim console this year if we wanted to," he said. "We thought about that. But we didn't think we could deliver, with the silicon that's out there, a true 4K gaming six-teraflop machine this year. So we decided to wait until we hit the real spec that people were asking for."

Sony has also talked about how the Neo is coming in response to the "upgrade cadence" for smartphones and PCs.

"The consumer is attuned to a different cadence of innovation in technology thanks in great part for the upgrades cadence on mobile phones or PCs," PlayStation president Andrew House said of this new strategy to offer a more powerful version of the same system.

The full Guardian story is a fascinating read, stuffed with great quotes and insight. Go read it here.

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