Back in the 80’s and 90’s it was Nintendo vs Sega. You were almost forced to choose a side, It was a war that everyone was forced to fight in, you apparently couldn't be neutral in the matter. As Medal of Honor used to say: "you don't play, you volunteer." In the spirit of that, it's time to look at Xbox 2 vs PS5
This ongoing theme of bloodshed (mostly in the games themselves) continued for some time until some new kids showed up on the block: Microsoft and Sony. The latter had a jump because the original Xbox didn't come out until the PS2 era, but that point is moot because we're knee deep in the trenches at this point.
Project Scorpio (aka Xbox 2) Coming Holiday 2017
The gaming industry changed at E3 2016 when Xbox President Phil Spencer took the stage in the final moments of the Microsoft press conference and announced that they were working on a new console. Not just any console either, he promised it would be "the most powerful console ever built."
Known as Project Scorpio, this beast of a machine promises to remove the barriers between developers and hardware. This new console is going to offer 4K gaming, virtual reality support, top frame rate performance, and exquisite graphics.
It's a lofty promise, and they are planning on bringing the console to us in holiday of 2017. At no point was it referred to as a next generation console, but we know better. After all, Microsoft has been hinting for a while at eliminating console cycles in favor of incremental upgrades.
Scorpio is the stop-gap for this initiative. In order to catch up with current technology, they need to make the leap across one more generation. Phil Spencer says that Project Scorpio is part of the "Xbox family" meaning it will still play Xbox One games and utilize the accessories you bought.
This kind of backwards compatibility gives us the illusion that it's not leaving anyone behind, and that's great, but it's still a next-gen console.
How do we know this? Well, there are several reasons that point to Project Scorpio's real identity as the Xbox 2:
- Phil Spencer said they're not interested in Xbox 1.5
- Microsoft wants cycles to stop and consoles to be more like PC
- Phil Spencer said that Project Scorpio is 4.5 times more powerful than Xbox One
- Project Scorpio is just a code name
A Peek Under the Hood
Recent PS4.5 release date rumors are complicating everything when it comes to how these two upcoming consoles will handle their increased hardware.
Some are saying that the PS4 Pro represents Sony's altered plans for the PS5, but a recent interview between PlayStation president Andrew House and the BBC confirmed that the PS4.5 is not a next-gen console for Sony. Instead, it is going to exist along side and within the same console as the PS4.
Sony wants to appease PC gamers who will usually jump ship when console hardware becomes too obsolete. To combat this, PS4 Pro is meant to amp up the graphical capabilities of the system. He described it as a "high-end PS4."
Here are the final Xbox 2 Scorpio vs PS4 Pro specs:
- PS4 Neo CPU: Eight Jaguar cores clocked at 2.1GHz vs Scorpio CPU: Eight cores up-clocked to 6 teraflops
- PS4 Neo GPU: 36 improved GCN compute units at 911MHz vs Scorpio GPU: 40 GCN compute units at 1172MHz
- PS4 Neo Memory: 8GB GDDR5 at 218GB/s vs Scorpio Memory: 12GB of GDDR5 at 326GB/s
Looking at these specs, Project Scorpio/Xbox 2 has the PS4 Pro beat by a long shot. This kind of overpowered approach is fitting of a next generation system.
Either way, Microsoft has said they're only interested in a big leap forward for their next console. Microsoft is promising 4K gaming with Project Scorpio, which is a tall order, even with these specs in place. Even so, we've seen some impressive results with their Forza tests.
While Microsoft is sticking to traditional games, we still don't know if Sony will go with a streaming service or not. It's possible, given their push with PlayStation Now, but it's also unlikely that we'll see this change happen over the course of a single generation. It will be more subtle than that.
With cloud-based streaming games, the hardware becomes moot. Everything is being handled by servers remotely and the game is streamed to you. At this point the only way to "win" will be to innovate with the games better than the competitor. Graphics will be on par with each other if we're talking about cloud-based technology.
Microsoft has been lagging behind Sony this generation. The specs of the Xbox 2/Project Scorpio, show that they are looking to turn things around. It's more powerful than the PS4 Pro, but will power be enough? It's time we discussed the elephant in the room.
Microsoft Canceling First-Party Titles: Are They Giving Sony The Edge?
Power is great, and Scorpio/Xbox 2 is full of it, but there's a larger issue here, and that's Microsoft's streak of cancellations. It's not outside the realm of reason to say that Sony's exclusives have been killing it in 2017. Consider titles like these:
- Horizon: Zero Dawn
- Persona 5
- Farpoint (VR)
- Statik (VR)
- Uncharted: Lost Legacy
- Days Gone
- God of War
- The Last of Us 2
Those are just the ones off the top of my head, but I'm sure there's plenty I'm missing. These titles represent some of the most hyped releases we've ever seen this early in the year. Normally you don't see heavy hitters like these until the holidays.
Meanwhile, Microsoft released, uh, Halo Wars 2? What's going on? They can't afford to keep giving Sony the edge with this amazing releases. They need more first-party titles, not less. This brings me to my main contention: Scalebound.
Yes, I know this is going to open some wounds, but we need to talk about this. Scorpio/Xbox Two will only succeed if it has games to back up that horsepower it's sporting. Scalebound from Platinum Games was looking like a great action brawler with a rockability flavor and dragons! It was a sign of better times for Xbox owners.
Then, with a single statement, it all came crashing down:
"After careful deliberation, Microsoft Studios ha come to the decision to end production for Scalebound. We're working hard to deliver an amazing lineup of games to our fans this year, including Halo Wars 2, Crackdown 3, State of Decay 2, Sea of Thieves, and other great experiences."
An excellent Forbes Article mirrors my opinion on this subject.
Having played Halo Wars 2, it's pretty good, but it's not the breakout title that Xbox needs to get back on the map. Furthermore, Gears of War 4 was kind of a let down in my opinion. Crackdown 3, Sea of Thieves, and State of Decay 2 are all decent entries, but none of them have grabbed the spotlight as of yet.
Beyond Scalebound, Microsoft also axed Phantom Dust, Project Spark, and Fable Legends recently. Now, Phantom Dust will still probably get an HD remaster, but the new title is gone for good. It makes me want to tear my hair out, because Sony has been pushing ahead at full-speed since E3 2016 and the titles have delivered.
I agree with the aforementioned Forbes article, that this problem has been mounting for years. Microsoft simply isn't offering enough of a reason to take their console over Sony's, and that's why the gap has been growing between the two company's console sales.
Scorpio's power is a good start, but we're going to need some better exclusives to make it worthwhile. I love Xbox, and I want to see them succeed, but in this case some tough love is needed.
Virtual Reality vs Augmented Reality
Here's where the two beasts go down different paths. Sony is pushing forward with PlayStation VR, which is a virtual reality headset, while Microsoft is moving forward with their line of Windows 10 VR headsets.
But what about HoloLens? While being indefinitely delayed, it could still become a valid option for Microsoft. Let's compare the two technologies.
On the surface, virtual reality puts you entirely in a different world, while augmented reality simply takes what you see before you and changes or adds to it. There's arguments to be made about which one is better, but in terms of immersion, the augmented reality side of things is fighting an uphill battle.
Say you live in an apartment and you want to play a game with your HoloLens. Well, you've only got the space around you to work with, which could be constraining. There's ways to innovate though, perhaps using the television screen in conjunction with your living room to pull the game out and immerse in both forms of the medium?
It's not that AR is impossible to implement into games, it just requires a stronger imagination and more innovation than before, that's all.
Virtual reality lets you go into an entirely different world. Everything before you is artificial, which leaves plenty of flexibility for game developers to really pull you into their imaginations.
On the surface, this seems like the easier choice for gaming, but it doesn't offer the convenience of being able to see all around you while still playing the game. Neither of these prototypes are available for human consumption yet, so we'll have to wait and see.
Microsoft did say that Project Scorpio would be VR compatible. Could this mean they are working on a VR headset as well? The new Windows 10 VR headsets could point to an option, but Microsoft hasn't said anything about which headset they will be using on Xbox 2/Project Scorpio.
The Beginning of a New War
What Microsoft tried to do with Xbox One, but were ultimately shot down for, could become the norm for future consoles like Project Scorpio/Xbox 2.
Internet will be much faster and more accessible in the years following this big release. These policies could be better received in the future.
Developers don’t want to be ‘wasting money’ on physical distribution when the option of downloadable software is there and proven to be successful. It has been working for PC gamers for years and Microsoft are desperate for console gamers to catch up to their desktop cousins. You never hear a PC gamer complain about not being able to trade in their used games – once you own it, you OWN it.
We're already seeing this with the Nintendo Switch. Developers have been charging more for physical versions of games than digital ones, because of the cost associated. Nintendo is making it more expensive to have a physical edition, and that's putting strain on indie developers.
Unfortunately, in my opinion, the next generation will mark the extinction of video game stores as we know them. It’s sad, because I for one love browsing the collection of games I have amassed on my shelf over the years.
Even so, after spending a good chunk of my life working in the video game retail industry, I've come to see how bloated and mutated it has become. Pre-order lockouts, DLC season passes, customer service horror stories, it's all signs of an industry that needs to be put down before it embarrasses itself any further.
Think I'm crazy? How about the fact that GameStop is closing 150+ stores in 2017? The evidence is right in front of us, my friends.
In the end, they will most likely adapt, but in the process I hope they shave off the corporate grime that has turned many of them into greed filled money grabbers. There are still good ones out there, I saw them during my tenure, but there are plenty who just in it to suck the customer dry, and that's not what games are about.
Let the debate begin!