In addition to showing off a metric ton of video games, Microsoft also took some time out of its E3 presentation to briefly look forward to the next plans it has for the Xbox brand. True to E3 fashion, it was mostly a lot of numbers and buzz words – but there was still some details to gleam about the future of the Xbox.
Fueling all of Microsoft’s gaming initiatives will be Project xCloud, which will allow for cloud based gaming in addition to console based streaming. E3 attendees will get to try xCloud on site – connecting to Microsoft’s own resources, but soon players at home will be able to take advantage as well. In fact, Xbox One owners will be able to use their own console as an xCloud server, meaning they can make their own machines and endpoint for streaming games to another device. Xbox head Phil Spencer didn’t get into the details of this – beyond noting that it would not include extra charge – but the potential is there to solve issues that competing services like Google Stadia couldn’t.
In addition to cloud services, Microsoft pulled back the curtain on the highly anticipated follow up to the Xbox One, which we now know as Project Scarlett. Opposed to the mentality behind the original Xbox One, Spencer pushed the new machine as a games-focused device before cutting to a video with various members of the Xbox engineering team talking about the new technology going into Scarlett. At the core is a custom processor based on AMD’s Zen 2 architecture. It’s hard to determine how much of an improvement this will really be as Zen 2s have not yet hit the market in full, but there’s potential to cut down processing time by more than half – translating into overall better performance. A focus was put on reducing loading times in games, with a particular crack made at the expense of Mass Effect’s elevators.
Additionally, the processor will be paired with a solid state drive to enable ray tracing effects and other performance boosts, with the onboard drive acting as extra virtual RAM to help share the load. The other main highlight made regarding performance promised frame rates up to 120 frames per second, which would be twice what most high-quality games push and three times what most console games top out at right now.
Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see much of what this purported machine can actually do outside of theory – though there was some in-engine footage of Halo Infinite (which you can read more about on our games round up page), so it’s hard to tell exactly what all of this actually means for players right now. In theory, a more powerful machine like this would subsequently be an even better personal xCloud server, meaning it’s very likely that’s where Microsoft is going to really push for people to actually own the hardware to use its services, even as it is becoming more and more likely you won’t be needing any special Microsoft hardware to access any of their games. Even so, Scarlett is being designed from a far different perspective than the Xbox One was, and if Microsoft can stick the landing on this, we could indeed see console gaming radically change.