Greater transparency is frequently requested across the gaming industry. Everyone from journalists, through to PR workers, through to developers and publishers themselves are routinely asked to be more transparent, to conduct more of their business in front of the public and to be more up front with consumers. Following Microsoft’s E3 2016 press conference in which the company unveiled both the Xbox One S and its Project Scorpio, now dubbed the Xbox One Scorpio, Xbox boss Phil Spencer held an interview in which he appeared to be very up front about what we can expect from the latter console, including an admission that those without a 4K TV shouldn’t invest in it because there’s no benefit for those who game in 1080p. However, this comment is directly at odds with another statement he has made regarding the Xbox One Scorpio’s power, suggesting that Microsoft is actually being pretty misleading about the console they are creating.
In an interview with Eurogamer, Phil Spencer responded to a question regarding why anyone would want to purchase an Xbox One S knowing that the Xbox One Scorpio was right around the corner, saying: “Scorpio is not going to do anything for you [if you own a 1080p TV]. Scorpio is designed as a 4K console, and if you don’t have a 4K TV, the benefit we’ve designed for, you’re not going to see. Clearly, you can buy Scorpio, and if and when you decide you want to buy a 4K television to take advantage of the increased performance, obviously the console will be ready for you.”
However, Spencer’s comments here are directly at odds with an answer he gave during an interview with GamesIndustry.biz on the very same day. When asked whether older Xbox One games will upscale to 4K on the Xbox One Scorpio, he replied: “There are games that were written on Xbox One, and we continue to evangelize this tech of dynamic scaling – Halo 5‘s a good example – when Halo 5 runs it wants to max out at 1080p/60 frames per second or highest resolution/60 frames per second. As scenes get more complex, the vertical resolution will shrink… to keep the 60 frames per second. When that same game’s running on Scorpio, because of the compute capability, it’s effectively is going to run at its max resolution the whole time. And so you will see advantages like that when your Xbox One games are running on Scorpio.”
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He continued: “That’s why we continue to talk to developers about dynamic scaling because I think as compute capability goes up on the hardware, they kind of get it for free. Now, it’s not going to make Halo 5 run with 4K pixels. The frame buffer is not a 4K frame buffer for the game. But it will run more solidly. And certain developers might go back and decide if they’ve built a 4K version for PC already for some of their games, they might go back and decide to enable a 4K version for the Scorpio Xbox when it launches.”
Then in an additional video discussion with Xbox Live’s Larry “Major Nelson” Hryb, Spencer said (via VideoGamer) that the Xbox One Scorpio is a “6 teraflop gaming machine, which will be a great gaming machine for true 4K gaming, giving you a native 4K frame buffer so you can see games in all their beauty, adding: “If developers want to use those 6 teraflops in other ways they’re free to do that.”
A lot of things in these few comments don’t make sense. For one, the suggestion that Microsoft has created a console with 6 teraflops of power behind its belt for a mere resolution bump, with no added benefit to its performance, is questionable. The added comments that developers can use these 6 teraflops as they see fit make it appear to be downright untrue.
Microsoft wants to insist that there is a great degree of parity between the Xbox One, Xbox One S and Xbox One Scorpio, so as not to suggest that those who currently own an Xbox One – or who are thinking of investing in the Xbox One S – will regret their choice as a result of the Xbox One Scorpio blowing both out of the water. This is indicated by the contrasting statements that older Xbox One games will constantly run at their “max resolution” on the Xbox One Scorpio, but that the Scorpio will also somehow not be of any benefit to those who own a 1080p. Both of those statements simply cannot be true.
Microsoft struggled to regain their footing with consumers after the mixed messages the company sent out during the initial unveiling of the Xbox One, and these two separate interviews with Phil Spencer suggest that this trend could unfortunately continue with the release of the Xbox One Scorpio. Microsoft have stated that the Scorpio will be the most powerful console ever, though during their E3 2016 presentation they were also keen to suggest that this additional power will not lead to a great discrepancy in quality in the Xbox One family of consoles, aside from a boost in resolution and the upcoming console’s VR capabilities. Now it seems like that might not be the case.