Microsoft reveals 4K and VR future of Xbox gaming: Project Scorpio

14 Jun 2016

The head of Xbox Phil Spencer. Despite revealing a smaller Xbox One S console, Microsoft actually plans to beef up the power of consoles through Project Scorpio

Microsoft has revealed it still has some tricks up its sleeve in the console gaming space.

As well as revealing the new Xbox One S, which is 40pc smaller than the original, it revealed it is planning a bigger, more powerful console, enigmatically code-named Project Scorpio.

At E3, Microsoft revealed its tiny new Xbox One S console, which is 40pc smaller than the original Xbox One and comes with 4K ultra-HD support. Microsoft also revealed a new Xbox Play Anywhere service to allow users play Xbox games on their PCs.

Future Human

But the biggest surprise was Project Scorpio, Microsoft’s plan to actually make consoles bigger and more powerful, with a new console expected next year.

‘When it ships next year, Project Scorpio will be our most powerful console ever built, specifically to lead the industry into a future in which true 4K gaming and high-fidelity VR are the standard, not an exception’

The Xbox One S is the most compact Xbox yet and comes emblazoned in a “robot white” colour.

It also includes a built-in power supply and will enable users to watch Blu-ray movies and stream video in 4K through partnerships with Netflix and Amazon Video.

The new console also comes with high-dynamic range (HDR) support, which increases visual depth in games, photos and video.

Microsoft has shifted one of the console’s three USB ports and the pairing button to the front, alongside the newly-added IR blaster.

Microsoft also removed the dedicated Kinect port from the console but Kinect can still work via a Xbox Kinect Adapter for USB connection.

The new Xbox wireless controller has been boosted to give twice the wireless range, as well as having added Bluetooth support.

The new console will start at $299 in the US for a 500GB version, which is around €265 in Europe, and $349 for a 1TB version.

A special, limited edition launch edition of the Xbox One S will be available in early August with a 2TB hard drive for $399.

Play Anywhere: Microsoft vision for the future of gaming

Also at E3, Microsoft unveiled the new Xbox Play Anywhere program, which will enable gamers to buy a game once and play it on both the Xbox One and a Windows 10 PC.

“We are hard at work on a rich portfolio of new games,” Xbox boss Phil Spencer said at E3.

“These games will all be part of the Xbox Play Anywhere program. That means the next time you’re in the middle of that crucial level but have to hit the road, your game goes with you. Save it on your console, pick it up again on your Windows 10 PC.”

Confirmed games for Xbox Play Anywhere include Gears of War 4, Dead Rising 4, Sea of Thieves, Forza Horizon 3, Scalebound, State of Decay 2, Halo Wars 2, Recore and Crackdown 3.

Project Scorpio

However, Microsoft had another trick up its sleeve: it’s most powerful gaming console yet, code-named Project Scorpio.

“The next step-change for gamers and developers must deliver true 4K gaming and high-fidelity VR experiences to the console,” Spencer said.

“When it ships next year, Project Scorpio will be our most powerful console ever built, specifically to lead the industry into a future in which true 4K gaming and high-fidelity VR are the standard, not an exception.”

He said that Project Scorpio will be the first console with six teraflops of power

“This will empower the world’s greatest game creators to fully embrace true 4K gaming without sacrificing quality, generate premier VR experiences, without sacrificing performance, and putting greater graphic fidelity in the hands of the world’s best game creators.

“Best of all, Xbox One, Xbox One S and Project Scorpio will all be compatible. All Xbox One games and accessories will play on each device. It’s very important to us that no one gets left behind, which is a big part of why we view Project Scorpio as a new way of thinking about consoles and generations,” Spencer said.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years