Project Scorpio is a must win for Xbox. It is a widely held belief, that the PS4 Pro is a more powerful console, and exclusive developers like Naughty Dog (Uncharted series) and Guerilla (Horizon Zero Dawn) put that power on show with AAA games in a way that the Xbox has been unable to do outside the more niche racing genre with games like Forza Horizon 3. Even if the consoles were equal in power, the lack of huge exclusive titles for the Xbox means that fewer developers are really pushing the envelope for the platform. This is a big problem for Microsoft, and one they need to address with Project Scorpio if the console’s awesome power is going to make a difference in the global market.
More troubling for Microsoft, is the recent resurgence of Japanese games. Why is this an issue? Well Japan notoriously does not care about the Xbox, or rather, Microsoft has failed to appeal to that player base. The recently canceled Scalebound, which was going to be an exclusive for Xbox, further puts them behind in terms of Japanese developers on their platform. A healthy Japanese developer scene will likely make Sony more powerful.
Some would argue that the ancillary services and features of the Xbox like backwards compatibility and PC cross Xbox games make it a better service offering than Sony’s, but that won’t mean anything if they can’t get exclusive games to show off their new console. The further they get behind in customer base, the less attractive the console is for developers.
Scorpio being more powerful is important, but without software really showing that off, it may fall down out of the gate. There has been alot of talk lately from Xbox about indie games in development for their platform, and while these are important for library, they won’t likely cause people to buy the console unless we see Astroneer take off like Minecraft did or if Ooblets becomes as popular as Stardew Valley.
Now that Nintendo’s switch has come out, it is more imperative than ever to offer something unique. Building for just pure power won’t do enough to win over fans of the other consoles. Nintendo has shown that power isn’t everything, but they have done so by being unique.
Nintendo’s continued dominance of the portable space remains unquestioned. Sony had a chance with the PSP and Vita systems, buy failed to support them adequately. Sony actually had a leg up on Nintendo and beat them to ideas like remote play, but again failed to actually support the technology and thus wasted their chance at success in that space.
I loved my PSP. It was a lifesaver aboard the USS Enterprise during the Iraq war. Capable of playing movies, ebooks, web browsing as well as having ad-hoc multiplayer we could take advantage of. I fondly remember playing SOCOM in the middle of CATC while waiting for our F-18s to come back from their sorties. People shouting obscenities at well aimed grenade tosses, or whispering tactics as the opposing force attempted to flank the dug in defenders. It was an awesome device, and held such promise, but Sony seemed to be content with allowing it to wither. It is no surprise that when the platform holder doesn’t take the platform seriously, neither will third party developers. We’ve seen Nintendo’s last few consoles struggle to get third party developers, yet survive because of Nintendo’s own devotion to the console and their first party games. Time will tell if the Switch sees similar growing pains, but if Microsoft is going to really take the lead, they will have to offer something that only they can provide: deeper Windows 10 integration.
They have recently shown their interest in marrying the console and PC markets by supporting Xbox Play Anywhere games which seamlessly allow you to play games on either platform and having all of your content synced on both. So I think the next logical step is to take that integration further by connecting your PC and console in a distributed computing type setup. It would then be possible to share the resources of your PC and offload some physics calculations or AI routines to free the console to use its power on graphics and user input alone. With a marriage between the PC OS and Xbox graphics and CPU, even a modeling PC can be used to enhance your Xbox games.
This may seem far fetched, but Microsoft has spoken before about using their cloud computing platform Azure to handle the physics of crumbling buildings in the next Crackdown game, which would send and receive data across the internet. Home networks have at least 10x faster speeds within the LAN, and having the Xbox One OS and Windows 10 OS being designed to interact in this fashion would make any lag unnoticeable.
Almost everyone has a PC, and because of Microsoft’s huge Windows 10 push, this tech could be made available to a huge swath of gamers. I’d love to see the interaction go both ways, allowing people with subpar PC’s able to offload the graphics to the Scorpio and be able to play games like World of Warcraft or Civ 6 on their PC when normally they’d never be able to.
Unless Microsoft has something like this up their sleeves, I am worried about this new console. So yes, Scorpio is a must win. Lack of first party games exclusively designed to showcase the Scorpio and no unique offerings outside of power will kill the console at launch.