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Microsoft has always been a major player in the tech world. Since its foundation in 1975, it’s been at the forefront of mainstream computing; its Windows operating systems are still by far the most widely-used in the world. They’ve branched out over the years into smartphones, tablets, and of course gaming. The Xbox line of systems began in 2001 with the release of the original Xbox. The followup, the Xbox 360, captured something in the public imagination, selling over 85 million units worldwide.
The Xbox One followed in 2013, and although it didn’t quite manage the impressive performance of its predecessor, it’s still a widely-owned piece of hardware. The Xbox One has enjoyed its fair share of controversy over the years, so Microsoft is likely hoping to move away from those unflattering days with its new console, codenamed Xbox Scarlett. So, what do we know about Microsoft’s newest console endeavour? What rumours, leaks, and info is already out there? Here’s everything we already know about Xbox Scarlett.
Thanks to the Xbox E3 2019 press conference, we know exactly when we can expect Xbox Scarlett to land. Xbox’s Phil Spencer announced during that conference that the console would be released in the holiday season of 2020. That’s pretty much the date we expected anyway; if PlayStation 5 is planning a holiday launch for the same year (which we can’t confirm), then it would make sense for Xbox to want to position itself alongside its biggest competitor in the console market. Looks like rumblings of a spring 2020 release date were false.
So, when exactly will Xbox Scarlett launch? It’s a tricky one. The Xbox One launched in November 2013, just in time for Christmas. The Xbox 360’s launch was staggered across November and December in various territories, again in time for Christmas. The OG Xbox, though, launched in March 2002 in PAL territories (okay, and November in the USA). With all this data available to us, we can make a fairly safe and educated guess that Xbox Scarlett will be launching in November 2020. Any earlier and Xbox risks not getting into households as soon as possible; any later and the console will miss the coveted Christmas launch window. We’ll be surprised if it’s not out by November 2020.
Xbox Scarlett looks to be directly competing with PlayStation 5 when it comes to what’s under the hood. The console will boast a custom AMD Zen 2 processor, with Xbox sticking with the company they used for the Xbox One’s processing chip. Graphics architecture will also be based on AMD tech; Xbox Scarlett will use the new Navi graphics standard, ensuring that it competes directly with Sony’s machine. We’re not yet sure how much RAM the console will boast, but we know it’ll be GDDR6 memory. We’re probably looking at around 16GB of RAM or maybe even more; if Microsoft implements its VR strategy as it’s expected to, then it will need at least this much to keep up.
Phil Spencer says all of this will add up to some pretty impressive real-world performance. Supposedly, Xbox Scarlett will be four times as powerful as the Xbox One X, which is currently the most powerful home console available on the market. Sticking with the fours, Spencer also said that Xbox Scarlett could cut load times to a quarter of what the current console generation offers. We’re also being promised 120 FPS, 8k resolution, and dynamic ray tracing. That’s pretty impressive, and if Xbox can deliver on its promises, it’s hard to see Scarlett being rivaled by any competing console. Of course, the PS5 is making similar promises, so we’ll have to wait and see.
Things are actually rather exciting on the backwards compatibility front when it comes to Xbox Scarlett. At the close of its E3 showcase for the console, Microsoft said that Xbox Scarlett would be compatible with “thousands of games across four console generations”. We would be extremely surprised if this doesn’t mean Scarlett will be compatible with every single previous Xbox generation (although it’s a bit rich for them to consider the Xbox One X as a generation in and of itself). The idea of being able to go back and revisit our old Xbox 360 libraries is more exciting than we care to admit.
Of course, as with the Xbox One’s backwards compatibility (which the company recently declared it would move away from), there have to be some caveats here. Whether Xbox Scarlett will be a physical media console or a discless one remains to be seen; Microsoft recently released a discless Xbox One S, but that strikes us more as a budget option for those not yet on board with gen eight. If Scarlett does accept physical media, will the physical discs for your Xbox and 360 games play on it? Will it just be digital? Will you be able to transfer your games over from Xbox One to Scarlett? Our money’s on the latter – we think it’ll all be digital.
Leaks of Xbox Scarlett’s dev kit are a little thin on the ground, but we do know some things. Some sources suggest that Xbox Scarlett will be significantly more powerful than the PlayStation 5, which is impressive if it’s true. The dev kit specs are incredibly impressive, and if they’re true, then this points to a monstrously powerful machine that dwarfs the 16GB of memory we predicted before. Supposedly, the Xbox Scarlett dev kit will have 28 GB of RAM, a custom GPU at 1.3 TB/s, a 12-core CPU with a 3.4 GHz clock, and a 500GB SSD cache.
These specs are massively powerful, but there are a few caveats here. The dev kit isn’t always representative of the final console, so although these specs might be indicative of the direction in which Xbox Scarlett is heading, they might not actually be the final numbers. It’s possible Microsoft is trying to entice developers by providing them with something incredibly powerful to play with so they can realise their triple-A dreams. It’s also possible that what we have above isn’t true; although some of these leaks have come from reliable sources, they are still rumours, so take them with a pinch of salt.
Most of what we know about Xbox Scarlett’s features has to do with its graphical and processing power. Xbox Scarlett will be able to run games in 8K; whether this is dynamically scaled 8K or native remains to be seen. Native 8K would possibly be a bit of a red herring given that 8K TV is yet to be widely adopted by the public. As such, expect Xbox Scarlett to be able to output dynamically upscaled 8K. Most likely the version of Scarlett that comes after – the Xbox One X to Scarlett’s Xbox One – will be capable of native 8K, by which time people will have 8K TVs in their homes en masse.
Other than this, the feature list is a mystery. The Xbox One can play Blu-ray discs, so it’s probable that Scarlett will continue this functionality. Adding Blu-ray support to a console likely isn’t too much of a stretch, and although Blu-ray sales are tanking in favour of streaming media, the disc drive will probably be able to play your collection. Streaming is another big focus for Microsoft; Project xCloud purports to let you stream your Xbox Scarlett games to connected devices with smooth, solid performance. How it stacks up against Stadia remains to be seen.
Naturally, Microsoft’s biggest competitor in the console market is Sony. Since the days of the original Xbox, Sony has been the biggest thing Microsoft has to worry about. The PlayStation 5 has a feature list that’s arguably equally impressive to that of Scarlett, although if Microsoft isn’t telling tall tales then Scarlett will trump Sony’s console in the performance stakes at least. Still, Sony is going to be the one to watch. Microsoft will have to release a pretty significant lineup of launch titles if it wants to dethrone Sony; the PS4 is currently sitting at double the Xbox One’s sales.
There are two more potential thorns in Microsoft’s side. One of them is Google and its new streaming console Stadia. This is a serious threat to Microsoft’s xCloud initiative; if Stadia provides the effortless, intuitive streaming it’s promising, then xCloud will probably have an uphill battle to be adopted over Google’s machine. The other problem is, of course, Nintendo. Microsoft likely won’t be too worried about Nintendo’s Switch, largely because it’s seen more as a “me too” console than an “instead” one. Still, if Scarlett doesn’t provide anything gamers haven’t seen before, they won’t migrate from their Switch and Stadia.
Only one Xbox Scarlett game has thus far been announced, and that’s Halo Infinite. We know for a fact that this game will appear on Microsoft’s new console since it was announced at the E3 2019 show. There were several other games announced to be coming to Xbox during the show, including The Outer Worlds, Minecraft Dungeons, and upcoming horror tie-in Blair Witch. None of these games have definitely been stated to be Xbox Scarlett games, although we can safely predict that at least some of them will end up on Microsoft’s next-gen machine.
So, let’s speculate. What kind of franchises will we be seeing on Microsoft’s next-gen machine? Well, Minecraft is pretty much a given; although Minecraft Dungeons was announced, expect to see a version of the standard Minecraft experience too. A sequel to Rare’s Sea of Thieves could be incoming given that the original is now an Xbox Game Pass staple. Naturally, we’ll be seeing Gears of War on the new Xbox, and we’ll be getting offerings from Ninja Theory, the Forza team, and State of Decay too. If all of this doesn’t happen, we will eat our collective hats.
The Most Exciting Leaks
Honestly, it’s hard to pick the most exciting leaks and rumours about Xbox Scarlett given that there are so many. That big, juicy native 8K rumour is hard to ignore, and the fact that Phil Spencer has said Xbox Scarlett will be four times as powerful as the Xbox One X is also tantalising. We’d be lying if we said we weren’t looking forward to 120FPS games as console standard, because we’re sick of switching between 60 and 30 depending on the game. All of the hitherto-announced Xbox Scarlett information has us salivating, to be honest.
If we had to pick one leak that was the most exciting, though, we’d pick something from Microsoft’s E3 2019 show. It’s not really a leak; it’s almost a concrete announcement. We’re really loving that Microsoft is showing love to backwards compatibility. The fact that Microsoft got so much hassle for not including backwards compatibility on the Xbox One showed, and the company quickly backtracked (no pun intended). Keeping gaming history alive is very important, so we’re thrilled that Microsoft seems to be waving the flag for this particular aspect of our industry.
We don’t have any idea what Xbox Scarlett will be priced, at least not yet. PlayStation 5 is likely targeting a launch price of around $499, so if Xbox doesn’t at the very least match this (if not undercut it), then it’ll be laughed out of the competition. Some rumours suggest that Xbox Scarlett will come as a pair: one slightly less powerful but cheaper console and one more powerful but more expensive. If that’s the case, we could see a $399 and $499 duo hitting shelves. We’re not expecting Scarlett to weigh in at anything less than $499 for its most powerful iteration, anyway.
Given that Xbox suffered by making its console $100 more expensive than its rival’s, you can expect Microsoft to be looking very closely at what Sony does. Whatever the price happens to be, Microsoft will likely be looking to match it in kind. Of course, the Xbox One originally launched complete with a Kinect addon, and it’s extremely unlikely that Microsoft will try to push that again. Given that Kinect probably won’t be anywhere near Xbox Scarlett, it shouldn’t be too tricky for Microsoft to try and keep costs down on the console (although it’s still likely to be a loss leader).
So, there you have it: everything we currently know about Xbox Scarlett. It’s early days yet; Microsoft has announced the console, but given that its release date isn’t until the holiday season next year, the company is playing its cards close to its chest when it comes to details. We’ll very likely learn more about Xbox Scarlett as the time draws nearer, but for now we’ll just have to speculate. What would you like to see from Microsoft’s console? Let us know!