Microsoft considered releasing Xbox Scorpio in 2016, but the company didn’t feel it could deliver a product that maintained a consistent 30fps with increased resolution at 4k.
Speaking in an in-depth interview with Gamasutra, Xbox boss Phil Spencer said one of the problem’s was the silicon available on the market at the time.
“When we designed the Scorpio spec, we specifically said games running at 1080p 30 on an Xbox One — what do we need to put in the box for that thing to run at 4K 30fps,” said Spencer. And that was our design goal, from the beginning. To say: same framerate, increased resolution. Let’s make sure that we can go hit that, as a minimum bar.
“We looked at 4K, we said we wanted this generation to incorporate 4K, and we thought we could do it in a way that wasn’t disruptive, and was additive to this generation. And that’s what we’re trying to do.”
Consistent framerate and 4K was something Spencer said Microsoft didn’t think it could promise developers or consumers in 2016. Other reasons boiled down to timing, price and the “hardware capability” from its silicon partner AMD, which partners with Sony as well.
Spencer said the silicon which was available in 2016 wouldn’t have been enough to accomplish the company’s goal with Scorpio, which is why Sony came out of the gate ahead of Microsoft with its 4K console, PlayStation 4 Pro.
“Sometimes I get in trouble when I talk about Sony too much, but, the choice they made on PS4 Pro, I totally get that choice, from their perspective and what they wanted to go do,” he said.
“I’ve said it publicly and I’ve said it privately, I think they’ve built a good 2016 PS4 Pro. With the silicon that was available, they picked the parts that made sense to go and put together a console in 2016.”
Another consideration for delaying Scorpio was the adoption rate for 4K televisions. Microsoft knew 4K would become more popular within the same timeframe as the current generation of consoles, but figured the new sets wouldn’t get to scale until the mid-generation.
With all of the above in mind, Microsoft finally came to a place where it could confidently bring a console with a consistent framerate supporting higher resolution to market in 2017 – thanks to new hardware and the surge in 4K TV adoption.
The interview with Spencer over on Gamasutra is, again, very in-depth. In it, Spencer covers developer support for the console, VR, his involvement with the console’s design, and the future of Xbox.
Xbox Scorpio is slated for a holiday release, and we’ll find out more on the console – name, price, games – at E3 2017 in June.