Three Lingering Questions for Project Scorpio

By Mark Delaney, 6 months ago
Am I a premium user? That's the question we now all have to ask ourselves following the reveal of the incoming console's specs. The news was revealed on Eurogamer following an officially sanctioned unveiling with the tech savants at Digital Foundry. Microsoft was confident enough even this far ahead of the console's fall launch to put some numbers to the hype. Judging by the enthusiasm that comes through in each of Eurogamer's features on the subject, Xbox fans have plenty for which to be excited. Following this tidal wave of news, we're left with a few other lingering questions, however. Here's what's stuck in our heads — share your burning questions as well.

How Much Does a Premium User Pay?

Phil Spencer and company have repeatedly stated Project Scorpio is intended for a "premium" audience and will be priced accordingly. Probably the most desired answer after the specifications reveal yesterday is simply a definition of the term 'premium'. They've been building up this hype and it's great to see their target specs all confirmed by a clearly impressed crew from Digital Foundry, so now how do they price it? What's too much for you? Some are speculating the pricetag will read as high as $700-800, but doing that seems both absurd and counterproductive. Others have stated they expect a tag of about $500, the price of the original Xbox One when it launched in 2013, albeit with the Kinect included, but then again maybe all this new and customized tech inside Scorpio makes up for that.

Is it wishful thinking to expect a price lower than that? Not according to some. We recently spoke with Windows Central's Jez Corden on the TA Podcast — the same Jez Corden who has provided many now-proven-to-be-true leaks and hints regarding the Scorpio — and he said he expects a launch at $400, putting it on par with the PS4 Pro's launch price. The trouble, as we outlined following the Pro's launch last fall, is the Pro will have a year up on Scorpio, which means it'll likely be on sale and undercut any feasible price point for Microsoft's new console. It's vital for the Microsoft team to hit the ground running with Scorpio, more so than ever before one would think. If they can't beat Sony strictly with price, they'll need to tell everyone why paying more is worthwhile — and the further from the PS4 Pro's pricetag they get, the more convincing their argument will have to be. The side-by-side specs are just the first part of that persuasion.

What About Games?

Many commenters on TA and abroad have responded to the specifications being bullet-pointed with the fair follow-up: "yeah, but what will it play?" We know from interviews that Project Scorpio still promises no exclusives, is designed to exist within the Xbox One ecosystem, and will even share the same software with the Xbox One and One S, meaning you can buy one copy of a game and have it work on all three consoles (if you're a crazy person who owns all three). With the idea of Scorpio exclusives out the window, even if conspiracy theories linger for the future of such a policy, where does that leave us with games? Resolving current games' issues like the framerate drops of Just Cause 3, or making multiplayer smoother in the next Call of Duty or Star Wars Battlefront, are certainly welcome improvements, but many are arguing all the tech boosts provided by the new hardware don't amount to anything without the proper software.

I would argue Phil Spencer's leadership since he took over has been spectacular. He seems to have a better grasp on the pulse of the community than past figures in his role, and he has voiced several times across many different mediums that he wants to improve the first-party and exclusive lineup of Xbox games. He's even gone so far as to tease some worthy surprises at this year's E3 keynote. We've heard that before and ended up with things like a middling ReCore and a year of exclusivity with Rise of the Tomb Raider. Is this finally the year we get games that rival PlayStation's stellar lineup like The Last of Us, Horizon: Zero Dawn, and the upcoming Spider-Man? Spencer has been at the helm for just three years now and has committed to holding off game reveals to make for shorter promo periods, so if anything has been brewing then this June seems like a perfect time to keep the momentum going following the strong Scorpio news.

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They have to get away from the Halo-Gears-Forza paradigm. For many it just isn't enough. I know of plenty of people like me that love Xbox, consider it their preferred console, but still buy PlayStations to play their great first-party stuff. It's not that we've been totally without great exclusives — fans love Ori and the Blind Forest and Sunset Overdrive — but their biggest competitor has proven you can have both quality and quantity. They're going to win over studios thanks to the ease with which they can create and port games onto Scorpio, but fans are clamoring for such games to be new and exciting ideas.

Would Any of This Happen if Xbox One Didn't Stumble Out of the Gate?

The now infamous musings of Don Mattrick and the original vision for the Xbox One turned out to be a somewhat tone deaf take on the next generation of consoles. While Microsoft doubled down on things like TV and apps, Sony won over the core gamer audience that simply wanted games worth the console upgrade. Since then it's estimated that PS4 outsells Xbox One at a 2:1 ratio. The stench of that initial reveal has been hard to wash away for Xbox. The early gen wins for Sony cascaded more and more as players went out and bought the console their friends were all buying, the PlayStation 4.

Since then we've seen Microsoft try their hardest to make people happy. Programs like Game Preview and Backwards Compatibility gave us new and renewed ways to play. Games with Gold consistently offers more AAA and higher rated games than its PS+ counterpart. Even the Xbox Support team on Twitter is one of the fastest and most reliable customer service departments online, and the major players at the Redmond HQ are all quite involved with community chatter on social media. They've bent over backwards for their fans and their would-be fans alike since their Xbox 360 reign turned to a distant second place over the last three and a half years.

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That's what makes this last question the most interesting of all: Would Project Scorpio ever exist if Xbox One was the industry leader, or even if their position as second in the console market share was a lot closer than it is today? The desire to build mid-life consoles seems primarily spurred by the move to 4K technology in televisions. When current generation consoles initially launched, only very early adopters with deep pockets had the benefit of such technology. Since then, we've seen that space improve dramatically with 4K HDR-enabled TVs now filling more and more homes, to the point where both Microsoft and Sony both seem to agree there's a premium market to chase.

Specifically, though, would Scorpio be the world's most powerful console if, say, Xbox One was leading the sales charts for almost three uninterrupted years at a clip of 2:1? With all the concessions Xbox has made to fans, it seems a bit like the last gen when it was Sony in second place for the duration of the generation thanks in part to an unattractive launch price and a major hacking scandal. Born out of their push to close the gap, PlayStation introduced PS+ and the idea of free games with a subscription each month, forcing Xbox to soon follow suit. We've seen both companies make amends for stupid decisions or just bad publicity in the past, so is it fair to assume the above-and-beyond work going into Scorpio is a direct result of the previous struggles?

In this light, the Mattrick-led fumble is sort of a blessing in disguise — albeit one we couldn't have seen coming, and one that still won't truly begin to pay off until this fall. But good will is an immeasurable and crucial commodity. Xbox has certainly fostered a lot of that recently and the specs behind Scorpio are the next step of that long plan to win back much of their community who jumped ship, and surely steal some of those who have never sailed with the brand either. Without the early struggles, Xbox might not have been inspired to go all-in with Scorpio the way they have. They promised an obvious performance delta between PS4 Pro and Scorpio. That's now confirmed, but it's very likely we would never have seen such a machine had Xbox been in a position to rest on their laurels the way PlayStation sometimes has over the past few years. When people say competition is good for the industry, this is what they mean. What once was the biggest issue facing Xbox in the history of the brand has paved the way for the most powerful console in the history of the industry — a strange but ultimately sensible path.

What more do you wish to learn of the Scorpio? What most has you yearning for the Microsoft E3 keynote? Sound off below, and don't miss this week's poll!
How much would you be willing to pay for Project Scorpio at launch?
  • $30014.52% (419)
  • $40025.75% (743)
  • $50036.74% (1060)
  • $60011.54% (333)
  • $7002.25% (65)
  • Over $7002.84% (82)
  • Other6.34% (183)
We've had 2885 responses.
Mark Delaney
Written by Mark Delaney
Mark is a Boston native now living in Portland, Oregon. He's the Editorial Manager on TA, loves story-first games, and is one of three voices on the TA Playlist podcast. Outside of games he likes biking, sci-fi, the NFL, and spending time with his fiancée and son. He almost never writes in the third person.