Microsoft’s new Xbox model is named Xbox One X, and it’ll ship on 7 November with a $499 price tag, the company has revealed. The final name of the machine, previously known as Project Scorpio, reflects the title of the tweaked Xbox One S machine, launched last August.
The announcement came at a press event in Los Angeles, held two days before the start of the mammoth E3 games conference.
Smaller than the previous Xbox One models, and featuring a sleek, minimalist black design, the machine updates the technical specifications of the series, but is compatible with all current games.
Featuring a six teraflop graphics processor running at 1172 Mhz, 12GB of GDDR5 memory and a 2.3 Ghz custom central processing unit, it is significantly more powerful than the Xbox One S and crucially, the PlayStation 4 Pro, with its 4.2 teraflop graphics processing unit and 911 Mhz CPU.
Xbox One X [pictured above] also features a UHD Blu-ray player, a component missing from the PlayStation 4 Pro, and will play games in native 4K resolution, while supporting HDR lighting effects and Dolby Atmos surround sound. According to Xbox director of software engineering Kareem Choudhry, all Xbox games will enjoy enhanced visual fidelity and faster load times on the console.
Several major titles, including Gears of War 4, Resident Evil 7 and Rocket League are all receiving free, specially enhanced upgrades to take fuller advantage of the extra power of the machine. Choudhry also claimed that Xbox One X owners who don’t have a 4K television screen will still get an enhanced visual experience, via a technique known as supersampling which reduces native 4K assets for HD TV displays. Microsoft reiterated that there will be no Xbox One X exclusive titles -- games will ship with versions of the code that will run on original Xbox One machines, Xbox One S (which offers 4K video and HDR) and Xbox One X.
To show off the capabilities of the upgraded console, developer Turn 10 studios showed off its forthcoming driving sim Forza Motorsport 7 on a vast 4K screen in the auditorium. Running in native 4K resolution at 60 frames per second, the visual fidelity of the game was impressive, with highly detailed car models and scenery -- the latter apparently using 4K photos to create the texture maps. Minecraft is also set to get a 4K upgrade later in the year in the form of the downloadable Super Duper Graphics Pack, which adds new lighting effects, including dynamic shadows and increased draw distance so more of the world is visible as you look toward the horizon.
Reactions to the new console name have been mixed. Some were hoping that the final choice would be Xbox Scorpio, maintaining the original codename.
Others pointed out that the naming convention may have cause some problems for shoppers:
Me on phone: "Hello, do you have stock of the Xbox One X?"
"The Xbox One S? Yes we do."
"No the Xbox One X"
"Yes I said we have the S"
--Garth Holden (@Valshen) June 12, 2017
The price point has also been questioned. While most sites agree that the 4K performance of the machine compares extremely well with a gaming PC of the same price it’s $100 more expensive than the PlayStation 4 Pro when it launched last November. Some pundits are predicting that Sony may announce a price drop for the Pro at its own E3 press conference on Monday evening -- perhaps even to $250.
Both the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X represent a new era of mid-lifespan console upgrades. In the past, machines tended to be improved only in terms of form factor, such as the slimline PlayStations, or with larger hard drives. However, the regular “tick-tock” life cycles of major mobile phone manufacturers, with new versions appearing every 18months, have prepared consumers for shorter or simultaneous product lifespans. Also, both PS4 and Xbox One are effectively PCs, using familiar components and design architectures, so upgrading specifications is relatively easy, compared to updating unique, proprietary solutions such as PlayStation 3’s Cell processor. The arrival of technologies such as 4K television and consumer virtual reality also arrived after the launch of the two latest machines from Sony and Microsoft so the manufacturers are having to play catch up.
Xbox One has also fallen behind PlayStation 4 in sales terms, so Microsoft is looking to boost its brand by releasing the most powerful console of the generation. The question is, at $499, how many hardcore gamers will purchase one? Market Analyst IHS Digital is predicting Xbox One X sales of 500k this year. In a report posted by the firm, games director Piers Harding-Rolls stated: “Crucially, we do not believe that, at this stage, Xbox One X is a device to re-ignite Xbox One sales in continental Europe and to gain market share from Sony in key sales territories outside of USA and UK.”
A lot will depend a lot on the graphics performance of new games heading to Xbox One. At its press event, Microsoft showed 42 titles, 22 of which were exclusives. If major new titles such as Assassin’s Creed Origins, Anthem and Metro Exodus look significantly better on Xbox One X, the machine could establish itself as the premium choice for the “hardcore” audience. In comparison, the PlayStation 4 Pro, which can handle 4K movies, but only a fraction of games run in native 4K resolution.
Of course, what Microsoft really could have done with was a major first-party exclusive to show off the power of the console. Aside from Forza Motorsport 7 nothing was revealed in this calibre. A new Halo title with HDR effects and 4K resolution, running at 60 frames per second would have perhaps made that $499 seem reasonable. As it stands, it may prove a luxury purchase until -- inevitably -- the price tumbles.