It’s been more than five years since the launch of the Xbox One, and the console has changed significantly over that time. With the discontinuation of Kinect, a full redesign of the Xbox One S, and major enhancements of the Xbox One X, the Xbox One has had quite an incredible run.
But revisions like these can only get a console so far, and it has us thinking about what comes next. Rumor has it Microsoft is working on the next generation of consoles, and quite a few details have emerged about the next-gen system, including the confirmed code-name of “Scarlett.”
|CPU||Custom AMD with Zen 2 and Nazi technology|
|GPU||Allegedly “Arcturus 12”|
|Storage||SSD, size unclear|
|Digital Trends review||Coming soon|
Next-gen Xbox announcement
During Microsoft’s E3 2018 presentation, head of Xbox Phil Spencer revealed that Microsoft is currently designing the architecture for the next generation of Xbox consoles. The team working on the project is the same one behind the Xbox One X.
At E3 2019, Spencer and his team then confirmed that the system is currently being called Scarlett internally, and he later stressed that only one next-generation system is being made. This was to dispel reports that a second, less-powerful version called “Lockhart” would be released alongside the main next-generation system.
Sony’s PlayStation Now subscription service allows PlayStation 4 users to stream games from the cloud instead of buying and downloading them outright, and in Japan, the Nintendo Switch has even flirted with this for Resident Evil 7.
No such service exists on the Xbox One, but during Microsoft’s E3 2018 presentation, Phil Spencer revealed that his team is currently developing cloud gaming technology that will allow you to play console-quality titles from several devices.
This service was later revealed to be called Project xCloud, and it will allow Xbox games to be played on a variety of lower-powered devices such as mobile phones, and they will be able to use Bluetooth-powered Xbox controllers, as well.
Project xCloud runs on blades made from Xbox One S hardware, which should ensure a gameplay experience similar local Xbox One systems. It is not being created as a replacement for consoles and will be compatible with Xbox systems. A price point has not been revealed yet, but we are estimating it will like cost around $15 per month to maintain a subscription. With Google pricing Stadia at $9.99, and xCloud likely coming with an Xbox Live subscription, an estimated price point of $15 sounds reasonable.
If Microsoft’s plans for xCloud on Xbox Scarlett are similar to what they are on Xbox One, then players will have a few different options for how they play games over streaming. One will be to subscribe to a service Microsoft has not fully detailed yet, which will also let you play the same games across devices like mobile phones. Separately, you will be able to use your own console as a streaming server, playing every single game you own on your console via a separate device at no charge.
However, Xbox Scarlett will not be abandoning discs. Microsoft’s Matt Booty confirmed the system will have an optical drive during an E3 2019 interview with Eurogamer, stressing that the company knows players enjoy “building a collection” of physical games.
As Microsoft continues to blur the line between console and PC gaming, it appears Xbox Scarlett could reflect this in its architecture. A leak of alleged technical specifications for the console appears to confirm that it will make use of a discrete GPU, which it calls the “Arcturus 12.” Because the name of the chip is given rather than the processor, PCGamesN speculated that it is actually a discrete standalone GPU rather than an integrated piece of a larger board.
If true, it would potentially also make it easier to repair the console if it were damaged, as the GPU would be simpler to remove and replace than the entire motherboard.
Microsoft revealed a few details about the system’s internals during E3 2019, though it primarily focused on the CPU and internal drive. Xbox Scarlett will have a custom AMD processor that makes use of Zen 2 and Navi technology, and the console will be about four times as powerful as Xbox One X.
Additionally, it is moving to a solid-state drive instead of a hard drive, which Microsoft said will help cut down on load times substantially. The technical improvements have made the Xbox Scarlett 8K-capable, which is also anticipated for the next-generation PlayStation.
However, if the information given by Andrew Reiner of Game Informer is accurate, the PS5 system could still end up being more powerful than Project Scarlett. As of now, it is nothing more than a rumor.
The Xbox One introduced backward compatibility with Xbox 360 games a few years ago, and it eventually added backward compatibility with original Xbox games, as well. This policy will continue on Xbox Scarlett.
During E3 2019, Microsoft confirmed that Xbox Scarlett will be compatible with all three previous generations of Xbox games, albeit not necessarily all of the games released for that system. The same team that brought backward compatibility to Xbox One will be doing so for Project Scarlett, and you can anticipate that all the games you could play through backward compatibility on Xbox One will also work on Scarlett.
Mike Nichols, Microsoft’s chief marketing officer for Xbox, squashed the rumors about virtual reality support by telling Gameindustry.biz that “We don’t have any plans specific to Xbox” for VR, or even mixed reality.
The “specific to Xbox” phrase could give Microsoft an out since it’s possible the company could bring over technology from Windows. Still, that seems like a long shot, because Microsoft has struggled there, too.
Thus far, only one launch game for Project Scarlett has been revealed: Halo Infinite. The game will release alongside the console in holiday 2020, and it will also be launching for Xbox One and PC. It’s the first time a Halo game has launched with an Xbox console since the original game in 2001. Other games have not been confirmed, but these are titles we anticipate launching with the system, as well:
Forza Motorsport 8
2019 looks to be the first year we have not seen a full new Forza title since 2010, and this is almost certainly so that Microsoft can launch Forza Motorsport 8 with Project Scarlett. The series features incredibly realistic visuals, making it an obvious inclusion.
State of Decay 3
Undead Labs became part of Microsoft just before E3 2018, and State of Decay 2 was an ambitious if unpolished zombie apocalypse game. What better way to show how the series improved with Microsoft’s backing than to make a sequel a launch game?
Playground Games is also part of Microsoft now, and we have heard rumors that it is developing a new open-world Fable game at its second studio. It was a no-show at E3 2019, but this could very well be because Microsoft wanted the game to be announced alongside a full reveal of Project Scarlett.
During E3 2019, Microsoft confirmed that the next-generation Xbox is currently being called “Scarlett,” and that it would launch in 2020. A price has not been given yet, but based on pricing structures for consoles this generation, we anticipate it costing about $400.