Whether gamers like it or not, it looks like we’re in for a console upgrade far faster than we’ve ever seen before. Luckily, Project Scorpio and the PS4.5 aren’t ushering in a totally new generation, instead opting for a backwards and forwards compatible model where they’re more of an upgrade, rather than a full blown replacement. But with a model like that comes a whole lot of questions; chief among them: why should I buy this thing?
Sure, Project Scorpio and Sony’s PlayStation 4 Neo, or 4.5, or 4K, or whatever, will offer better graphics and framerate in games that support it, but what will justify the almost certainly high price tag? As I’ve thought about this a lot (seriously, just listen to how much I yammer on about it in our podcasts), I’ve struggled to come up with reasons. However, I recently had a tiny eureka moment, and it came as I was revisiting the original unveiling of the Xbox One.
For a quick history lesson: the Xbox One did not reveal itself to the world in a very good way. In fact, many would call it a disaster, and the ramifications of that unveiling are still felt today with a far lower install base than its main competitor. The problem was the messaging, with a press conference covered in sports and TV features, but not really diving into the console and how it would change the way we played games.
They did get into this topic, but it was in a poor way, with executives contradicting each other and replying with a lot of “I don’t knows” or other dodgy answers. Once the dust settled it became clear that the Xbox One had some always online DRM, with gamers having to check in online at least once a day, if not more. Plus, it looked like used games were pretty much gone, and physical copies were essentially becoming just faster downloads, with gamers not able to lend discs to friends. The trade off for all of this was actually kind of great though, but it took so long and the messaging around it was so bad that most people never even got a full picture of what this new console could do.
Family/Friend sharing seemed like the coolest new feature, with you creating a list of people who can play your games, much like how Steam operates today. It was a revolutionary feature, and was well ahead of its time, especially on consoles. But the backlash against the always online DRM was too strong, and Microsoft quickly reversed course, removing the DRM and the features that it enabled.
Should Microsoft change course once again with the Xbox One Project Scorpio?
So, my question now is, should Microsoft change course once again with the Xbox One Project Scorpio? Should they return to that initial unveiling and essentially redo it? I think so actually. I think they can finally do it right, mostly thanks to the PR powerhouse that is Phil Spencer, plus the fact that gamers today are much more ready to accept an all-digital, always online gaming system. And the final thing that makes this whole idea work is that those who don’t want to jump in can just sit on the current Xbox One, playing the same games, just with a little bit less visual flair.
This shifts the discussion a lot, with former Xbox head Don Mattrick infamously saying that that those who don’t want an always online console can stick with the Xbox 360. No one is being left behind here, at least not in terms of what games they can play. And really, many who are interested in Project Scorpio are likely big Xbox fans in the first place, so they should already have an Xbox One.
But that brings me back to an earlier question, which is what makes Project Scorpio worth the upgrade. Without revisiting the always online DRM and family sharing, Project Scorpio offers nothing more than possible visual upgrades (though unknown features could be announced later, of course). By going back to the original vision for the Xbox One they can finally give gamers the features that they wanted to back in 2013. We weren’t ready for them then, and there were a lot of things that made that the case, but the environment is different now and it could not only work, but actually give people a reason to jump on this bold new console.