This is the gaming story everyone is talking about today. Head of Xbox Phil Spencer made some really interesting comments during a press event at last week’s Spring Showcase.
Here’s the important quote (from Polygon).
“We see on other platforms whether it be mobile or PC that you get a continuous innovation that you rarely see on console,” said Spencer. “Consoles lock the hardware and the software platforms together at the beginning of the generation. Then you ride the generation out for seven or so years, while other ecosystems are getting better, faster, stronger. And then you wait for the next big step function.
“When you look at the console space, I believe we will see more hardware innovation in the console space than we’ve ever seen. You’ll actually see us come out with new hardware capability during a generation allowing the same games to run backward and forward compatible because we have a Universal Windows Application running on top of the Universal Windows Platform that allows us to focus more and more on hardware innovation without invalidating the games that run on that platform.”
I bolded the important part. Spencer is hinting at potential Xbox hardware upgrades during a traditional ‘generation.’ And because it’s all tied to the ‘Universal Windows Platform’ (think Windows 10) it will be backward and forward compatible.
Spencer dove into that a bit more by talking about how he can play old PC classics like Quake, but also the latest and greatest in 4K on a gaming PC.
Today’s news brings many more questions than answers.
Why I’m pumped for Xbox One hardware upgrades
I’ve wanted consoles to go this route for a while. New consoles are great and all when they first release, but they quickly start to show their age. And the last thing I want is this generation to last eight years before a new console. Could you imagine the difference in graphics between PC and consoles in another few years? Or worse, how much games will be held back by aging hardware?
Plus, new technology is making hardware revisions pretty much necessary. Look at VR. Yes, PlayStation has their own VR solution coming – but wouldn’t it be much better if the PlayStation 4 was a stronger system? Imagine a VR version of a console with upgraded specs. Not only would VR run better but so would regular games.
Even developers are beginning treat console games more like their PC counterparts. The Division offers several options to tweak graphics. There are options for adjusting ‘Chromatic aberration’ and ‘sharpen image.’ Ubisoft Massive is even giving console gamers the option to adjust the game’s lighting to improve frame rates.
Xbox One hardware upgrades have the potential to change console gaming.
But there are concerns
Spencer’s comments raise only more questions. How much would a hardware upgrade cost? How frequent would it be? How big of an upgrade are we talking? How hard would it be for developers to cater to different Xbox One owners?
Frequency is an interesting question. I don’t think a new Xbox One revision every year is viable. I could get on board with every three years. What if a new Xbox One upgrade came out this year that could run every game at 1080p/60fps past and present? Depending on the exact specs, I would be all over it.
Price would be the dealbreaker for most. In a perfect world, the new revision would just take over the $400 price point, while the ‘older’ version is marked down.
Another big concern is game development. Xbox would need to institute a hard cap on certain benchmarks. Have every game run at 900p/30fps. Could you imagine the shitstorm if games on older hardware were barely playable? The whole reason people buy consoles is not to worry about what’s in their console. Convincing this set of gamers will be key for this potential strategy to work.
Like I said, there are a ton of ‘ifs,’ ‘coulds,’ and ‘woulds’ on this. But I hope we hear much more about it at E3.
That covers some of my initial thoughts about the potential for Xbox One upgrades. What do you think? Good idea? Bad idea? Let me know in the comments.