At this year’s E3 Microsoft announced Xbox Play Anywhere, a new initiative that sees future Xbox games simultaneously releasing for PC too. We also got official word on “Scorpio”, a new, more powerful Xbox console coming in 2017. But isn’t Microsoft shooting itself in the foot here?
If you purchase an Xbox Play Anywhere title, you’ll be able to download it onto your PC for no additional cost. The generosity doesn’t stop there. Your progress is also saved on both platforms, meaning you can log into an Xbox having just slain a boss on PC, and pick up right where you left off. Again, extremely handy. This’ll certainly carry over into the new generation of console upgrades where Project Scorpio – “the most powerful console ever” – sits. It’s slated to have six teraflops, eight cores – and that’s all we know so far. For slight clarity, a “teraflop” is said to be a measure of a computer or console’s speed, while having eight cores essentially translates to having eight CPU’s on the one Central Processing Unit. It sounds fast, but it’s impossible to know quite how powerful it is without hearing more on the manufacturing process, the RAM, what speed the RAM’s clocked at and what GPU it’ll have bunged in. Either way, we can expect the Scorpio to be a hefty piece of hardware for a console that’s traditionally been second best to a kitted out PC; not even kitted out, even budget PCs can outperform consoles nowadays.
“We can expect the Scorpio to be a hefty piece of hardware for a console that’s traditionally been second best to a kitted out PC”
So, it should sound enticing. A brand new, suped-up Xbox console is coming out! It’s odd then, that Microsoft really haven’t sold it as something we should get behind. Phil Spencer stated that you won’t want to invest in the Scorpio if you don’t have a 4K TV; it’s simply a waste of money to do so. Oh, alright then, I won’t bother. And even if I had a 4K TV, I would hesitate to spend a great deal of money on a Scorpio when I could just upgrade my PC or buy a brand new one. With Xbox Play Anywhere popping in, surely it’s more economically viable to go down the PC route, eh Phil?
With the introduction of Xbox Play Anywhere and two new console announcements including the slimmer Xbox One S, Microsoft’s emotional tie to their beloved Boxes is arguably lessening. They aren’t actively selling us their wares and shoving industry jargon down our throats. They aren’t hurling necessity into our lives and making sure we upgrade from our existing Xbox One to Scorpio. If anything, they’re being too kind, and usually when a company is too kind, alarm bells start blaring and I go out of my way to seek a catch.
It’s strange then, that at this point in time, there simply isn’t one.
If games are being released for PC alongside Xbox One in the future, then that’s ridiculously good news for fans. It means that we’ll have access to a plethora of games that we once thought were Xbox exclusives. The barriers been blown wide open and all of a sudden we’re able to get our hands on games we’d resigned ourselves to playing if we ever tripped over an Xbox one day. And with Microsoft explicitly saying they’d look into bringing their games to Steam, things couldn’t be looking brighter for PC – and darker for Scorpio.
Let’s not forget though, that to compete with Sony directly would have been a bad idea for Microsoft, and instead of introducing a better console with a slew of exclusives, they’ve decided to ‘please the people’. And it’s certainly the right direction to be heading in. With Xbox Play Anywhere they’re treating their audience better and increasing their outreach into an even wider market. Although the Scorpio seems an odd purchase in comparison to a PC, Microsoft have no need to worry. There’s a huge audience out there who won’t go near PC gaming and despise the very notion of keyboard and mouse as if it’s some kind of horrific elitist disease (which unfortunately can be the case sometimes). They don’t want the hassle of hardware and would rather sit on the couch opposite a shiny box with a weighty controller in hand and experience the ease and accessibility of good old plug and play console gaming. Dedicated Xbox fans will go ahead and wrestle the Scorpio into their shopping cart no matter how catastrophic their financial situation is. They’ll live off the dust mites blown into the air by the Scorpio’s fan, hoovering them up like a whale engulfs plankton if that enables them to own the latest and greatest. The allure of having a neatly packaged, worry free box of gaming joys will always exist. And Microsoft are aware that the charm of console gaming and the strength of the Xbox brand has got Scorpio’s back.
“[Microsoft have] taken a bold move and only time will tell if they can pull off their strategy and begin to wrest some market share back from Sony’s increasingly stubborn vice grip”
At first I thought Microsoft weren’t doing themselves any favours by being so honest and giving players greater choice. Despite no distinct drive to make existing Xbox One users want or need to upgrade to the Scorpio, it’s a clever move to compete with Sony indirectly by taking advantage of an eager fan-base in PC territory. They’ve taken a bold move and only time will tell if they can pull off their strategy and begin to wrest some market share back from Sony’s increasingly stubborn vice grip. Personally, I’ll be staying faithful to my PC and probably sinking some cash into a new GPU, but I’m looking forward to hearing more about the Scorpio as time goes on and how it stacks up against Sony’s mysterious Project Neo.