Microsoft isn’t going to repeat its mistakes from the Xbox One with its next-generation Xbox console. “I would say a learning from the Xbox One generation is we will not be out of position on power or price,” says Phil Spencer, Microsoft’s Xbox and gaming chief, in an interview with The Verge. “If you remember the beginning of this generation we were a hundred dollars more expensive and yes, we were less powerful. And we started Project Scarlett with this leadership team in place with a goal of having market success.”
That market success will be key for Xbox, after years of falling behind PlayStation sales and questions over its games lineup. Either way, Spencer thinks there are plenty of generations of Xbox ahead. “We had the discussion years ago ‘do we want to go do another generation?’ Yes, and do we think there will be multiple generations ahead of us? I actually think there probably is,” says Spencer. “So we’re going all in. We’re all-in on Project Scarlett and I want to compete, and I want to compete in the right ways which is why we’re focused on cross-play and backward compatibility.”
Microsoft revealed its Project Scarlett plans earlier this year at E3, and Sony has confirmed the PlayStation 5 will be available in holiday 2020. Microsoft’s Project Scarlett console will support 8K gaming, frame rates of up to 120 fps in games, ray tracing, and variable refresh rate support. Microsoft is also using an SSD on Project Scarlett, and a custom-designed CPU based on AMD’s Zen 2 and Radeon RDNA architecture.
While we know the basics about Project Scarlett, Microsoft isn’t ready to say much more at X019. I pressed Spencer several times on rumors about two consoles for the Project Scarlett release, and whether the lineup of Xbox One S, Xbox One X, and Project Scarlett will be a lot of choice for console shoppers in 2020. “We will talk about the SKU lineup and how it works,” says Spencer. “I think the root principle of we don’t want to confuse people, we share that.”
Microsoft might not be ready to talk more about Scarlett, but I also wanted to know where the company is heading in PC gaming. Spencer has admitted there’s a lot to do for PC gaming in the past, and we’ve seen the company embrace Steam, introduce a new Xbox Game Bar on Windows 10, and launch Xbox Game Pass for PC. It still feels like there’s so much more to do, though.
I, and I’m sure many others, would love to see deeper integration between Xbox Live and Discord. Both firms partnered for some basic social integration last year, but we haven’t seen much more. So I asked Spencer whether he thinks there’s a future where I can chat to an Xbox Live friend through Discord and vice versa. “Yeah, I do think so,” he says. “I think it’s more difficult because the voice codecs are different. It’s not as easy as a phone system where everybody’s kind of on the same backend. I think over time it’s a benefit to all of us. Just like how I think cross-play is important, cross-talk — if you want to use that as a term — is something I think we should be focused on.”
I also wanted to get Spencer’s thoughts on Xbox Game Pass coming to services like Google Stadia. It doesn’t sound likely, unless Google is really open with its Stadia subscriptions and services. “So do we want that Xbox experience to be available in other places? Yeah, we’re doing xCloud and other things, but it would have to be a full experience,” explains Spencer. That would mean not individual titles like Minecraft, Forza, or Halo appearing on Stadia, but it would have to be the ability to offer everything that’s Xbox. “It’s hard to think about those things on platforms that are… more closed than the at scale open platforms of phones and PCs that are out there today.”