Project Scarlett is the name of Microsoft’s next-gen Xbox console, to be released in holiday 2020. Xbox head Phil Spencer first discussed the new console back at E3 2019, a couple of weeks after Sony first opened up about the PlayStation 5.
2020 will see the beginning of the 9th Xbox console generation. With Sony and Microsoft both launching their new consoles in holiday 2020. The two giants may be facing some competition from Google Stadia, which had quite a rocky launch this week. Objectively, Stadia is the first 9th-gen game platform launching one year ahead of the competition, but it’s based on a cloud gaming service, not a traditional console. Early reviews suggest that Google’s game streaming technology is currently the best on the market, but it will probably be years before cloud gaming technology is good enough to replace traditional game consoles.
Since the launch of the original Xbox console back in 2001, Microsoft has become a juggernaut in the console business, even though the Xbox One has been lagging behind Sony’s PlayStation 4 from the beginning of this console generation. The Xbox One never really recovered from a disastrous launch, with the console unable to compete on price and performance with the PlayStation 4. Even the Xbox One X, released a year after Sony’s PlayStation 4 Pro, was priced $100 higher than its high-end competitor. Microsoft no longer discloses the number of Xbox One units it’s selling worldwide, but the Xbox One is now expected to end this console generation behind both the PlayStation 4 and the cheaper, less-powerful Nintendo Switch.
With Project Scarlett, Microsoft plans to build a machine that’s significantly more powerful than the Xbox One X, while providing a smooth transition for existing Xbox One owners. What we heard about the new console so far is very promising, but there are many other things we’d like to see in Project Scarlett as well. We tried to summarize everything we know about Project Scarlett below, and added some features we hope Microsoft will add to the next-gen Xbox.
What we know about Project Scarlett
Much more power than the Xbox One X
If Microsoft already has the most powerful console in the market with the Xbox One X, the software giant will definitely try to keep its crown in the 9th gen consoles generation. Both Sony and Microsoft will stick with AMD which should provide custom-designed chips for Project Scarlett and the PlayStation 5.
Back at E3 2019, Microsoft revealed that Project Scarlett with feature a customized processor leveraging AMD’s Zen 2 architecture, aided by high bandwidth GDDR6 RAM. Microsoft also highlighted its next-gen SSD which should deliver more than 40x times performance increases over the current generation.
Back at E3 2019, Microsoft also highlighted support for 8K resolution and up to 120 FPS in games, variable refresh rate, and hardware-accelerated ray-tracing. The latter is doing a great job at improving light rendering on PC games that support it, and we’re looking forward to see next-gen console games leveraging this feature.
Overall, the 9th gen console generation should represent a much more significant leap compared to the transition from 7th gen to 8th gen consoles. Say what you want about the Xbox One X or the PlayStation 4 Pro, but 4K was probably the wrong target for these consoles. As we reach the end of this generation, there are still way too many games which are capped to 30FPS, which is definitely a sub-par experience compared to the smoother framerates you’ll experience in the PC world.
Gears 5, Microsoft’s latest-first party game is probably the rare exception with its support for 4K 60FPS in all game modes on the Xbox One X. However, many other first-party games, including some without photorealistic graphics like Sea of Thieves or Super Lucky’s Tale, are capped at 30FPS even on the Xbox One X. Let’s hope that the next-gen finally puts an end to 30FPS on console games.
Project Scarlett will have a Disc drive
Just like Sony’s PlayStation 5, Microsoft confirmed that Project Scarlett will come with a disc drive. This should come as a relief for video games retailers as well, which have undoubtedly suffered from the ongoing move to digital and game subscription services.
Earlier this year, Microsoft launched an experiment with the Xbox One S All Digital Edition, which is a disc-less version of the Xbox One S priced at $229. In a recent interview with Eurogamer, Xbox head Phil Spencer said that the All-Digital Edition console “is doing well,” hinting that Microsoft may not be done with the idea. “I will never remove options for us.” Spencer said in the same interview.
Project Scarlett will support Backward Compatibility
Microsoft confirmed during its E3 press briefing that Project Scarlett will be able to play games from all three past generations of Xbox consoles, and it’s probably one of the reasons why the next-gen Xbox will come with a disc drive. Microsoft also said that all existing Xbox One accessories will be supported, which is great if you want to keep using your collection of Xbox One controllers.
A couple of months ago, Microsoft announced that it would no longer add new Xbox 360 and OG Xbox games to the Xbox One Backward Compatibility list to focus on the future of backward compatibility. “Thousands of games from all four generations will be playable on Project Scarlett,” said Jason Ronald, Partner Director of Xbox Platform back in June. Hopefully, this will all existing Xbox One games, in addition to the more than 600 titles that are already backward compatible on Xbox One.