The Unspoken Cost of Xbox One Scorpio and PS4 Neo

After months of rumors that Sony and Microsoft are working on mid-generation upgrades for their current consoles, E3 confirmed what for a long time seemed impossible.

Project Scorpio is scheduled to release during Holiday 2017, and it will deliver an entirely new configuration of components for Xbox fans to purchase, along with all new potential. With its official announcement Sony has begun addressing questions regarding its competing Project Neo, effectively confirming that it's in the pipeline.

This development is one that has been a dream of some gamers. However, to others it's a nightmare.

The simplicity of consoles is eroding away with time. What was once a single hardware per manufacturer market has evolved into one with multiple solutions. The most immediate effect that console gamers have felt is the need to upgrade less than four years into the generation to avoid being left behind. While Microsoft in particular has made it clear that all Xbox games must support both Xbox One and Xbox One Scorpio, there's compromise to be made.

In this regard, developer of Beacon at Monothetic Games, Arran Seaton, recently shared his thoughts on the new consoles, weighing in on how their release will impact the industry:

 

I’m hoping both Sony & Microsoft keep a strict policy on the output of ‘vanilla’ PS4/XB1 versions of games being as fully featured and stable as possible. Ideally, it will just function like the quality settings you are provided in PC games. The baseline consoles will run at the equivalent of ‘medium’ spec, whereas Neo/Scorpio games could target ‘high/very high’. Though, in reality, I have no idea if that will happen. It would be a disappointment if developers decide to use the performance gains to essentially brute-force past certain stuff to hit targets, instead of optimizing with both hardware models in mind.

When you look at a beautiful and well performing current generation game such as Uncharted 4: A Thief's End what you're seeing is the product of intense optimization for one console configuration. Naughty Dog spent thousands of hours analyzing the usage of every megabyte of RAM and GPU computation to avoid frame rate dips and thus deliver a beautiful presentation.

Meticulously optimized console games like Uncharted 4 may be a thing of the past.

But what happens when you begin adding other configurations to the mix? As anyone who plays multiplatform titles on PC will attest to, what you end up with are frustratingly unequal versions. In most cases, whatever was considered the lead platform by the developer runs well, while other versions take a hit. This is usually something that only means minor inconsistencies between PS4 and Xbox One multiplatform games, but once you begin factoring in much more powerful consoles things become much more unwieldy.

Developer simply don't reap enough benefits for sitting down and perfectly optimizing games across every hardware configuration; it's costly and time intensive. As Seaton argues, there's potential for games on the standard Xbox One and PS4 to become much less satisfactory as time goes on. For anyone who is trying to ignore the Xbox One Scorpio and PS4 Neo, the effects will be felt.

For all intents and purposes, the release of these two mid-generation consoles can be treated as an all-new generation. This means cross-generation releases that show significant variation in quality, and costly upgrades for millions of gamers.