Yesterday, Eurogamer got an exclusive look at Microsoft's much- anticipated new gaming console codenamed Project Scorpio, and it's safe to say that the tech press is still figuring out the consequences for the video game industry. Project Scorpio will be the most powerful console on the market when it will launch later this year, and Microsoft wants developers to bring "the absolute best versions" of their games on the platform.
For Microsoft, Project Scorpio is also its best opportunity to reclaim the gaming narrative from Sony, which Playstation 4 outsold the Xbox One from the beginning of this latest console generation. Last year, the Xbox One did outsell the Playstation 4 in the US between July and October (the release of the Xbox One S in August likely helped to drive sales), though Sony's gaming console claimed back its crown during the crucial holiday season.
But could Project Scorpio turn the tide in favor of Microsoft this year? Gamesindustry.biz asked several games analysts their opinion about Project Scorpio yesterday, and Mat Piscatella from The NPD Group was quite optimistic about Xbox One sales this year:
"I remain bullish on the Scorpio in the US market, particularly in the launch year. I think Scorpio has the potential to push Xbox One sales ahead of the PS4 in the US in 2017. Adoption among the core gaming audience could be significant," he said. "And, while this is a niche audience to target, it's the niche which is necessary to put the Scorpio on the path for longer term mass market adoption.
Of course, several different factors will determine the impact of Project Scorpio this year: pricing, release date and last but not least, the games. "No matter how amazing the tech specs are, if attractive content doesn't show up, the mass market won't adopt," said Piscatella. "In addition, if we happen to have another E3 2006 style 'five hundred and ninety nine US dollars' moment the outlook gets murkier," he added.
Overall, Piscatella sounds a bit too optomistic to us. It's true that Project Scorpio will need a solid lineup of games at launch to attract consumers, and we hope that Microsoft will bring its A game at its E3 press event in June. Microsoft needs to avoid at all costs the chicken and egg situation that caused the slow death of Windows Phone, with no developers supporting the platform and no consumers buying the handsets. Project Scorpio will also bring performance improvements for existing Xbox One and Xbox 360 games, but how many Xbox One owners are willing to upgrade just for that? Probably not many.
In the end, Microsoft probably cares more about Xbox Live usage and game sales, and that would be fine. Yes, consoles sales are important, but not as important as consumers actually buying games and playing them. "Our model's not really built around selling you a new console every one or two years. The model is almost the exact opposite," explained Xbox head Phil Spencer to Gamesindustry.biz last year. "Honestly, I'm not focused on doing things purely to outsell PS4 with our Xbox One. We're doing things beyond that," he added.
Do you expect Project Scorpio to be well received by game developers and consumers later this year? And more importantly, do you think it's still relevant to put the Xbox One against the Playstation 4? Let us know your thoughts about the gaming ecosystem in the comments below.