Earlier this month, Sony unveiled the remodeled PlayStation 4 and the more powerful PlayStation 4 Pro at a press event in New York. It took Microsoft less than 24 hours to fire back.
The tweet from the official Xbox account takes a jab at the Sony console’s inability to play 4K discs, a front-and-center feature of the recently launched Xbox One S. This was one of the primary complaints of the Pro from the onset of its announcement.
On Sept. 18, Microsoft followed up on its assault by announcing that all games being developed for the Xbox One Scorpio’s launch window will natively support 4K resolutions, as opposed to upscaling to 4K like the Pro is doing.
This comes with a lot of assumptions, however. The primary one is that Scorpio can perform well under higher resolutions. Many games this console generation have suffered from stuttering frame rates or being locked at 30 FPS to maintain a solid performance at 900 or 1080p. That goes for both Sony and Microsoft.
The second assumption is that this new, powerful console will be affordable. Consumer prices on 4K-compatible graphics cards for PC, like the AMD Radeon R9 380x or Geforce GTX 970, retail at around $249.99 and $337.99 respectively. That’s for the cards alone.
And then consider better RAM, likely a more powerful CPU or storage size. Is that storage on an HDD? Solid state? Or perhaps a semi-solid state drive.
Of course, Microsoft isn’t pulling into Best Buy and buying out all the available graphics cards. They have deals with AMD, like all major console manufacturers, for custom cards. This time around, it’s a card that’ll deliver 6 teraflops compared to the Pro’s 4.14.
Finally, the last assumption is that this works out for Microsoft.
Ten years ago, Sony launched the follow-up to what is arguably the most popular console of all time. At the very least, they had the biggest chunk of market share over the Xbox and GameCube. The PlayStation 3 was more powerful than the Xbox 360 but launched a year later at a much higher price point. Sony never closed that sales gap.
Sounds like a familiar situation.
Console manufacturing is a constant moving target. It’s a big part of why launch titles often seem safe or broken. Game developers sometimes don’t get the final console specs until months before the game even releases.
A year from now when Scorpio launches, Microsoft could shore up a competitively priced console. It’s in their best interest to do so. They could have the game line-up to best Sony and Nintendo’s mysterious NX. They could throw in virtual-reality support through an Oculus deal.
But will it be enough to retake their lead from over a decade ago?