We knew it was coming. Microsoft’s contestant in this strange new phenomenon of semi-new-gen consoles has been announced and on a technical level seems to have taken advantage of the fact that the Sony played its hand first with the PS4 Pro by unveiling some heavyweight specs.
But with the PS4 almost out of sight in terms of sales, and with Microsoft seemingly abandoning a focus on console-exclusivity in favor of merging with Windows 10, could Project Scorpio draw the Sony faithful to the Microsoft side or at least make a case that gamers need both consoles?
What’s all this talk of TeraFLOPS?
Scorpio is, on paper, a powerful beast and technically beats the PS4 Pro on just about every front (the perks of releasing your console second). Both have eight-core GPUs capable of supporting 4K resolutions at 60 fps, but the Scorpio’s is clocked to 2.3GHz and 6 teraFLOPS compared to the PS4 Pro’s 2.1GHz and 4.2 TFLOPS.
But what do TeraFLOPS mean, aside from “More Goodness?”
TeraFLOPS are large measures of “Floating Points of Operation” – essentially, how many floating-point numbers (numbers with decimals, integers, etc.) a computer can solve every second. It’s as close as we can get to a universal measure of computing power, and when applied to a graphics card, it tells us how many polygons can be pushed around on-screen every second. So 6 TFLOPS means six trillion, which is plenty – it’s about 30% more than the PS4 Pro, though still 30% less than the top GPUs today.
That’s a lot more power, but how it’s utilised is another matter and will depend on the GPU’s relationship with the CPU, core speeds, and of course the optimisation of individual games. The fact that the Scorpio also has 12GB RAM to the PS4 Pro’s 8GB, however, is another factor that puts it in good stead to outperform its dominant rival.
For all its technical prowess, Project Scorpio will inherit the Xbox One’s biggest problem – a lack of exclusive titles. The rate at which the console’s exclusive catalogue has diminished is shocking, with promising titles like Fable Legends, Scalebound and Project Spark biting the dust. (Speaking of which, a Phantom Dust remake has also been canned.)
Former powerhouse franchises like Gears of War and Halo remain competent, though not the console-selling goliaths they were before. Quantum Break developer Remedy has recently announced that it will no longer be working exclusively with Microsoft, while publishers of certain cross-platform titles like Nier: Automata have simply chosen not to bring their games to the ailing console (in this case because the Japanese market doesn’t care for the Xbox One). The one advantage it has is proper backwards compatibility with the Xbox 360, allowing you to play many of the best last-gen games.
With that said, the whoppingly powerful dev kit for Project Scorpio, packing 24GB of RAM and all kinds of bells and whistles, suggests that Microsoft isn’t completely giving up on luring devs back, so there’s always hope.
Unless Microsoft completely turns around its approach to exclusivity (not likely), then the best the company can hope for with the Scorpio is that PS4 owners choose to buy it alongside their PS4/PS4 Pro, assuming that its tech specs will translate to better performance on cross-platform titles. In other words, it could fulfill a similar role to a gaming PC, assuming people don’t already have one.
In addition, movie enthusiasts may find some value in the 4K/UHD Blu-Ray player that’s lacking in the PS4 Pro, although the format is rapidly losing relevance in the age of streaming, and it’s certainly not as big a factor as when the PS3 featured a Blu-ray player back in 2006.
Project Scorpio sounds impressive, and I can’t wait to see it “in the field” against the PS4 Pro, but hardware power alone has never proved decisive in console wars historically. Great titles have, and the glaring lack of them in Microsoft’s stable will continue to work against their console, no matter how many teraFLOPS it contains.