Back in June 2016, Microsoft unveiled Project Scorpio, a machine that it proudly dubbed the most powerful console ever. But the announcement wasn't exactly jam-packed with detail, and with months to go before launch, many details remain a little fuzzy.
So what is Project Scorpio? Well, it's a new piece of Xbox One hardware that will include more powerful components while still supporting your current collection of games. To put it another way, Project Scorpio is the next evolution of the Xbox One. It's not a new console generation - it's a more capable version of the machine you know and love, and one that's been specifically designed with 4K gaming in mind.
In case you're wondering, here are the best Xbox One games to buy right now - they'll all work with Scorpio.
Xbox Project Scorpio specs will make it the most powerful console ever made
Microsoft is dropping (or rather, gingerly placing) a absolute beast of a graphics processor into its new machine, and the company has confirmed that its new GPU will boast no less than six teraflops of processing power. In terms of raw power, that's a considerable upgrade on the Xbox One base model - by some measures Project Scorpio's GPU will be four and a half times more capable than the original hardware's.
Microsoft hasn't been quite as vocal regarding the other parts powering the Scorpio, but we can make a few educated guesses. Current speculation suggests 12GB of DDR5 memory will replace the 8GB of slower DDR3 RAM found in original Xbox One units. And while we know that the console's CPU will be eight-core AMD unit, the exact details remain a mystery for now.
And all that talk about it being the most powerful console ever made isn't just fluff, either. Monolith's studio head Kevin Stephens, taking about the upcoming , recently : "As far as we can tell, it will be the most powerful console ever created when it launches."
The physical appearance of the console remains a closely-guarded secret for the time being, but we do know that it will feature a similar array of ports as the Xbox One and One S, as Microsoft has confirmed that your existing collection of accessories and peripherals will work with Project Scorpio.
Xbox Project Scorpio games will run at native 4K (in some cases)
All those powerful parts have been picked with 4K in mind, and while Project Scorpio might not pack quite as much grunt as a super-high-end gaming PC, Microsoft has confirmed that its first-party software will run at native 4K resolution on the new console. In other words, Halo 6, Gears of War 5, and Forza Motorsport 7 should all run in ultra high-definition (and feature full HDR support) for owners of the Project Scorpio hardware.
Third-party developers are naturally free to make their own decisions about whether to support the new machine or not, but early signs are promising, even for games that launch well before Project Scorpio reaches retail. The producers of Mass Effect: Andromeda, for instance, recently told Official Xbox Magazine that they'd definitely consider a Scorpio update for the sci-fi epic.
Perhaps the most important point to note is that all of your existing Xbox One games will still work with the Project Scorpio, and Microsoft insists that it won't be developing any games exclusively for owners of its fancy new machine - except, perhaps, titles that rely heavily on Scorpio's virtual reality capabilities. In other words, Xbox One owners won't get left behind when the new console drops. And what's more, Scorpio will continue to support the full range of backwards compatible Xbox 360 games.
Xbox Project Scorpio price will be 'premium' but not astronomical
Microsoft hasn't revealed a proposed price for its supercharged new console yet, but the company has let slip one or two clues as to how much you might expect to pay for all that extra processing power. Speaking back in October, Xbox head honcho Phil Spencer said that Scorpio will be priced like "a premium console".
That suggests that the machine won't come cheap, but Spencer was also keen to reassure would-be shoppers that the price won't be astronomical, either. "I wouldn’t get people worried that this thing is going to be unlike any console price you’ve ever seen," he explained. "We didn’t design it that way".
So, how much will Project Scorpio cost then? Given the formidable specs that it'll ship with, it seems safe to assume that the device will cost at least a little more than the PS4 Pro did at launch. Sony's machine hit the market at $399/£349, so we'd anticipate a pricepoint in the region of $450-$500 when Scorpio hits shelves this winter.
Xbox Project Scorpio release date is set for Holiday 2017
If there's one point that Microsoft has been consistently crystal clear on, it's the console's release date. The Xbox Project Scorpio will launch in the holiday season of 2017.
And while delays are certainly possible, it seems unlikely at this stage. Microsoft revealed the release date with plenty of fanfare at E3 2016, and the Holiday 2017 ETA is also proudly displayed on the front of centre of the official Project Scorpio website. All of which suggests a certain amount of confidence that Project Scorpio will be available to buy once the Christmas shopping season rolls around later this year.
Xbox Project Scorpio will support virtual reality
When the existence of Project Scorpio was first revealed at Microsoft's 2016 E3 press conference, Bethesda's Todd Howard appeared in a brief promotional video designed to get gamers pumped for Microsoft's new machine. "We're moving Fallout 4 to VR," he began, "and to have a console that can support that at the resolution and speed that we really want, I think it's going to be magical."
As such, it's clear that Project Scorpio will support some sort of virtual reality solution, and its raw graphical grunt should ensure that the hardware works well with VR headsets. Exactly which devices Microsoft will support, however, remains unclear. The Oculus Rift is one possibility, given the fact that Microsoft already partners with Oculus to include an Xbox One controller with every Rift unit.
And then there's HoloLens, Microsoft's impressive augmented reality headset. This nifty gizmo uses an array of advanced sensors to essentially project interactive holograms onto your surroundings. The potential applications for gaming are tantalising/horrifying - and Microsoft has used a Minecraft demo to show off the hardware in public before - but it seems likely that HoloLens will be too pricey for widespread gaming use.
All of which makes the news that Microsoft is partnering with the likes of HP, Lenovo, Dell, Acer, and Asus to create Windows-compatible VR headsets for as little as $299 pretty darn interesting. Perhaps all of this points towards a future in which Project Scorpio supports a range of different VR solutions, unlike Sony's closed system.
Xbox Project Scorpio vs PS4 Pro
Microsoft isn't the only platform holder rolling out a souped-up mid-generational refresh, but there's just no two ways about it – Project Scorpio is considerably more powerful than the PS4 Pro. Most notably, Sony's GPU offers a comparatively weedy 4.2 teraflops of graphical processing power compared to the 6 teraflops managed by the Scorpio. In terms of raw graphical performance, the difference could be as large 40 per cent.
And while we know from public statements and leaked documents alike that Microsoft's first-party games will all target native 4K resolution, that's simply not been possible for Sony's studios. A selection of remasters and smaller scale offerings have hit ultra high-definitions, but it's far from the norm, and the results can be inconsistent. So, while the majority of PS4 Pro games make use of an upscaling technique known as checkerboarding to achieve a result that resembles 4K, first-party Scorpio games should hit that resolution target without the need for any algorithmic assistance.
Third-party developers working with Project Scorpio, meanwhile, will be free to deploy the additional resources of that mighty GPU however they please, so they might choose to target native 4K, or put that power to work on higher quality in-game visuals. Microsoft will ultimately leave the choice with the developers.
Xbox Project Scorpio bundles you should look out for this Holiday
When Project Scorpio finally reaches store shelves, you can be sure that Microsoft will be assembling a collection of bundles specifically designed to showcase the pixel-pushing capabilities its superlative new system. The company could bundle the Scorpio with a copy of Crackdown 3, enabling early adopters to unleash city-wide destruction in this cloud-powered sandbox - all in super-sharp 4K.
In terms of the games that we know are due by the end of the year, Sea Of Thieves and Red Dead Redemption 2 both stand out as potential system sellers if Rare and Rockstar were able to patch in some nifty ultra high-definition support. Star Wars Battlefront 2 will likely land later this year too, and Dice's technical wizardry will no doubt result in a stunning Scorpio edition of the sci-fi shooter.
And while it might sound unrealistic to expect Halo 6 to release inside the Scorpio's launch window, it would serve as an amazing opportunity for 343 Industries to demonstrate the graphical capabilities of Microsoft's new hardware. Similarly, Forza Motorsport 7 may not have been announced, but Turn 10 would certainly be well placed to sell racing fans on the benefits of Microsoft's new hardware.