Gamescom has given us our best look at the Xbox One X yet, including the special pre-order Xbox One X Scorpio special edition. We sat down with Mike Ybarra, the corporate Vice President of Xbox & Windows gaming platform to find out more about the new console.
One thing he makes clear while speaking to him is that the Xbox One X is a premium product, conceived and created as a high end console. "We designed it to be no compromise," say Ybarra. "We want that high value [for] the person who wants the absolute best graphics, absolute best experience - we kept that bar very high when we developed that box."
Seriously, the whole quality thing? It sounds like an obsession for Microsoft, along with keeping it small. No bad thing given the size of the original Xbox One. "We started thinking about that box back in 2012," continues Ybarra, "and one of our goals was we wanted to be compact, and craftsmanship was a big goal. We looked for server and PC advancements to see what we could bring in for cooling and other elements like that." And, thanks to Microsoft's "huge research arm" that tech was engineered into making the One X the size it is, while delivering what Ybarra thinks is a "uncompromised price to performance ratio," adding, "I really think it's designed for the core person who wants the best experience and the best versions of the games."
While the Xbox One X positioning as a premium product clearly means it's more expensive (£449.99/$499.99), Ybarra's keen to highlight the idea that it's part of a family of inter-compatible consoles: "compatibility across the whole family for both software and hardware is really reassuring for consumers," he explains. "Because usually when you buy a new console it means giving up things: giving up your hardware accessories, the controllers you’ve purchased, your games. With us it’s about adding things. We’ve got 360 back compat games, original Xbox back compete games and everything that runs on the S will run on the X and vice versa. So I think we give the consumer that confidence that if you purchase, don’t worry, all the games you purchased before, they’re going to work and they’re going to run even better on the X."
However, whatever the quality bar and value Microsoft thinks the Xbox One X reaches, is there any point if you don't have a 4K TV? That resolution is pretty much the entire sales pitch, but even without an ultra-HD screen Ybarra has a sales pitch, from super sampled resolution to improved frame rates and loading times.
That's in part because Microsoft knew that not everyone out there is 4K ready. "We looked at the timing, and we’re like ’okay there’s going to be a lot of 1080p TVs out there, what kind of tech can we build into the box to make that light up too.’" So, even on a normal screen you'll see Xbox One X improvements. "If you have an X on a 1080p [screen] with 4K content we’ll super sample it by default so you’ll get the perfect lines and no jagged edges on 1080p. It looks really great," he explains.
Even basic performance will be improved, Ybarra points out. "A lot of games written today for the S are written in dynamic resolution where, at certain times, it goes down and up depending on the scene. On X it’ll just flatline all the way up the top. Even 360 games play better. Just the way they perform, a lot of those games had stutters here and there. This thing, it’s great." Even basic things like, loading times get a boost he adds, "some loads times that take 15 seconds now take 7 seconds. That is a dramatic difference. Load times and things like that are so much smoother, and that all adds up."