Xbox Project Scarlett - 2020 release date, tech specs, Project xCloud and everything we know about next gen Xbox

Xbox Project Scarlett

As expected, Microsoft properly announced their next gen console Xbox Project Scarlett at E3 2019, and went heavy on the hype and hyperbole. After an appearance by Keanu Reeves and a deep dive into some of the hottest games coming this year and beyond, Xbox Project Scarlett was properly unveiled in a 20ish minute segment that took us inside the hardware and gave us a lengthy preview of its first announced launch game: Halo Infinite

What is Xbox Project Scarlett?

What is Xbox Project Scarlett?

The next Xbox is called Xbox Project Scarlett, and Microsoft is calling it the future of gaming. Built around powerful new hardware from AMD, including their new Navi graphics architecture and a Zen 2 CPU, the Scarlett is designed to minimize (or completely eliminate) load times and get you into games as quickly as possible. In the announcement reel, Microsoft employees threw out some pretty baller numbers: four times more powerful than the current most powerful console on the planet, the Xbox One X, four times better performance than the current generation in terms of load times, and the biggest generational leap in Microsoft's console history.

As for the actual Xbox Project Scarlett specs, the sizzle also promised 120 FPS, 8K, and ray tracing supported by dedicated hardware. In fact, one Microsoft employee promised "frame rates we've never seen before," though that's surely just on consoles and not accounting for modern PC hardware. As for 8K and 120 FPS, they make great bullet points, but the unstated reality is that you'd have to be running an extremely rudimentary game even on the most powerful of current PC hardware to approach anything like those numbers, especially simultaneously. But you can't fault Microsoft for their exuberance, and we have seen some pretty incredible performance eked out of even modestly specced console hardware in the past, especially as a console cycle gets longer in the tooth.

There was also a brief, tantalizing tease during the Scarlett presentation that suggested you'd be able to play any game from Microsoft's four generations of consoles on the new machine. While calling the Xbox One X/S refresh a full generation is a bit of a stretch, a continued commitment to backwards compatibility on future consoles is very welcome. 

Perhaps most exciting for Xbox diehards, Microsoft announced that Halo Infinite would be launching alongside Project Scarlett, and showed a brand new, lengthy trailer. Master Chief, afloat in space and unconscious in his armor, is revived by the captain of a small space vessel who was seemingly adrift himself, before revealing the devastating aftermath of the most recent conflict. The footage looked exceptional, especially some of the textures on Chief's hands, and refracted light and gathering shadows flashed some of the potential of a console packing dedicated ray tracing hardware.

When is the Xbox Project Scarlett release date?

When is the Xbox Project Scarlett release date?

The Xbox Project Scarlett launch date will be Holiday 2020, with rumblings PS5 will drop in the same time frame. Launching at the end of the year positions Microsoft to grab some prime holiday dollars, and opens up some intriguing possibilities since a number of triple-A franchises all launch around Christmas.

What is Project xCloud?

What is Project xCloud?

A representation of Xbox Cloud services

Project xCloud is the streaming platform that originally debuted back in March and is currently available for hands-on impressions on the E3 show floor. Xbox boss Phil Spencer says the service would enable you to transform an Xbox console into an xCloud server (as well as using actual servers), streaming games and media to connected devices. How robust this will be against, say, Google's Stadia initiative remains to be seen, but Microsoft definitely looks committed to leveraging its massive infrastructure and resources towards allowing gamers to play where they want, with who they want. According to Spencer a beta will be widely available in October.

Xbox Phil Spencer

Xbox Project Scarlett price

How much will the Xbox Project Scarlett cost?

Red Xbox One Controller

Here's where things get a bit interesting, because although we don't have any official details on what the Project Scarlett price will be, it's going to be quite the contentious subject - especially if we're looking at a family of consoles. 

The original announcement of the Xbox One price was one of the first mistakes Microsoft made with the positioning of the console. At launch you could only buy it with a 500GB hard drive, one controller and a pre-bundled Kinect sensor for a whopping $499 / $429. It wasn't until June 2014, more than six months after the original launch, that Microsoft released a new Xbox One configuration that removed the Kinect from the box and cost $399 / £349, matching the launch price of the PS4. 

If the PS5 and Xbox Project Scarlett launch around the same time, Microsoft is going to have to be careful not to repeat its past mistakes. But considering that the Xbox One X is a much better console than the PS4 Pro, and therefore costs more (Xbox One X is $499 / £449 compared to the PS4 Pro's $399 / £349), it could be that the Project Scarlett costs more because of its internal components. However, if both consoles are packing similar specs, it's going to be an interesting discussion. 

If rumour has it though, there could even be three Xbox Project Scarlett SKUs available at launch, which will make the pricing chat even more intriguing:

- 8K / 120fps version of Project Scarlett
- 1080p / 60fps Project Scarlett
- Project Scarlett Cloud streaming box, perhaps an updated Xbox All Digital iteration

Does Xbox Project Scarlett have VR?

Does Xbox Project Scarlett have VR?

Microsoft has an interesting relationship with virtual reality. On the PC side, their Windows Mixed Reality initiative has found moderate success, featuring a broad variety of lightweight VR headsets and offering an expansive library of games and experiences. On the console tip, however, news has been less positive - at last year's E3, Microsoft's CMO for gaming told Gameindustry.biz that "We don't have any plans specific to Xbox consoles in virtual reality or mixed reality."

However, all hope is not lost. A report over at CNET indicates that the company was in fact planning a VR strategy for Xbox but that is subsequently abandoned it. That said, the company did indicate that the reason for pushing a VR strategy down the road was that they were planning on waiting until better technology was largely available, particularly more robust wireless options. Given the current explosion of wireless and standalone options, like Oculus' Go and Quest models and the Vive Focus, it's entirely possible that Microsoft will rethink it's console VR strategy ahead of the Project Scarlett launch. WIth the continuing success of Playstation VR, which currently boasts the most sales of any high end VR headset, Microsoft may well still have an appetite to dip its toes into the virtual pool. 

What do you think about the rumours surrounding the Xbox Project Scarlett at the moment? Let us know in the comments below.