It’s as official as possible without being officially official: According to numerous sources speaking with Kotaku, Microsoft will release a new, more powerful version of the Xbox One (code named Scorpio) in 2017. This doesn’t come as a big surprise, seeing as Xbox head Phil Spencer strongly hinted at an upgraded Xbox One several months ago. And with all the rumors we’ve been hearing lately about a PlayStation 4.5, it seems inevitable that we’ll be getting new gaming hardware from all of the major console makers much quicker than anyone expected.
This signals a major shift in the video game industry, which has always progressed through “console generations,” periods of five or more years between new, better hardware. The Xbox One Scorpio and PlayStation 4.5 would be “half-step” consoles that extend the current console generation indefinitely. Microsoft’s Phil Spencer envisions a future for Xbox that looks like the iPhone. New models are introduced over the years, but they maintain compatibility with the games and apps that came before.
All of this begs the question: Are frequent console upgrades a good thing? Here are some pros and cons about the rumored Xbox One Scorpio.
Pro: Potentially endless backwards compatibility
If you like playing old games, you know how much of a pain it is to keep all of your video game consoles plugged into a TV. According to Phil Spencer, if the future of Xbox plays out how he outlined earlier this year, all Xbox One games will still be playable on all Xbox consoles going forward. That means, in theory, that your copy of Halo 5 will be compatible with whatever an Xbox is in 2035.
Con: You’ll probably spend more money
No one has to buy a super-charged Xbox One Scorpio, of course, but if you want to stay current on video games, you’ll need to get one eventually. That’s too bad, because most Xbox One owners bought their console with the expectation that they’d have a system capable of playing state-of-the-art Xbox games for a good five to 10 years. More frequent hardware refreshes means more money for gamers who want to stay current.
Pro: Better graphics
Obviously, a more powerful new console allows for better looking games. Standard Xbox One games already look pretty fantastic as they are now, but with hardware powerful enough to pump out 4K graphics and power an Oculus Rift — as the rumors suggest — the Xbox One Scorpio could run games that look even more incredible.
Con: Xbox gaming would be more complicated
One great thing about console gaming is that if you own the console, you know you can play any game made for that console. That’s not the case with PC gaming, where games have required hardware specs and occasional compatibility issues with certain PC parts. With a new, more powerful Xbox One coming out, the Xbox One market will be split. Some people will have the original Xbox One, while others will have the newer, more powerful Xbox One Scorpio. It seems likely that games in the future will drop compatibility with the original Xbox One.
Pro: The Oculus Rift could come to Xbox One Scorpio
With Sony set to launch PlayStation VR in October, Microsoft’s virtual reality future looks bleak, seeing as it hasn’t announced anything at all for Xbox gamers (HoloLens doesn’t count). If the rumors are true and Microsoft is looking to partner with Oculus to bring the VR headset to Xbox One Scorpio, it would be a major boon for Microsoft and Xbox fans.
If Microsoft does launch a new and improved Xbox One in 2017, it will shake up much of what gamers have come to expect from consoles. It’s pretty exciting, even if I’m not looking forward to dropping several hundred dollars on a new console that’s only marginally better than the one I already own.