The unthinkable is happening. Xbox head honcho Phil Spencer has explained how the focus for its next-generation Xbox Scarlett console will be in pushing higher frame rates rather than graphical fidelity.
Consoles have long been hamstrung by the competing ideals of visual excellence and crippling frame rates. Above and beyond everything, publishers want their games looking great in screenshots in trailers, frame rates be damned. Even now, the priority is often on cranking out the best possible visuals in, say, Horizon: Zero Dawn, even if this means capping the frame rate at 30 frames per second.
Speaking to Gamespot, Spencer said “I think the area that we really want to focus on next generation is frame rate and playability of the games. Ensuring that the games load incredibly fast, ensuring that the game is running at the highest frame rate possible.” Well thank the lord. It’s not 144Hz but it’s a damned sight better than priority photorealistic visuals at juddery frame rates.
“We’re also the Windows company, so we see the work that goes on PC and the work that developers are doing. People love 60 frames-per-second games, so getting games to run at 4K/60 I think will be a real design goal for us.”
The good news here, potentially, is those of you fearing the generational leap in PC system specs may have less to fear. If the console market’s top priority is 4K/60 FPS with a smaller leap in visual fidelity, it should mean low and mid-range PC gamers should be able to comfortably keep playing at 1080p/60FPS for a good while yet.
In fact, talking of the visuals, it sounds as if Spencer and his team at Xbox are hoping to rely on delivering native 4K across the board in terms of providing a noticeable visual improvement. “The thing that’s interesting is, this generation, we’ve really focused on 4K visuals and how we bring both movies through 4K Blu-ray and video streaming, and with Xbox One X allowing games to run at 4K, visuals will make really strong visual enhancements next generation,” continued Spencer.
From a raw processing angle, Microsoft claimed at E3 2019 that Xbox Scarlett will be around four times as powerful as the Xbox One X. Just like the PS5, 8K was being bandied about although we absolutely do not think this is a priority from a gaming perspective. 4 times the power should be plenty of grunt to deliver all of the biggest titles today at 4K/60, with some performance headroom to spare in order to deliver the usual generation visual enhancements.
Judging from an Up For Debate we had a while back though, a fair few of you won’t be too pleased. We asked whether you thought visual fidelity, resolution, or frame rate should be the priority next-gen and the overwhelming majority opted for enhanced graphical detail.