Microsoft May Launch Upgraded Xbox One Hardware In The Future, Suggests Phil Spencer

” I believe we will see more hardware innovation in the console space than we’ve ever seen.”

Posted By | On 01st, Mar. 2016 Under News | Follow This Author @Pramath1605

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The console market is unlike any other form of consumer electronic market, simply because of how long a product cycle is- for every other consumer electronic, we see rapidly accelerated product life cycles. There is a new generation of laptops, smartphones, tablets, cameras, and GPUs and CPUs every few months, at most a year. This is unlike the console market, where console cycles can often last as long as a single decade, often leading to extremely outdated hardware, and compromised software as a result.

We have seen some attempts at hardware upgrades in the past, even for consoles- notably, Nintendo and Sega toyed with the idea of expanding and upgrading the RAM capabilities of their N64 and Saturn consoles. Nintendo has also experimented with the concept with their handhelds, with half steps like Gameboy Color, Nintendo DSi, and New Nintendo 3DS being prime examples. Nintendo has also suggested that it may look at moving to a more smartphone like product cycle for its hardware in the future, starting with NX.

And now, this is also an idea that Microsoft is flirting with- having more accelerated product cycles for Xbox. Speaking at the Spring Showcase (transcript by Polygon), Spencer said, “We see on other platforms whether it be mobile or PC that you get a continuous innovation that you rarely see on console,” he said. “Consoles lock the hardware and the software platforms together at the beginning of the generation. Then you ride the generation out for seven or so years, while other ecosystems are getting better, faster, stronger. And then you wait for the next big step function.

“When you look at the console space, I believe we will see more hardware innovation in the console space than we’ve ever seen. You’ll actually see us come out with new hardware capability during a generation allowing the same games to run backward and forward compatible because we have a Universal Windows Application running on top of the Universal Windows Platform that allows us to focus more and more on hardware innovation without invalidating the games that run on that platform.

“We can effectively feel a little bit more like we see on PC, where I can still go back and run my old Doom and Quake games that I used to play years ago but I can still see the best 4K games come out and my library is always with me. Hardware innovation continues while the software innovation is able to take advantage and I don’t have to jump a generation and lose everything that I played on before.”

Polygon later caught up with Spencer privately, in an attempt to get him to elaborate on what he may have meant. Spencer refused to get specific, but he did end up stating just a teensy bit more regardless.

“We look at these other ecosystems out there like mobile, tablet and PC and we see that they have a very continuous evolution cycle in hardware, whereas between console generations most of the evolution is making it cheaper and potentially making it smaller.

“Both are meaningful but don’t make the games play any better. If you look at PC specifically and see the evolution that happens there, there’s no reason why console can’t ride that same curve.

“I look at the ecosystem that a console sits in and I think that it should have the capability of more iteration on hardware capability. Sony is doing this with VR and adding VR capabilities mid-cycle to the PlayStation 4 and they are doing that by adding another box. I don’t mean that as a negative. But it’s not changing what the core console is about.

“For consoles in general it’s more important now than it’s ever been, because you have so many of these other platforms that are around. It used to be that when you bought your console you were way ahead of the price performance curve by so much, relative to a PC. But now PCs are inexpensive and your phones are getting more and more capable.

“I still think a console is the best price to performance deal that is out there but when you look at the evolution … I’m not going to announce our road map for hardware … but what I wanted to say on stage for people when they see this vision of ours and question our commitment to console I want to make sure that people see that what we are doing enables us to be more committed to what consoles are about than we’ve ever been and innovate more consistently than we ever have. That’s the key for me.”

It sounds like between PlayStation and their move towards VR, Nintendo and the NX, and Microsoft and whatever they have planned for the Xbox One, we may be in for an exciting time going forward.

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  • Alistein

    I don’t think he said nor implied any upgradable console here. An upgradeable console will just not work it’s only best suited for Pcs, however adding a peripheral like Kinect or VR is a little different.

    • JC

      It can clearly work. In the game options you’ll be able to enable or disable graphical features or use slider bars like a PC game. The Division beta had a couple of options to turn on/off, adjusting sharpness, etc… This way the dev’s can program for the lowest common denominator and then add more eye candy for the people who did “upgrade.”

      It’s a ballsy move and one that may or may not pan out, but I think if they go the route I quickly outlined vs games exclusively made for new hardware configs (a la 32x sega and sega cd) it’ll be fine. Splitting the user base that way would be the only sinker…

    • Alistein

      Like I said it’s a pc thing. The division you mentioned has thesame options on all X1 consoles so the settings is universal and allows thesame experience on the platform. How many people would spend the funds upgrading for a console if the lowest common denominator must be met ; even on pc the graphical differences aren’t that big when you consider that the hardware should be definitely capable of much more. For example the witcher 3 on consoles wasn’t that far apart from Pcs sure you could get higher resolutions and frame rates but the outcry was the pc version had been dumbed down and was being held back because of consoles.
      Sega tried to upgrade but it didn’t work well it just ended up confusing the audience. In anycase with Windows 10 there is no need for upgrades, they can improve the pc version and just make the console version the base denominator and if the cloud thing is still going on they can use it as a virtual console of sort and have it has a conduit to stream Windows 10 games to every Windows 10 device

    • JC

      “How many people would spend the funds upgrading for a console if the lowest common denominator must be met” – The ones who want more resolution, frames, draw distance, LOD, volumetic fog, lighting, GAO, etc… the lowest common denominator is only there as a base where the game should play with lower settings at a steady fps. The extra power is for extra eye candy, like in a PC MMO for example.

      This way the devs can make a game and scale back to the various options. I’m sure MS will tightly control the “upgrades” so you won’t end up with infinite configs as you do with PCs. I’m also fairly sure that the upgrades will not be individual for things like sound, cpu, gpu, etc…, rather it’ll be an “all-in-one” upgrade to again ensure some consistency of configuration.

      Sega’s upgrades divided the base by the games (i.e. w/o this you can’t play that), much like Kinect did (and MS have hopefully learned that lesson…), which is why they didn’t work. N64 just added more RAM so the people who upgraded did actually get more graphically whereas those who didn’t got a vanilla experience.

      Of course it’s all speculative, but I can see this working out well so long as it’s rolled out correctly, price points aren’t unreasonable for the power gained, and value is definitively shown. I think with Phil at the helm MS will remain realistic listening to the consumers’ wants vs overreaching and telling the consumer what they need.

  • red2k

    RIP Xbox brand.

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  • Hvd

    i like the do they intend to do it by having a shorter console life span with new consoles coming out every 4-5 years?the only issue i see with consoles is the fall way behing pc graphics 3-4 years after shorter console life spans?

    are they releasing different versions of xbox one like xbox vr2,v3 ect..or dare i say a gpu add on to the 3.0 usb ports?they did say up grade maybe something added on to the console to boost the gpu.?

  • Xbox one 2econd gpu unlocking

    this is hitting our second layer could be unlocked soon and the NDA is expiring.

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