‘We’re at the point of diminishing returns.’
Later this year, Microsoft is preparing to launch the Xbox Scorpio, which is going to be the most powerful console ever made, with a 6 TFLOPs GPU. The Scorpio is going to apparently be able to render its games in 4K natively- which is not something that any other console on the market can do, including the PS4 Pro. But according to Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter, that ultimately won’t matter- according to him, the Scorpio’s graphical differential will be negligible on screens and setups that most people own.
‘Power is not that important anymore,” Pachter said on his web show. ‘Yes you need greater power to do things, but we’re now at the point where graphics look like movies- look at Uncharted 4 or The Last of Us or Horizon: Zero Dawn– it’s cartoony and colorful, but it’s a very clear looking game. So no, I don’t think it matters. We can go from 1080p, which is 2 million pixels, to 4K, which is 8 million pixels on screen. And although that’s 6 million more pixels, and four times the graphics intensity- I defy you to tell the difference on your screen. Yes, if you low it up on a 100 inch TV screen, you’d know the difference. But most of us aren’t playing games on a 100 inch screen- I’d say most of us play on somewhere between 32 inch to 55 inch screens.’
According to Pachter, the problem is that we are now officially at the point of diminishing returns- so while the Scorpio is more powerful, functionally, that should be meaningless to most people.
‘Scorpio is going to be 4K,’ he said. ‘What does 4K mean? Four times as many pixels as 1080p. Yes, that requires a whole lot more processing power- but it isn’t that big of a deal. So PS4 Pro is HDR, I wish I knew what that meant. I am sure there are 1080p TVs that support HDR- my two year old TV does not. So I have a PS4 Pro, I can’t tell the difference, but I don’t care, I am future proofed. I will ultimately get a new TV. So the next gen consoles aren’t going to do that much more. So yes, it’s more powerful- but, and I’m not suggesting that you can’t tell the difference. But do you care at that point? The answer is, no you don’t. So I think it’s great, I think that for movie type playback it matters, and I think it might be more efficient if you wanted to play old content- but I think we are at the point where new cycles don’t matter. We are definitely at a point of diminishing returns. You won’t be able to tell the difference- I promise you you won’t. So, it’s a great thing to happen, but it doesn’t matter.’
I largely agree with him, actually- it is one of the reasons that I think that Nintendo’s strategy of lowballing specs may not be the worst one in the long run. But with that said, I do think that if Microsoft stopped mandating 4K or parity with the existing Xbox One, allowing developers to use the Scorpio’s powers in any way they like, then the console could be meaningfully differentiated and set apart from any other on the market- and find a meaningful use for its power, and niche for itself.