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Xbox Scarlett Is Focused On More Than Just Prettier Graphics

At E3 2019, Microsoft gave the world its first peek at the next generation of Xbox, codenamed Project Scarlett. While the company didn’t showcase any of the actual hardware, it did reveal a few tantalizing tidbits about the system. We know it’ll boast a solid state drive (much like Sony’s PS5) and will be approximately four times as powerful as the Xbox One X–the machine that’s currently the most powerful game console on the market.

Project Scarlett’s added horsepower will undoubtedly allow developers to produce some stunning titles, but visuals aren’t the only aspect of gaming that Microsoft is looking to improve with its new console. As head of Xbox Phil Spencer told GameSpot in an exclusive, in-depth interview following E3, how smoothly games run will be a major focal point in the next generation.

“I think the area that we really want to focus on next generation is frame rate and playability of the games,” Spencer said. “Ensuring that the games load incredibly fast, ensuring that the game is running at the highest frame rate possible. We’re also the Windows company, so we see the work that goes on [for] PC and the work that developers are doing. People love 60 frames-per-second games, so getting games to run at 4K 60 [FPS] I think will be a real design goal for us.

“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. But playability is probably the bigger focus for us this generation. How fast do [games] load? Do I feel like I can get into the game as fast as possible and while it’s playing? How does it feel? Does this game both look and feel like no other game that I’ve seen? That’s our target.”

Microsoft isn’t just looking toward the future with Project Scarlett, either; the company also wants to ensure that players still have access to all of their older games as we move into a new generation of consoles. Whereas the PS4 and Nintendo Switch both forwent backwards compatibility, the Xbox One has built up an impressive library of backwards compatible games encompassing some of the best offerings from the Xbox 360 and even the original Xbox. Spencer stresses that Microsoft will maintain this commitment not only to older titles, but also your existing controllers.

“We really like the reception and the use that we’ve seen through the [Xbox One backwards compatibility] program. Making sure that all four generations of content–so the original Xbox games that run on your Xbox One today, the OG Xbox; the 360 games that run on your Xbox One; your Xbox One games; and the new generation games–all run on the next platform is important to us. We want to respect the games that you’ve bought from us. We want to make sure that the generations can play with each other, so if you happen to adopt the next generation early and somebody stays back, that if their games are on both platforms, you’ll be able to cross-gen play.

“Another thing that will be a little bit new for us is the fact that we want to also respect the compatibility of the controllers that you already have. This generation, we came out with the Elite controller, we’ve done work on controllers and people have invested in personalized controllers, the things that they love and we want to make those compatible with future generations of our console as well. So really, the things that you’ve bought from us, whether the games or the controllers that you’re using, we want to make sure those are future compatible with the highest fidelity version of our console, which at that time will obviously be the one we’ve just launched.”

Project Scarlett is slated to arrive in Holiday 2020 with Halo Infinite as a launch title. Spencer discussed a number of other topics in our interview, including Microsoft’s cloud gaming initiative, xCloud; the company’s E3 2019 presentation; and the state of competition between Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo. Spencer also shed more light on the troubled reveal of the Xbox One back in 2013. Be sure to check out our other stories from our interview with Phil Spencer, as well as our in-depth profile of the Xbox head.

So really, the things that you’ve bought from us, whether the games or the controllers that you’re using, we want to make sure those are future compatible with the highest fidelity version of our console, which at that time will obviously be the one we’ve just launched.”

Our conversations with Phil Spencer covered much more in addition to this deep dive into the next-gen Xbox console. For more inside looks at Spencer and his thoughts on the past, present, and future of Xbox, check out all our coverage in the stories linked below.

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