Xbox Scarlett vs. PlayStation 5: Microsoft wants Scarlett to be the 'most powerful console'

What you need to know

  • Microsoft recently revealed "Project Scarlett," it's next-generation console.
  • It's unclear how it compares to the PlayStation 5 at the moment.
  • The company wants it to be the "best console" and "number one" according to Xbox's Phil Spencer.

Updated June 19, 2019: In another interview between Kotaku and Phil Spencer, the Xbox executive said that "having the world's most powerful console... is a critical component."

Every year, Xbox head Phil Spencer sits down with Giant Bomb to discuss what was revealed at Microsoft's E3 briefings. This year is no different and, luckily, we got new information about "Project Scarlett," "Project xCloud," and what the company sees as the future of gaming.

When Microsoft revealed Scarlett, its next-generation console, it used phrases like "most immersive" instead of "most powerful." Many gamers were confused by this and thought that the next Xbox wouldn't focus on raw power. Luckily, Spencer put these concerns to rest when he said that the team is aiming for Scarlett to be "number one."

You can read an excerpt from the interview below where he confirms he wants the console to have a power advantage over the PlayStation 5 (PS5).

There are going to be areas where we should compete. And those areas… can lead to better outcomes when we compete… but it's still a world where in order for us to do better, you don't have to do worse… Gaming is a better space when there are brands that people trust, where brands that have been around for decades continue to be around… I want Xbox obviously to be one of those… We're not building Scarlett to not be the best console. I want to be number one. I'm as competitive as anybody. But that doesn't mean that I need somebody else to… suffer from a business standpoint… I think raw power is very important… I don't have a PS5 development kit, so I don't know what they're building… I will say that being a leader in consoles is what the team is committed to doing… We aren't building this program to try to aim for second place. We're building it aiming for first place and that's what I want to hit.

Hopefully Scarlett will be the most powerful console than the PS5. However, only time will tell. There are rumors floating around that Scarlett features a 12-core processor compared to the 8-core one found in the PS5, but nothing has been confirmed yet. As with any such leak, take it with a grain of salt until we receive official confirmation and both parties confirm specifications.

Spencer discussed other aspects of Microsoft's gaming ambitions as well. Despite the fact that the team is working on xCloud game streaming, he doesn't think that streaming services like Google Stadia will offer a better experience – when it comes to visual quality and input lag – than dedicated hardware at home.

He said the following on what xCloud wishes to achieve and how long it will take streaming to rival local hardware.

I'm not saying I'm going to be 8K 120 Hz to the phone... I want an experience on my phone that will go with me… I think cloud technology has the capability over years to create a really compelling experience in the home on a large screen, but the best way for you to go play Cyberpunk 2077 – to go play any of the games that were shown here – for years is going to be dedicated hardware in your home with local storage… going to the screen as fast as they can. That's not a slam on what anybody is doing.

Internet restrictions, and data caps that providers impose, are being taken into account for xCloud. Spencer confirmed that right now he believes game streaming takes up too much bandwidth. He said, "Look at the number of hours I've played of Destiny 2 as an example. I don't want all of those to be me writing checks to Comcast" because I've gone over my data cap for the month. This is a real concern that Google needs to address for Stadia. Due to this, and the quality of current streaming technology, Scarlett won't be Microsoft's last console.

At E3 2019, Microsoft announced two new branches to xCloud. One allows you to turn your local Xbox One into a private streaming server. This lets you remotely play games using your own hardware. However, the other one which is also launching in October will use Microsoft's servers. Spencer confirmed that this would be a paid service, but certain aspects might be free if you already own a console and the game.

There will be a cost to that. We'll figure out what that is… If you already bought a console and you bought the game, we're going to push really hard to make that invisible to you… Eventually, this is for people who live in areas who are never going to buy a console, but still want to play these great games… but that's years and years before… that's the… way people are using the technology.

Lastly, Spencer talked about the future of gaming and how he wants to see it transform into a "gig economy." If you aren't using your console at any particular moment, it could act as a server for people nearby. While this is in the realm of science fiction at the moment, it's still an interesting thought.

I love this idea that I might be able to offer up my local Xbox One when I'm not using it for people who are walking around… from them to run from my local console… it's kind of like the gig economy of game streaming… If my console is just sitting there and it's silent, and I'm not getting charged for upload… we're not doing that… that's years… The team will hate that I'm even talking about it.

Other important details from the interview can be seen below.

  • The xCloud reveal at E3 2019 was all about proving to the world that the service works.
  • With Xbox Game Pass, developers are going to have millions of players on day one. They will need to change the infrastructure of online games at launch to take this into account.
  • Discovery is important for Xbox Game Pass and expands gamers' interests. The service gives players the ability to try out new genres, or titles they haven't heard of, at no additional cost.
  • Scarlett will be backward compatible with four generations of games so that they run better than existing hardware. Microsoft wants to respect gamers' past purchases going forward.
  • If you buy a first-party game from Microsoft that's a "cross-generation" experience, the Xbox One version should automatically be upgraded to the Scarlett version whenever you decide to upgrade to the console. A great example of this would be Halo Infinite.

The interview between Spencer and Giant Bomb was quite illuminating and provided a lot of answers to important questions. However, the highlights have to be how Microsoft wants Scarlett to be the most powerful console, and how xCloud streaming for particular games may be free if you own a console and the game.

What aspects of the interview stood out for you? What do you think about the company's gaming plans going forward? Let us know. With Stadia entering the mix and next-generation machines right around the corner, it's definitely an interesting time to be a gamer.

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Asher Madan handles gaming news for Windows Central. Before joining Windows Central in 2017, Asher worked for a number of different gaming outlets. He has a background in medical science and is passionate about all forms of entertainment, cooking, and antiquing.

23 Comments
  • While the whole connected Xboxes idea is cool (think SETI @ Home, but for gaming), could you imagine the data usage? I know this may be distant future talk, but I don't believe that data use is going to be a non-issue anytime remotely soon.
  • It is in a lot of countries.... Haven't had a data cap in almost 20 years... I don't understand whyin English speaking countries (cause it seems to be there that issue lies) customers still accept this practices... It should be forbidden by law
  • I think because the countries we're in favor corporations over humans.
  • don't forget the lobbyists and special interest groups too.
  • What's wrong with me. This is the second time in a day that I agree with Asher Madan on something. And I agree with jams too, Lobbyist are way too powerful over there, they help turn this into a monopoly.
  • Well it really wasn't 'turned' into a monopoly, it was more kept as one. It's hard to explain, but the simple answer is back when Bell telephone was laying lines down and connecting the country, it was grouped into the same laws that encompassed a utility like a power company. In most places this is a legal monoply that is allowed to exist because it is an essential service and has strong regulations against gaming the system. This was fine at the time, but now things are quite different in the way information can be transfered and the same laws are in place, and have been kept there by lobbiest, to regulate the now cable/internet/telephone companies. They aren't forced to upgrade equipment or innovate and basically can charge what they feel they need. The problem is the only way to change this is to have the people accepting the money change the laws that allow them to accept money in the first place. See the problem? In fact, the US Supreme Court ruled that a corporation is essentially the same as a person with the amount of money they can pour into a campaign fund. Meaning companies can essentially buy laws that benifit them.
  • I have a question about this. Can a foreign company just go to the US and decide to invest in infrastructure and win the market there?
    When you see how they are happy to invest in infrastructure here in Europe just so that they can stay competitive I wouldn't see why on of the major names here can't do the same in a state of the US.
  • Honestly, I only understand the fundamentals on this issue and can only really draw parallels from my current company (at a regulated electric utility). In this instance anyone is free to come build a power plant, but then they would have to pay to get on transmission lines and can only sell to my company serve the utility customers. This makes it cheaper for the regulated company to continue to operate as the sole supplier and provider. This only applies to regulated areas. We do have cities/states (such as Houston, TX) that actually have many companies compete to get their residential customers. They then pay whoever built the lines to then distribute to the customer's house. Being that telecommunications is a bit different than power (though fundamentally the same by being mostly copper/fiber lines), this might not be exactly the same. I am sure one company can't just transmit TV/Internet through another company's lines. If this is the case, then the investing company would not only have to build the transmission lines (main fiber trunks from data centers), but also build the distribution lines (copper/fiber) down residential streets to the houses, just to get their service to customers. This doesn't include the data centers they have to build to serve the customers. This is the reason emwhy Googles fiber everywhere stopped, why Virizon is only in limited areas, and why any improvements from the existing companies like Cox are only made in huge cities where they get the immediate return for investment. For this reason I essentially only have two choices. Cox which is the regulated cable provider and AT&T (who only provides DSL here, but is laying lines to compete with Cox) who is basically non-regulated at this point because they own every kind of company. I am also one of the lucky ones. In not in a rural area, but I'm not in a high metropolitan area either. I am about 15 miles from New Orleans, LA (which isn't a huge city, but a big enough one), so I get the benifits on being close to that area. People that live over 150 miles (or sometimes less than 30) from a major city may have NO option for high speed other than satellite internet.
  • Just after I posted, I started to think about what the US actually is. It doesn't have a strong population density.
    For comparison, the UK has less than 1/5th the population of the US but it's 1/40th smaller than the US. Even in bigger countries like France and Germany they remain small compared to the US.
    In the countries with a small population density like Finland and Norway most of the population are concentrated in a small areas of the country so getting them connected isn't too expensive. But installing cables is actually a small part of the problem.
    What you talk about speaks of a more global problem.
    I didn't know about Google fiber but looking around it looks like it was really expensive and companies like AT&T did everything it could to stop Google.
    If Google couldn't do it, then it means it's really difficult not just financially but also getting clearance by local government and according to them it was just not worth the investment. I don't see a solution for this. I think the government itself could do a lot if they take it onto themselves and build their own infrastructure. But that is unlikely to happen. And to make it worst it looks like the FCC seem to work for those few private internet providers and against the people...
  • You have pretty much nailed it on all accounts. Getting service to everyone in a state like Utah or Montana draws parallels to getting service to the rest of the non-connected world, while not technically impossible, it's extremely expensive. Where those stop is you don't have existing companies paying the people in power, who are supposed to look out for their constituents, to stop the progress of getting service to Kenya. This is the reason we also don't have basic public services like a high speed rail system. Even in the north east, where there are major populations and major cities within 150 miles of each other, we only have standard rail systems.
  • It's called legalized monopolies and antiquated laws that protect them. Consumers have no choice but to "accept" these terms because there is only one choice to begin with. In the situations where there isn't monopolies, there are limited choices. In the US we have 4 (bearly) mobile carriers. There will shortly be 3 if TMO buys Sprint. They could compete harder, but why would they? No one is going without their phones to try and lower prices or get better data deals.
  • UK has had unlimited data for over 15 years.
  • Every wants the best console, Phil
  • Nothing beats the Black widow with Scarlett.
  • Really? I thought Phil wanted Xbox to fail, miserably, and lose Microsoft billions of dollars.
  • Anyone ever wonder why they only discussed one version of the Scarlett console at E3? What if the specs that were given were actually for the Lockhart, that's the same amount of power as a PS5. Just imagine if next E3 they announce the real specs of the anaconda and it's utilizing the new 16-core ryzen chip that was just revealed 🤪😲🤯🤯
  • Because the previous rumors that the Lockhart edition was close to a revamped X1X is probably accurate, or they feel that they can release/announce it later and have the same impact to sales. It makes sense to lead with the one that has the power and then give the cheaper option a little later.
  • Or they could be faking out Sony, to have them thinking that the PS5 is on equal ground with the anaconda, but then next E3 announce the true power of the anaconda and drop the mic. Then it will be too late for Sony to revamp the specs for the PS5, because they'll already be in production and they'll just have to go with what they have. And then Microsoft can boast that their weakest console is as powerful as the PS5. 😁 Hey, let a man dream. Speculation is fun. All of the big-name YouTube bloggers do it all the time, (Madz, crap gamer, MBG,etc) but really have no clue what's going on themselves.
  • "I love this idea that I might be able to offer up my local Xbox One when I'm not using it for people who are walking around… from them to run from my local console…"
    I don't know about this when it comes to energy consumption. I don't know if gamers will really win that much if they allow their console to be shared.
    It almost looks like Spencer want his customers to help MS reduce cost by being servers to each other. Reducing server cost for MS in the process.
  • But the game will run with "the cloud"! 😜 There can be a benifit to shared computing power, especially if it allows you to run a game better locally with a cheaper system. But if it's just sharing server load to run a stream, then you are correct. I guess a plus side to it only being a server host is that you may be connected to someone a mile away vs 800, so less lag. If they could put the savings back into the system this could provide a lower cost as well. I think this is far future talk. This is along the same lines as I plug my electric car in at night and when it's done charing it becomes a networked battery to provide power back to the grid.
  • I can see the advantage of smaller lag time. But what does the one who let's his console be used get?
    Perhaps he gets money back from his subscription?
    Then there is the question of playing time. If they are talking about consoles in the same area, then we got to consider that gamers usually play at around the same time. There would be a lot more demand at certain timings with a lot less available consoles.
    Maybe there could be something similar to electricity consumption. Prices are less if you play at certain period. Or even going further paying depending on the amount of hours you play.
    If I only play few hours in a month, I wouldn't pay the whole 15 bucks, but a small percentage calculated on my consumption. But I got a feeling Spencer isn't thinking that way. I think he is just thinking of getting just about the same amount of money per subscribers and cut the amount of money put into maintaining servers.
  • This was a great article. I was one of the many that was concerned about Phil's choice of language during the presentation. His answers made sense and it's good to hear they are committed to having the most powerful console. Sign me up !
  • Let's hope MS release a hi quality products and services.
    The way things are headed with every man and his dog launching a game streaming service, the future looks to be an ugly fragmented mess.
    With any luck MS will have learnt the lessons from Windows Phone and provide a quality service priced right.
    It's going to be a massive battleground moving forward where only the very best will survive.
    5 years will see massive changes in the gaming industry.