5 things I want to see in the next-gen Xbox 'Scarlett' consoles

Microsoft is working on new Xbox consoles, codenamed under "Scarlett". We've heard that there will be two console releases, one more powerful SKU codenamed Anaconda, and a less-powerful, more affordable SKU codenamed Lockhart. Very little is known about Microsoft's plans for the new consoles, besides the obvious spec bump, but there are plenty of things the current Xbox consoles struggle with that could easily (and some, not so easily) be improved.

Here are a five things I want to see Xbox and Microsoft tune up for the next big console generation.

Speed up that OS

Probably the most annoying thing about the current Xbox One consoles, regardless of whether you're using an S or an X, is how clunky the OS generally feels.

The Xbox OS has improved by leaps and bounds over the years, but some of the trade offs have been the loss of features, such as snapped apps / picture-in-picture for media playback, among others.

The Xbox OS just feels a little unreliable and sluggish.

The OS just feels a little unreliable and sluggish, especially compared to the fluidity of some of its competitors. Booting up apps and games sometimes simply fails, for some reason, especially while the console is warming up from a fresh boot. "Getting your app ready," messages are frequent occurrences, which is annoying, particularly when Sony's PlayStation (opens in new tab) or Nintendo's Switch (opens in new tab) don't really suffer from similar hiccups. Navigation on the Xbox OS is also a bit and often jittery, with bloated, struggling store pages, with a large amount of ads splashed on the front page.

We have heard that the new Xbox consoles will indeed have a new OS, that hopefully focuses on fluidity, while adopting some of the newer Windows design language we've heard is coming with "Santorini" and other upcoming Windows Core OS platforms. The rumoured inclusion of SSD technology should also help speed up some aspects of the new consoles.

Improve the social experience

One of the coolest things about the PlayStation and Nintendo Switch is how easy it is to snip and share game clips across social networks, with capture buttons baked right into the controller. Sharing on Xbox One has improved, but it's still far removed from what Nintendo and PlayStation have done with their respective consoles.

I would love to see a sharing button baked directly into the Xbox One controller, complete with a fast and fluid method for trimming and sharing clips (with direct video embedding) to social networks. Twitter has been the social network of choice, but there's no reason Microsoft couldn't also incorporate Instagram, Reddit, and beyond, since all of these companies have APIs specifically designed for this purpose.

Hopefully, Microsoft will take the social sharing aspects of gaming a little more seriously next gen.

Better apps

One big pain point for me has been the Xbox apps across Android, iOS, and Windows 10. They all seem to follow the Xbox One OS tradition of being slow, bloated, and unreliable, and I would hope that with the next big Xbox push that Microsoft sees reason to improve the fluidity and functionality of these services.

Doing something as basic as right clicking to invite someone from your friends list, or indeed, even opening your friends list on the Windows 10 Xbox app comes with a painfully slow fade, which either feels like sluggishness-by-design, or some way to try and hide the slow speed of the data coming down from the internet. Either way, it just feels bad. It shouldn't be a painful process to simply right click and invite someone to a party, and it's things like this that have led to the popularity explosion of Discord, which is far faster, has far better features, and is updated far more often than the Windows 10 Xbox app.

There's no excuse for Microsoft, with one of the largest gaming communities on earth, should continue to have some of the slowest cross-platform messaging and group voice chat systems in 2019.

Let's accessorize

Xbox media remote

Xbox media remote (Image credit: Windows Central)

Microsoft makes a lot of custom, limited edition controllers, and most of them are truly awesome. However, some of the other Xbox accessories have either fallen by the wayside, or simply slipped out of production altogether. Hopefully with the release of the Scarlett consoles, we'll get a refreshed line up of accessories to go with it.

While it's unlikely we'll see Kinect re-emerge as an Xbox gaming accessory, we've heard for some time now that Microsoft is exploring VR for the next-gen consoles. Hopefully that will materialize alongside Anaconda and Lockhart for virtual reality fans. I mentioned it above, but I'd also like to see a new Xbox controller complete with a share button, and maybe even a built-in microphone button similar to the Google Stadia controller, for use with Cortana and other voice assistants.

It would also be cool if we got a refresh of the Xbox One media remote (opens in new tab), with dedicated buttons for YouTube, Netflix, and even Mixer, perhaps, alongside a built-in mic for Cortana / Alexa search gestures.

As a side note, with Project xCloud likely to be a big part of the Xbox next-gen refresh, hopefully Microsoft has given some thought to tactile portable controller accessories for phones, to save us from having to use touch commands.

Games please

This one is a bit of a given, particularly since Microsoft has responded to criticism by purchasing several new studios, as well as committing to growing out its internal teams with new talent. Studios like Undead Labs, inXile, 343i, and Rare are constantly seeking new staff, as they work on new content for Xbox gamers.

One of the biggest criticisms of Xbox this generation has been long periods of instability and non-committal in its platform-exclusive line-up. Sea of Thieves was criticized for its empty open world, State of Decay 2 was slammed for its lack of polish, and Crackdown 3 was, well, Crackdown 3. Microsoft has also disappointed fans with an array of high-profile cancellations, including Phantom Dust, Fable Legends, and of course, Scalebound, among others. Meanwhile, other promising potential franchises like RYSE, ReCore, and Quantum Break were dropped after a single game. There have been some gems, like Forza Horizon 3 and 4, Gears of War 4, and Ori and the Blind Forest, but the hits seem few and far in-between.

Next-gen is an opportunity to refresh Microsoft's image with consumers, and hopefully, part of that agenda will be a reliable cadence of high-quality platform-exclusive games.

Just be awesome

Xbox @ E3

Xbox @ E3 (Image credit: Windows Central)

This one is pretty simple: just be awesome.

Microsoft's launch of the Xbox One back in 2013 will go down in history as an example of how not to position your console at the start of a new generation, and while Microsoft has turned the good-ship Xbox around under the tutelage of Phil Spencer, it hasn't helped them catch up to Sony, and Xbox is poised to be overtaken by Nintendo Switch, despite how late Nintendo showed up to the party this generation.

Microsoft is positioning itself well for another shot with Xbox Scarlett and Project xCloud, both of which are expected to hit general availability sometime in 2020, with xCloud hitting previews in 2019. Project xCloud should, if priced competitively with a good content slate, bring Xbox to a huge new potential audience of mobile games, on any screen they so desire. That's hopefully going to lead to more investment in the core Xbox experience, designed for high-fidelity living room gaming, alongside Microsoft's attempt to re-engage PC gamers on Windows 10.

The pieces of the puzzle are all there, we just need to wait to see if they nail the execution.

What do you want to see from Xbox next-gen? Hit the comments and let me know!

Jez Corden
Managing Editor

Jez Corden is the Managing Editor for Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!

30 Comments
  • Hoping VR comes to next Gen Xbox - that'll be a huge deal not just from a consumer perspective but other industries that could end up using a gaming console to dive deeper into VR with wider accessibility. Plus, No Man's Sky is coming to PlayStation VR this summer so I would REALLY appreciate the opportunity to see that on Xbox 😅
  • Personally I really hope. Not. VR hasn't taken off. And I would much rather they put the R&D money into more studios and exclusives. VR is only important to a niche few million world wide. But exclusive RPGs etc can sell 10s of millions. I tried VR a year ago. Was fun for a week. After that, totally not interested.
  • That's not what you were saying few years back when VR was suppose to come to Scorpio. You seemed quite excited by the idea of powerful VR on consoles. Anyway it really depends what you call "niche". PSVR sold 4.2m, PC VR sold an estimated 4m. That's more than the number of players who played MS's best rated game this generation Forza Horizon 4 (including game pass members).
    Since it's less does that mean that we should stop making any game that sells less than 8.2m? By that logic we'll have a lot less games.
    Isn't more option better for gamers? Can't they invest on an RPG game AND on VR? After all Sony made an higly rated action RPG that sold very well like Horizon Zero dawn and made PSVR.
  • Less than 5% of its userbase? It's niche (with PC VR being EVEN MORE niche). Not sure where you're getting the figures for FH4 from either, as they've never announced sales figures for it (although it sold 500k in it's first week in the U.S. for physical sales alone according to NPD) and had 2 million concurrent users in the same week, so I think your reckoning is WAY off). As for HZD, it might have sold well, but it's most definitely NOT an RPG (but more of a derivative and overhyped Far Cry clone that I finished in just over a week of sporadic play, never to return to again). VR is a dead duck. The only reason Sony appear so invested is that they've lost millions in the R&D for it and don't stand a hope in hell of making that back and calling it a success until they get to around 10-15 million sold (which is unlikely to happen by the end of NEXT generation, let alone this one). Thankfully, Microsoft appear to have learned that expensive gimmicks don't sell consoles; price, performance and a good variety of games sell consoles, so hopefully that's what we'll see.
  • Wow What a reply!!
    So how do you define a niche product?
    We are talking about something that made 8.2 million people invest 100s of bucks on.
    Again it's about the numbers and the cost that it takes to get into VR.
    If you think that's niche than anything that sold less than that is also niche according to you. "Not sure where you're getting the figures for FH4 from either, as they've never announced sales figures for it "
    I hope you do know how to use google. But since you seem to have trouble here is a link:
    https://twitter.com/ForzaMotorsport/status/1086347583142866944 They announced it themselves. And again these are the number of players who played the game so it includes game pass members and even those who bought it used. "As for HZD, it might have sold well, but it's most definitely NOT an RPG (but more of a derivative and overhyped Far Cry clone..."
    I don't really care about your subjective personal opinion of this highly rated game but yeah it's an action RPG. Look at the genre in the official page.
    https://www.playstation.com/en-us/games/horizon-zero-dawn-ps4/
    Again you can use google to see the meaning of a action RPG or an RPG if you're confused about that. "VR is a dead duck. The only reason Sony appear so invested is that they've lost millions in the R&D for it and don't stand a hope in hell of making that back and calling it a success until they get to around 10-15 million sold"
    Really? So how much have they invested on VR? How much money are they losing? Do you have links and actual proof of the loss? I'm really interested to know about these numbers.
    Oh wait! Are you just making it all up from nothing but your imagination and speculation? Please don't tell me that's the case. :( "Thankfully, Microsoft appear to have learned that expensive gimmicks don't sell consoles;"
    Wait what's your priority here? "Selling consoles" or "providing options for gamers"?
    Are you a gamer? Is your priority gaming or a company? Anyway, next time please use google before replying to me. Thank you.
  • That was when Oculus was rumored. If it comes in the form of using the already available PC VR then fine. But I stated even then I don't want Millions of dollars spent on VR from MS. It's a waste of money. Oculus or Vive is fine. You and me both know you can't compare hardware to software. In terms of popularity. Horizon 4 is tracking ahead of Horizon 3 with launches aligned. Horizon 3 is over 12 million now. One of the most played exclusives of the Gen. The thing with Peripherals is they cost so much to develop. And then they cost studios development time to push it. Look at Kinect. It sold decent enough at over 22 million in 2 years. But took away studios from first party to develop for it. Meaning less normal AAA games. Unless it comes with every box sold its an utter waste of R&D. Even Google is entering the game market with no focus on VR. It's a fad that some are trying to pretend is still alive and relevant. I don't know anyone that still uses their VR headset. It just collects dust. As I said I really hope MS doesn't bother. And spends that money on proper AAA games and studios.
  • 1st time when VR came out, all I see was limitations. Then 1 team did some experiments / prototypes... proved my logic right.
    And MR without spatial mapping, is just VR.
    AR can do what VR can and can do what VR can't. Current VR suits better with amusement parks, no living room, not arcade center. VR hype comes from dreamers and businessmen tbh.
  • I agree 100%. VR is a fade that will come and go like 3D. Companies have been trying to get 3D to take off since 1922 (1st 3D movie was Power of Love), but it never did. 3D came and went lots of times. You don't see many TV's that are 3D anymore. That's been replaced with 4K. Sure you can still find them maybe but they are not big sellers like 4K is. As someone stated PSVR sold 4.2m and PC another 4m, that's a very small number considering the ~60 million+ on Xbox, ~2.71 billion smartphone users (2014-2019), ~85 million users on Epic game store, ~34 million users on Playstation+. So yes I'd consider VR a niche market just like 3D was.
  • Definitely a speedier UI. Hopefully they can include some kind of SSHD with a 120GB cache. Should be plenty of room for the OS and one or two games to be run from solid state storage. I have the Xbox One Elite and that does run a little smoother than my One X with it's SSHD. Especially the UI. I'd also like to see support for wheels and flight sticks be a lot better. I have the F1 rim for the thrustmaster TX wheel, with about 6 million buttons, but on Xbox you can only use like 6. Same goes with flight sticks. The one for Xbox is heavily stripped down. I understand that this could create certain advantages in multiplayer, but you can simple have a "pro" option or something like that. Being able to store your library on a NAS would be fantastic. They have the network transfer which is great, but you can't do anything on either console while it is transferring. Being able to ay from NAS would be fantastic too, even if it did increase load times etc.
  • With Xbox, if you have voice control configured, you can record game clips with a simple, "Hey Cortana, record that." and she'll auto-capture that past 30 seconds. With Kinect gone, I want an equivalent sign-in and voice control system. I use Kinect every day with my Xbox -- to turn it on, turn it off, login automatically with my face, launch games, record video clips, pause and resume play on TV and movies, and more. I certainly don't want to LOSE any of those features I use all the time. But I worry that we will, because MS doesn't seem particularly keen on voice control (unfathomably, given that it created both Kinect and Cortana). I'm ready to pre-order an update and jump to the new system on day 1 if it's not taking away features I love of the current Xbox One X with Kinect, but if I lose my media control and face-based login, not sure I'd upgrade at all. The main new things I'd like to see would be: 1. Minimum spec requirement of 4k 60fps, or at least something that strongly encourages developers to hit that (I realize that it may be better to leave the flexibility to developers to decide how to use the power of the new system). 2. Equivalent to the Elite controller. Love that thing. I'd also like one that works with standard Windows PC Bluetooth. 3. Better avatar and Gamertag icon integration in the Xbox OS and across Xbox apps on Windows and other platforms. 4. Cache/save 4k streaming so we can do that even over Internet connections that aren't quite fast enough to live stream 4k (25Mbps). I suspect the reason this is not permitted today is concern over the security -- if users are allowed to download the full 4k movie to play, that increases risk of piracy. So MS could address this by assuring the studios that Xbox is securing the movie. That would open up 4k streaming content to millions of additional users. 5. Ray Tracing technology like what nVidia is pushing with the new Turing chips and AMD is also working to catch up. That's the biggest advance in display technology since the original Xbox One. Let's see that included.
  • They've gone so far as to create Alexa support for voice control, I don't see them ditching it. The face login is more difficult, because the market strongly rejected Kinect. While I could see them providing Windows Hello support via a supported Webcam, I can't see it being a priority for the Xbox team. Maybe we'll get fingerprint sensors in the controller at some point though?
  • i want it to be modular in at least the GPU side.
    i also want them to not cheap out on the processor this time. it needs to be somewhat future proof.
  • the store connection is the slowest thing about the current interface. it doesn't populate very quickly. hopefully they fix that
  • Where is Jason Ward?
  • HDMI-CEC support to permit it to fully control the entertainment center. It's very close now. A mic for voice assistant control would be nice too, especially if Alexa could be set up as the default. It would be nice to be able to put my FireTV Cube on a secondary tv.
  • I've not had any slow or jittery. Although, the social aspect is not so clear. Maybe, they should have a Social Tab, with all things social within. You shouldn't have to dig to find stuff. As for a dedicated button, they could just use the home button. Double press, while in game will automatically capture 30 secs of game footage.
  • I'd like to see the new Xbox be a bit more modular in design where we'll be able to upgrade certain parts as the technology improves. Like a door giving access for adding additional RAM if we like, or faster speed RAM just like we do with laptops. Also a slot that makes it easy to swap out the HDD with a SSD, or a larger drive if we like, or even a faster drive as again, technology is always improving and this is what we do with laptops. Last would be a little more tricky, I'd be willing to take it to a MS store for this but, the ability to swap the processor for a faster one. Like if it came with a quad core 2.2 GHz processor, and lets say 9 months later the processor mfg introduces an updated processor that is 2.8 GHz, we could just swap it for the faster one.
  • That creates huge problems for developers and brings in PC like issues regarding compatibility.
  • This is what I was thinking. This will impact devolpers more than anything. It could also advesly effect the Xbox OS if they have to write it for every video card.
  • - usb-c
    - support for azure kinect
    - discless version
  • One thing Microsoft REALLY needs to improve is using a headset. If you use a virtual surround sound device, like a Soundblaster X7 or Astro Mixamp, the wire clutter is so ridiculous it seems like a sick joke. With my PS4, I can plug a USB dongle into the console, plug the headset into the X7, and you are done. Xbox One? 3.5mm splitter out of the controller, One end into a 3.5mm to RCA cable that goes into the back of the X7, microphone input into the other. It is such a pain that I don't even use my X7 when I need a mic. So I get stuck with the much worse virtual surround that the Xbox does. This is better than nothing, but not by much, as very few games currently have Atmos soundtracks. I am a big believer in great picture AND audio. I have some awesome headphone gear that I can't even use the majority of the time. Why, Microsoft, why? Design a small box that can handle microphone duties with a proper RCA output to plug into an external amp. Or maybe just a wireless microphone I can attach to any headphone. Design something, ANYTHING, that takes the controller out of the equation for headset use. The amp in the controller is, um........, not great. I have only found success using a headset into the controller that is extremely efficient (117dB/1mW). Most headphones are far less efficient, which makes getting decent volume (and sound quality), impossible. I love my Xbox One X, and it is gorgeous on a large 4K HDR TV. It would be much better if I could use the audio gear that would take the whole experience to another level. I am certainly not alone, and coming into this generation, I thought Xbox would do something in this space. It hasn't improved at all over the 360 concerning wire management. I can only hope that Microsoft sees how terrible their current situation is concerning audio for those who actually care. There are plenty of Virtual SS and headset discussions on Head-Fi, AVSForum, etc. I honestly have no idea the market, but I am sure people would love to unplug cables from a controller if they could (another huge complaint from wireless headset users is still having to PLUG their WIRELESS headset into the controller for voice). I hope this makes sense and they are already working on a solution. I am awaiting a really cool device for Dolby Atmos over headphones (Smyth Research A-16), and I won't be able to use it with a microphone without a cluster of wires in my lap. There has to be a better way going forward.
  • To be honest, Dolby and even more so atmos on a headset is a joke no matter how good the brand is... It's a marketing ploy more than anything else... Sure it's better than a stereo headset but come on how can you seriously think that it can spacialize properly even with all the software or hardware processing... And then you are talking wireless? Not even hi-fi in 2.0 is good over Bluetooth because of compression so Dolby and Dolby atmos are out of the question... I mean if we are talking about real audio lovers... Headset are good for one thing... It's to avoid bothering people around you otherwise go for 7.2.4 set up with actual AVC and speakers..
  • Going 7.2.4 isn't always feasible whether it be financial restrictions, renting, or simply space. Sure you can opt for a soundbar, but they are still limited as well.
  • Some of these are good points (especially accessories, I love the remotes!) But some seem unfair. Like taking screenshots and videos of clips is so much easier than ps4, hit guide than Y or X. The share button brings up a whole menu which isnt that great. Xbox doesnt need one. And while xbox has some speed issues sometimee, gotta say my PS4 takes way more time (on average) to do stuff, and has more steps as well.
  • Very good article.
    It's actually good when gamers actually say what's wrong with a system because that way things can improve. If people just try to defend a company no matter what they do just because they love that company then things will never actually improve.
    Criticising products and policies is actually good if we actually want things to improve. Now, on the points, I got to say the only one that counts for me is Games please.
    I'm hoping a lot from the initiative. And of the studios that were bought I'm hoping they are given financial support and are given freedom to make the games they want to make.
    That means 1) no pressure to make sequels, 2) No telling them to implement microtransactions or lootbox, 3) no pressure on release date, 4) no telling them what type of games to make.
    I just hope these studio stay independent when it comes to creativity and in making the game. I think if this happens then everyone will win, MS and XB will have a much improved image, these studios and devs will feel better and game quality will improve which is great for gamers.
  • You know the thing with other UI is that there's nothing there in the other ones, Xbox UI is all content. I never seen it slow but then I don't use anything else, so I don't compare it because they do not compare. I call BS because you can't compare nothing to a lot of stuff... 😑
  • Yeah, but for some people 90% of the UI is superfluous and completely unnecessary. So why should I have slowdown in my dashboard because of things I'll never use?
  • Alright, just my 2 cents here;
    1) Make it customizable, in the sense that that Xbox One X has a big black block on top, make the new one in a way that the top park can easily be screwed off and be replaced with another, that will cause a lot of developers to offer custom designs for their new games and also give the community a chance to do something to stand out from the crowd. Also give the schematic for the screws to design companies so that they too can make custom designs for the Xbox.
    2) Bring the UI / UX experience back to the basics. We are not looking for a PC like experience here, we want simplicity and clarity.
    3) Update the controller to have A,B,C & X,Y,Z in front, it will improve in fighting games and sim games. Also with the controller, assign a new type of battery system, as in, include the same AA batteries, but include the rechargeable type with a long enough USB-C to USB-A cable to charge the controller from the Xbox, and also enable play from it as well.
    4) Make a community shout out section, this will allow the community to report anything like the Feedback Hub on windows.
    5) Make the Xbox a pay as you go service, with a 2 year or 3 year contract, the person will get Live and Game Pass and at the end of the contract, the Xbox is theirs. This will bring in a lot more people who in other terms cannot afford the up front costs of any console. These my friends, I think will make for a better next Generation.
  • making the controllers have A,B,C & X,Z,Y isn't that good since it makes it that the controllers lose their style since xbox have had A,B & X,Y always and the percentage of people who play sim games and fighting games isn't that large so it would just be one large problem. Also the pay as you go idea is decent but if you cant afford xbox live which isn't even that expensive then you probably cant afford games either
  • What I want to see for Xbox is more Bluetooth capability like being able connect my wireless Bluetooth speakers to Xbox. And also would like the Xcloud to be used as a unlimited cloud service which can not affect your isp data caps when streaming. I really hope next gen Xbox will get more jrpgs and superhero DC or Marvel story driven games as well.