While the Xbox One X takes the crown as the most powerful video game console on the market, Microsoft is looking forward to what comes next. An upcoming Xbox device codenamed "Scarlett" looks to be the next major iteration of the console, with interesting details already beginning to surface.

Xbox Scarlett hardware will 'set the benchmark'

Could there be multiple Xbox One consoles on the horizon?

Back in 2017, we reported on an unannounced Xbox product in development, bearing the codename "Scarlett." While we'd heard mention of hardware in the works from various sources, we knew little about what the project entailed. Fast forward to E3 2018, Xbox head, Phil Spencer wrapped up its annual press conference with a teaser for what lies ahead. Reiterating the company's commitment to industry-leading hardware, Spencer confirmed its hardware team is "deep into architecting the next Xbox consoles." Boasting its "commitment to set the benchmark for console gaming," this lays the foundations for the rumored Scarlett project.

Rather than a single console, several reports indicate Xbox Scarlett is a family of devices broken into several tiers. It's unclear what scope of variety we should expect from the Scarlett family, though these will likely be tailored to separate gaming audiences. While a high-end console would draw enthusiasts, a low-cost unit similar to the canceled "Project Hobart" could pair with its upcoming game streaming service.

After shifting from PowerPC architecture to AMD x86-based processors, we expect Microsoft to stick with similar hardware for its next console. AMD CEO, Dr. Lisa Su, has previously discussed ongoing efforts to help deliver Microsoft's next Xbox "secret sauce," indicating its partnership is still underway.

As seen in past Xbox consoles, we also expect a new AMD graphics processing unit (GPU) to be used. The Xbox team is also sourcing an electrical engineer specialized in GDDR6 according to a career listing, indicating it plans to use this faster, more efficient graphics memory going forward. This signals a substantial GPU upgrade is on the way, with an accompanying central processing unit (CPU) boost assumed too. Further backed by a report from Brad Sams, AMD's Zen 2 CPU architecture and next-generation GPU technology are likely candidates.

Xbox Scarlett features: Forward compatibility, improved graphics, game streaming

No need to worry – Xbox Scarlett should support your existing games and apps.

Microsoft has previously suggested an end to console generations, instead focusing its resources on Xbox One revisions going forward. The Xbox One X was an exemplary execution of this concept, delivering a significant mid-generation hardware upgrade while maintaining compatibility with the existing library. Like the incremental smartphone model, such an approach allows Microsoft to introduce new hardware to a single platform.

Leveraging the same universal Windows 10 kernel, Xbox Scarlett should further build on the foundations of Xbox One. While this console generation first saw countless features missing from the Xbox 360, we expect Xbox Scarlett to maintain harmony with previous games, apps, and features.

If hardware upgrades are on the way, we can also assume enhanced graphical capabilities too. While the Xbox One was marketed as a "true 4K" console, many games still fail to deliver in tandem with a high frame rate. With 4K steadily becoming a standard in gaming, we expect Xbox Scarlett games to hit this resolution at 60 frames per second (FPS) without comprising other graphical features. Although 8K (7,680 pixels x 4,320 pixels) at 60 Hz is achievable under the revised HDMI 2.1 standard, it'll be some time before it's commonplace.

Other newly-added future-facing features like 120Hz support, variable refresh rates (VRR), and auto low latency mode (ALLM) could have a greater presence on Xbox Scarlett too.

Could Xbox game streaming make its debut in tandem with Xbox Scarlett?

Microsoft's commitment to deliver "console-quality games streaming" also likely ties into the Xbox Scarlett vision, via its newly-unveiled technology, Project xCloud. Packing custom Xbox consoles stripped-down into server blades, the firm is building a dedicated backbone for remote cloud gaming across the globe. Following the success of its subscription-based Xbox Game Pass, this will further expand the availability of full-fledged experiences to PCs, tablets, and phones. Spencer previously indicated a launch by 2020 and Xbox Scarlett could complement this.

So what about that long-promised virtual reality? Ahead of the Xbox One X launch, Microsoft discussed plans to bring VR to the console. While VR was the hot industry trend at that time, talk of the technology on Xbox has since dwindled. Speaking to GamesIndustry.biz, chief marketing officer, Mike Nichols stated the team doesn't have "any plans specific to Xbox consoles in virtual reality or mixed reality." At least for now, Xbox VR isn't looking likely.

Xbox Scarlett games and apps

Microsoft took five new studios under its wing at E3, establishing a strong future for Xbox.

With only a brief mention of new consoles from Microsoft, it's unclear which titles are targeting the system. Many upcoming Xbox One games will likely be playable on the consoles regardless of formal support, as a result of forward compatibility. Among these should be Halo Infinite, Gears 5, and upcoming Forza games – all which could get upgrades too.

Microsoft added five new game development studios to its portfolio in June, with two more just months later, doubling down on its commitment to top-tier first-party games. Among these is "The Initiative," a new studio based in Santa Monica, alongside Playground Games, Undead Labs, Compulsion Games, and Ninja Theory. Projects like Playground Games' rumored Fable title and other creations of these studios will likely make an arrival on Xbox Scarlett. Third-party developers are also investing in the future, with Bethesda already claiming that Starfield and The Elder Scrolls VI are targeting next-generation systems.

Xbox Scarlett release date and pricing

Microsoft is yet to confirm a launch window for the next Xbox consoles, though multiple reports indicate the team is targeting 2020. This would position the revisions three years after the launch of Xbox One X, and shortly ahead of Sony's PlayStation 5 scheduled for 2021. If true, there may be talk of Xbox Scarlett at E3 2019.

As always, plans can change, so take the rumored roadmap lightly. There's also currently no indication of price, but we could see different price points between different devices under the family.

Your thoughts on Xbox Scarlett

As always, we'll continue to update this article with new information as it becomes available. What are you most looking forward to from Xbox Scarlett? Let us know in the comments.

Updated December 12, 2018: We've refreshed this article with the latest details on Scarlett.

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