Microsoft’s Project Scarlett: Everything we know about the next-gen game consoles

Everything We Know About Microsoft's Next-Gen Consoles, Anaconda and Lockhart

It’s been more than five years since the launch of the Xbox One, and the console has changed significantly over that time. With the discontinuation of Kinect, a full redesign of the Xbox One S, and major enhancements of the Xbox One X, the Xbox One has had quite an incredible run.

But revisions like these can only get a console so far, and it has us thinking about what comes next. Rumor has it Microsoft is working on the next generation of consoles, and quite a few details have emerged about the next gen, known only as Anaconda and Lockhart — and collectively codenamed Project Scarlett. Here’s everything we know about the next Xbox console.

A next-gen Xbox is underway

xbox scarlett rumor roundup phil spencer
Phil Spencer, Head of Gaming at Microsoft, onstage at an Xbox E3 2018 briefing where Microsoft added five more creative teams to the Microsoft Studios family.

During Microsoft’s E3 2018 presentation, head of Xbox Phil Spencer revealed that Microsoft is currently designing the architecture for the next generation of Xbox consoles. The team working on the project is the same one behind the Xbox One X.

Curiously, Spencer said “consoles” rather than “console” when announcing this news during the conference. We’ve heard reports that Microsoft could be planning more than one console, possibly in an attempt to capitalize on both casual and hardcore players.

This rumor was further elaborated on and corroborated in a report by Windows Central, which said Microsoft was planning two consoles code-named “Lockhart” and “Anaconda” for release in 2020. “Lockhart” will apparently be a device similar in power to the Xbox One X and will be priced lower, while “Anaconda” will be a more powerful console aimed at the dedicated gaming audience.

Project xCloud

Sony’s PlayStation Now subscription service allows PlayStation 4 users to stream games from the cloud instead of buying and downloading them outright, and in Japan, the Nintendo Switch has even flirted with this for Resident Evil 7.

No such service exists on the Xbox One, but during Microsoft’s E3 2018 presentation, Phil Spencer revealed that his team is currently developing cloud gaming technology that will allow you to play console-quality titles from several devices.

This service was later revealed to be called Project xCloud, and it will allow Xbox games to be played on a variety of lower-powered devices such as mobile phones, and they will be able to use Bluetooth-powered Xbox controllers, as well.

To bridge the gap, Microsoft is reportedly planning to release an Xbox One S model without a disc drive in 2019, aimed to cut costs for those looking to buy the system late in the generation. Should xCloud be ready by then, it could potentially make use of the service, as well.

However, it’s very unlikely that the next Xbox will drop support for discs. The Xbox One S and X are the only two consoles on the market that support 4K Blu-ray discs, and with internet speeds still slow in much of the United States, physical games still serve a purpose.

PC-like architecture

As Microsoft continues to blur the line between console and PC gaming, it appears Xbox Scarlett could reflect this in its architecture. A leak of alleged technical specifications for the console appears to confirm that it will make use of a discrete GPU, which it calls the “Arcturus 12.” Because the name of the chip is given rather than the processor, PCGamesN speculated that it is actually a discrete standalone GPU rather than an integrated piece of a larger board.

If true, it would potentially also make it easier to repair the console if it were damaged, as the GPU would be simpler to remove and replace than the entire motherboard.

Backward compatibility

The Xbox One introduced backward compatibility with Xbox 360 games a few years ago, and it eventually added backward compatibility with original Xbox games, as well. It appears this will continue with the next generation of Xbox, though what form this will take remains unclear.

Speaking to Eurogamer, Phil Spencer said he is “very proud of [Xbox’s] track record of compatibility” and that he wants to respect players’ previous purchases. Nothing concrete was revealed, but this certainly makes it sound like Xbox One games will be supported on the next Xbox.

In Windows Central’s report, it was said that the next-generation Xbox systems will be fully compatible with all games available on Xbox One — including those originally released for the Xbox 360 and original Xbox. If this is the case, it also makes it more likely that it will include a disc drive in order to confirm ownership of older physical games before installation.

Virtual reality won’t be a reality

sony playstation vr virtual reality arcades psvr headset 01

Mike Nichols, Microsoft’s Chief Marketing Officer for Xbox, squashed the rumors about virtual reality support by telling Gameindustry.biz that “We don’t have any plans specific to Xbox” for VR, or even mixed reality.

The “specific to Xbox” phrase could give Microsoft an out since it’s possible the company could bring over technology from Windows. Still, that seems like a long shot, because Microsoft has struggled there, too.

The hardware will be similar, but quicker

There are no firm rumors about what will be in next Xbox, but there’s also not many options. Both Microsoft and Sony currently use x86-based processors, like those found in PCs, with the latest console generation. They also use AMD to build graphics. Both those solutions remain the most sensible, so it’s unlikely we’ll see anything different in the next Xbox.

That said, the follow-up — or at least “Anaconda” — will, of course, be more powerful than the Xbox One X. The architecture of the current Xbox One and Xbox One X suggest the company has many opportunities for improvement. It could increase the CPU core count, change the CPU architecture, or upgrade to a new GPU architecture, like AMD’s Vega or perhaps even Navi, which isn’t yet in production but is on AMD’s roadmap.

Code-named ‘Scarlett’ and coming in 2020

According to Thurrott’s Brad Sams, the next Xbox consoles are being collectively code-named “Scarlett,” similar to how the Xbox One X was referred to as “Project Scorpio” before its final name was revealed. Windows Central said this is the name for the family, rather than the individual systems.

The same reports claimed the systems are planned for release in 2020, which would fall in line with Microsoft’s general timeline for hardware launches. The Xbox 360 was followed by the Xbox One eight years later, but that was an unusually long time for a console generation. Given the relatively low sales numbers for the Xbox One since its launch, expediting this process seems likely.

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