Xbox's premium console Project Scorpio has been a source of conversation ever since a 90 second trailer outed the device at E3 2016 almost 12 months ago. With manufacturer Microsoft saying very little about the system since, it's become a bit of a fan's fancy – there's been so much speculation on enthusiast forums like NeoGAF that some had convinced themselves the unit would tuck them into bed at night and make them porridge in the morning. But at some point the Redmond firm had to reveal the actual device in detail, and in collaboration with Digital Foundry it's done exactly that today: the specifications have finally been laid bare.
The reveal – a series of articles and videos published exclusively by Eurogamer.net's tech department – shows a degree of awareness on Microsoft's part: Sony tried to talk tech to the general consumer during the PlayStation 4 Pro's iffy reveal late last year, but architect Mark Cerny's ASMR-inducing speech brought about more yawns than yeehaws. It's worth mentioning, however, that a single Forza screenshot aside, the company's yet to publicly show any actual software running on the Scorpio itself – it'll still have to find a way to demonstrate the very real benefits of 4K resolution on shaky 1080p livestreams during E3 2017 later this year.
But that's a discussion for another website, so let's get to the topic at hand: will Sony be scared by the Xbox Scorpio announcements today? To be honest, it's about what the platform holder probably expected: Microsoft's new device is a step-up from the PS4 Pro without question, but then with a year of additional engineering – the system is still several months off at the time of typing – it would be catastrophic if it wasn't. The specs illustrate an advantage over Sony's mid-gen refresh in almost every department – memory and GPU specifically – but they're perhaps not enough to force a new generation like some had suspected. To be fair, Microsoft itself has always been very clear that the console is very much a part of the Xbox One family.
So, where does that leave Sony and the PS4 Pro? Well, in many ways, we still need to wait and see. Microsoft's always been adamant that it's engineering its new box with native 4K resolution in mind, and it seems like it's going to have the horsepower to deliver that in most cases. But this does raise a question of how beneficial such an ambition is in real practice: we've seen native 4K titles next to checkerboard rendered 4K titles side-by-side before, and the difference is honestly so minute that you need to press your face up against the screen – something even the experts at Digital Foundry have acknowledged in the past.
To be clear, there can be no doubt that a native resolution is always the optimal target, but you can reach a point of diminishing returns – will the Xbox Scorpio be able to justify a large enough advantage over the PS4 Pro to entice the masses? Considering that many don't really see the advantage of Sony's mid-gen refresh compared to the existing PS4 (or even Xbox One) then we reckon that the Redmond firm has its work cut out. However, it's perhaps worth mentioning that the memory boost may enable the use of higher-resolution textures, which could provide an advantage in pure visual terms.
So will Sony be worried – it's been using the "most powerful console" rhetoric efficiently for four years now, after all? It'll be intrigued, but not scared in our opinion. The thing with PlayStation is that it's shown since the start of the generation that it has its own strategy and it's unwilling to deviate from that. The company's plan was to refresh the entire PS4 hardware line in late 2016 with the PS4 Pro, PS4 Slim, and PlayStation VR, and that's what it delivered. This year seems to be all about riding the software wave while bringing costs down, and we reckon you can bank on price drops across the entire line regardless of the Xbox Scorpio's existence.
And this is perhaps the crucial thing: even Microsoft itself appreciates that the Xbox Scorpio has been designed for enthusiasts. Thus, there's no question that this year's biggest hardware sellers – if we remove the Nintendo Switch from the equation purely for the ease of conversation – will be the PS4 Slim and Xbox One S, both of which will hit $199.99 this holiday and will play all of the same games. It's in this that the Xbox Scorpio's strategy becomes a little more questionable: even at an expected $399.99 price point – Digital Foundry speculates it may actually cost more, but we reckon Redmond's ruse is to make people believe that and then deliver a surprise down the line – will it be able to deliver improvements that justify the price differential to anyone but the hardest of the hardcore? Heck, assuming Sony gets aggressive and drops the PS4 Pro's price to $299.99, will it be able to demonstrate an additional $100 of value upon that?
It's a question we simply can't answer with specs alone, but the emergence of a new king from a pure hardware perspective does mean that Sony may have to move its marketing in a slightly different direction this fall. It's going to be interesting to see how things play out, and it's going to be especially fascinating to see how much power played a part in the current sales gulf between the Xbox One and the PS4 – our guess is not very much at all. Still, we're eager to see the kind of line that Sony takes on the Xbox Scorpio moving forward, and whether Microsoft can make its new hardware sing to the degree that justifies an almost inevitable price differential – no matter how large that turns out to be.
Do you think that Microsoft's done a number on Sony with the Xbox Scorpio, or is a supercharged refresh coming at this point in the cycle a case of too little too late? What could the Redmond firm possibly do to encourage you to jump ship? How important is power to you? Do you think that the strive for native 4K is a valuable one? Get it all off your chest in the comments section below.