Project Scarlett: Everything We Know So Far About Microsoft's Next Generation Console
As the doors close on E3 2019, it can be tough to catch every detail from another busy week of game reveals, developer interviews, and new console teases.
With Sony taking the week off and Nintendo firmly entrenched in the Switch generation, it was Microsoft's time to discuss their next generation console.
While they left plenty of details for the year ahead, we still got a lot of new information of the console's specs, prospective features, and launch window. Here's everything we know on the next generation Microsoft console.
What is the official name of Microsoft's next console?
For over a year now, rumors pointed to the code name for the next-gen Microsoft games console as "Project Scarlett." As it turns out, those rumors were exactly true. On stage at their E3 presser, Phil Spencer confirmed the code name. It's very likely the system will eventually keep the Xbox moniker in some fashion, but for now the press, fans, and even Microsoft big wigs are calling it one thing: Scarlett.
When does Project Scarlett release?
If you're saving up to buy the next generation console from Microsoft, you'll be able to cash out with your new toy at the end of 2020. No firm date has been announced just yet, but Spencer confirmed a holiday 2020 window.
Historically, every Xbox has launched in mid-November. The original Xbox hit US stores on November 15th, 2001, while the 360 and One both launched on November 22nd (2005 and 2013) respectively.
It stands to reason that the next console will aim for a very similar window -- the Friday before Black Friday. As the shopping holiday is November 27th next year, we'd place our bets on a November 20th launch for Project Scarlett, but this is speculation for now.
Another aspect to consider is when the PlayStation 5 comes out. Team Xbox has famously trailed their Sony rival all generation long by a margin of more than two to one by some metrics, so they may seek to get out a week or more ahead of the next PlayStation, which is currently also anticipated to arrive before Christmas next year.
What are the launch titles for Project Scarlett?
As we are a year and a half away from the next Microsoft console, it should be forgivable that we only know of one launch title so far. Besides, it's a big one. Day and date with the Scarlett launch in 2020 will be Halo Infinite, the next game in Xbox's flagship series.
The original Halo cemented Xbox as a legitimate contender in the home console market and the last two decades of games wouldn't be the same without it, so it's a fitting first game announcement.
Beyond that, one may reasonably expect some other titles, such as the first next-gen Forza game, and probably a few new titles from their many newly acquired studios, depending on what's ready to reveal.
2020 also looks like a very busy year for games this still coming to current generation hardware, such as Cyberpunk 2077 and Final Fantasy 7 Remake. It stands to reason that we will see some current generation games get ported to the next generation and take advantage of the improved technical capabilities of those consoles.
Will Project Scarlett Be Backward Compatible?
Early indications are that Scarlett is being built to be very consumer-friendly for players carrying over their Xbox career and library to the next generation console. Microsoft released the last batch of Xbox 360 and original Xbox backward compatible games alongside announcing those 23 titles would be the last of the 600+ that will come to the Xbox One.
Moving forward, the back compat team at Xbox is focusing on making the Scarlett console fully backward compatibility with the Xbox One, and perhaps even offer as much as all previous generation games too.
Even more exciting, Scarlett will also be compatible with all current generation accessories, like controllers and hard drives. It seems as technology has moved to a more uniform assembly, with most things using stuff like Bluetooth and USB cables, the future is now forward compatible. Your expensive Elite controller can come along for the upgrade to the Scarlett nice and easily.
What are the specs for Project Scarlett?
While we don't know all of the console's specs yet, a reveal video from some of Microsoft's leadership did go into some detail about how powerful the console is looking so far.
Scarlett's internal architecture uses a hybrid, custom-built CPU built from an AMD Zen 2 framework and Navi GPU. In the video above, Microsoft execs tout currently absurd-sounding 8K resolution and frame rates up to 120 frames per second thanks to the DDR6 RAM.
The system will also feature ray tracing, the next big thing in visual fidelity, as well as a variable refresh rate. Ray tracing is a proprietary feature from AMD, but because they're working with Microsoft, players can expect to have the feature on the Scarlett when it arrives with its new name.
Like Sony's PS5 (assumed name), Project Scarlett will use a solid state drive, helping to deliver load times so decreased, they will in many cases be nonexistent. In the video, Microsoft's execs discuss what this may mean for the way they play games, calling it "the most immersive console experience ever."
All in all, it's promised to be four times more powerful than the Xbox One X, which itself is currently the world's most powerful console -- a phrase often boasted about among Team Xbox.
Will there be multiple versions of Project Scarlett?
The short answer to this is we don't know for sure yet. At E3 2018, Phil Spencer used the plural form, "consoles," to describe their next-gen plans. This would line up with the rumors that said Microsoft is developing two consoles concurrently -- these same rumors originally gave us the Project Scarlett moniker, mind you.
One console, described above, would offer the most powerful console experience the manufacturer has ever built, if not once again the world's most powerful console in general. The other is rumored to be something more akin to Google Stadia, a streaming-focused alternative for players who want the affordability and versatility of such a system.
This year, however, Spencer and his team alluded to just one "project," though a project can, of course, include two consoles still. Have plans changed? Perhaps, but more likely it seems they want to focus on their bigger, more powerful console now, and later they can assure financially strapped or streaming-focused players that they can get the next Xbox experience for a cheaper price tag.
We still expect a second SKU under the Project Scarlett banner, but we likely won't know for sure until next spring or perhaps not even until E3 2020. Of course, there's always the chance of another leak.
For now, we know there will be at least one next generation console from Microsoft that still uses a disc drive, even while the company also looks to build on their Project xCloud game streaming infrastructure.
Over the next 12 months, we will find out much more about Project Scarlett, but as of today, this is everything we know. What's your opinion of Microsoft's Project Scarlett so far?