Sony and Google have spared few details about their next-gen video game systems, but Microsoft has been quieter about how it plans to deliver games in the future. Sure we heard a few details about the console, codenamed Scarlett, and the cloud service, xCloud. We know these things exist. We just haven’t known what they’d look like, how powerful they’d be, or how xCloud and Project Scarlett might work together. Today, at the Microsoft Theater in downtown LA, Microsoft finally started giving us details.
The new console, available in the holiday season of 2020, is for now officially called Project Scarlett. As with the PlayStation 5 and Stadia, it’s based on hardware from AMD. As with the PlayStation 5, its custom system on chip is based on the Zen 2 CPU microarchitecture and the Navi GPU architecture. Also, like the PlayStation 5, it will feature hardware accelerated ray tracing.
Project Scarlett will use an SSD to accelerate load times and double as virtual RAM so that between it and the SoC, it should be plenty fast and deliver up to 120 frames per second. There’s also 8K compatibility. Microsoft claims it is four times faster than the current generation and will include backward compatibility, being playing capable of playing games from every previous generation of Xbox.
Alongside Project Scarlett Microsoft announced some details about the availability for its cloud gaming service, xCloud. xCloud should allow you to play all your Xbox games via the cloud and from either Microsoft’s servers, or by using your Xbox One as a personal server. Microsoft didn’t provide details on pricing or on how xCloud will work, but xCloud will be available for public preview starting this October.
Microsoft also showed off more of Xbox Game Pass, the subscription service for games. Since earlier this year, Game Pass has been available for $10 a month on the Xbox One. Subscribe, and you basically get Netflix for games. Today Microsoft announced that a curated list of games would also be available on Game Pass for PC for $6 a month, or for $15 a month gamers can subscribe to Game Pass Ultimate, which includes Game Pass for Xbox and PC, as well as an Xbox Live Gold membership (which is necessary to play multiplayer games with others).
Perhaps the most surprising element of the Xbox Game Pass announcement was Microsoft’s promise to deliver day one access for many games, including any made in house. That means games like the upcoming Gears 5 (the sequel to Gears of War) and Psychonauts 2 will be available to play for just $10 a month instead of the $60 flat fee typically demanded. Between this and Microsoft’s commitment to crossplay and cloud gaming, it feels like the company is leaning into accessibility and affordability in a way its competitors at Google and Sony are not.
All three versions of Game Pass are available today, and if you subscribe today, the first month will be only $1.
Also available to pre-order today is the Series 2 of the Xbox Elite Controller. Among new features, the Series 2 will including a rechargeable battery with up to 40 hours of life, joysticks with tunable tension, and a shorter travel distance on the rear triggers. It will launch November 4, for $180.
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