Xbox Scorpio Rumours and Pre-Conference Thoughts

In 4 hours Microsoft are set to finally unveil the last remaining details of Project Scorpio – we know the specs, we have seen the dev kit, but what does the box itself look like? Whats the final name? What will games look like on it? And finally, how much is it going to cost?

Rumours led by Geoff Keighley have been swirling in the last hour or so that is is going to cost $499 – other rumours along suggest it is going to be called “Xbox One <Something” I think both of these if true could prove to be mistakes.

Lets start with the name:

Xbox One was a stupid name in 2013, it was also stupid in 2014, 2015, 2016 and still is in 2017. “The all in one entertainment system” it sounded horrible when it was announced and it still does, it represented a supreme lack of judgment on what gamers wanted from a new console, a very flawed direction that proceeded to be like Theresa May calling a snap election when she didn’t need to: willingly shooting yourself in the foot and then not understanding you did it to yourself.

The Xbox One name has a lot of stigma around it, I largely believe Phil and co – the replacement management that shuffled around in March 2014 have done as good a job as they can in turning the boat around from launch although I do largely think there are still some big problems to discuss which maybe I will touch on later but they’ve still done a decent job of things and should be commended for that. Xbox One S was a nice refresh with a sexier box and some new marketing that seemed to do well for them and is a nice console but Scorpio should be the breakaway console: New name, new message, new promise – keeping the “Xbox One” part of the name doesn’t really say that to me, neither does $499.

Phil has said himself about how its a mid-gen refresh, not a new gen etc and that it’s all part of the Xbox One family which in itself I don’t disagree with but it should just be the Xbox family and ultimately all the decisions will live or die by the marketing Scorpio gets. I don’t think it’s that problematic to have a new name – my personal suggestion is Xbox 4 or Xbox 4k, whilst still conveying to consumers that games will work on both out of the box although im more than open to reasonable alternatives.

Xbox 4k or Xbox 4 are not glamorous but neither was PS4 – its functional and easy to understand, they named the Xbox 360 as such to avoid being seen as inferior to Sony on PS3 vs Xbox 2 – the about-turn on naming convention is indicative of the complete loss of their entire identity for Xbox One they went many  steps back with an inferior spec’d box that was priced higher and a whole 3 steps behind on the naming convention. Xbox 4k positioned well as a box which plays 4k content, some good coherent marketing will let 1080p people know they aren’t being left behind and good marketing should be an expectation not a wish or something you stumble on. As it is I thought things like the Halo 5 marketing along with the S  stuff was well done.

Putting a 4 in the name also lets them go with Xbox 5 vs Playstation 5 next time around as well, I’m not sure it’s particularly good for the brand to keep throwing in numbers up and down the spectrum, it makes it seem aimless, simplicity is usually the best option even if its less glamorous.

My hope for Scorpio was to break free from the mistakes of 4/5 years ago, spread your wings and hope the market responds, from a branding perspective I would really expect this to have been the main priority, it seems the most obvious one. I can afford $499, it’s not a case of my wallet stretching too far, I just hoped it would be a box to reinvigorate the division across their key markets and maybe across the globe. Maybe they will still have this with Xbox One and $499, but I think it makes it less likely.

Xbox One

Next up is price, the $499 talk… is it a ruse? Is it trying to set expectations? Do MS want their mic drop moment?

The Xbox One was $499 because of Kinect and ultimately it was a disaster for them, they ripped it out, got the price down recovered as best they could from there but Sony have made it very clear they see $399 as the maximum entry price for a console, the Switch is $299, even with the Xbox One S hovering at a lower price a greater than $200 price gap between them seems excessive, you might want it to be a premium product to appeal to a certain group but surely they should be making Scorpio a big viable platform? At $499 its going to be a niche for a long time, I don’t think it does much to help them and push the brand on if it’s so expensive it doesn’t help kick the brand on.

My opinion is also that $449 is a bit of an odd price-point, you lose the mind-share of the 3 at the beginning and don’t get the profit of $499, does the extra $50 impact sales that much? Perhaps it does, would still be an odd one though and I expect them to either hit on $399 or $499.

Scorpio is a powerful machine and it seems like a well thought out box, Phil said they didn’t want to compromise their vision with a weaker box in 2016 and that is admirable, if you don’t believe in what you’re peddling then its hard to sell it which might explain why we got very few coherent responses about Xbox One plans in May to June 2013.

Before I move to the games I’ll discuss the last aspect of Scorpio itself: the box. I am undecided between black and white, I suspect a sleek black box is coming our way and it wont look like the Xbox One S or dev kit exactly, im sure MS said it looked quite different but it will also be small. Hard to say much more than this but yes, sleek small black box is the prediction.

We will have to see what the conference gives us on these points in a few hours, I’m still very excited for Scorpio and hope they can pull it off, for the last bit I’ll focus on the most important thing: the games.

From third-parties we will have Madden probably getting a mention along with Bioware’s new IP: Anthem which MS are betting big on, I am excited to see this and think they will go hard on it, hopefully Bioware can convince they still got it.

I also expect Assassins Creed Origins and Middle Earth Shadow of War to be present, hard to know what else they could have from a third-party perspective with Sony locking up a lot of other big games. Something else from Ubisoft like maybe Splinter Cell? Deep Silver – Agents of Mayhem, Metro or Dead Island 2 switching to MS after it was at Sony’s 2013 conference pre-reboot? Capcom could have something like Capcom Vancouver new IP? A revival or something. Square Enix got something MS would want to push? With EA going back to Sony for Fifa could we see PES be part of the MS show? Joined by Metal Gear Survive, the game everyone wants!

The list could go on but I suspect it wont be barren from a third-party perspective, MS may even get to mention some of the big Sony games are 4k on Scorpio, that was the rumour.

An out there prediction is perhaps Remedy’s new game – coming to PS4, Xbox One and PC but could the previous MS/Remedy relationship see them doing some marketing deal? It is also thought Quantum Break is getting a Scorpio patch.

On the exclusive front we can definitely expect the following to be there: Crackdown 3, State of Decay 2 and Forza Motorsport 7 this holiday and Sea of Thieves for 2018, Ori and the Will of the Wisps had a leak today, unless I missed a date on those leaks my expectation is early 2018. Halo 6 is allegedly not going to be there so in its place I expect Halo Wars 2 DLC will be mentioned, I don’t really believe the Gravemind rumour.

Outside of that its hard to know what else they’ve got as there are no internal studios unspoken for except for The Coalition who are updating Gears 4 and making Gears of War 5 you’d assume, maybe the Splash Damage Gears team is doing something new and outside of Studio Gobo based in Brighton, UK we don’t know of any other new partnerships, a few surprises would be nice.

Finally, what games already out will get Scorpio upgrades? ReCore Definitive Edition, Halo 5 Guardians, Gears of War 4, Forza Horizon 3, Quantum Break, Halo Wars 2 are all the expected ones, perhaps we will get lucky with Dead Rising 4 and Sunset Overdrive along with some big third-party titles.

Hopefully its a great show with something for everyone, not long now.