E3: Microsoft reveals Xbox One successor, coming 2020

With this year’s huge E3 gaming conference hardly underway, Microsoft has revealed that its follow up to the Xbox One console, announcing that the machine is due to launch in 2020.

Code-named Project Scarlett, the coming console promises to be ‘four times’ as powerful as Microsoft’s current-generation Xbox One.

Console ‘power’, of course, is too complicated to exist on a linear spectrum where all games machines are comparable using a single metric. But thanks in-part to a custom processor, built by Microsoft in cooperation with semiconductor powerhouse AMD, Project Scarlett certainly appears to be a cutting-edge machine.

Capable of 120FPS and 8k display, it also supports real-time, hardware-accelerated ray tracing, which translates into remarkably nuanced lighting effects within games. The inclusion of a solid-state drive, meanwhile, is being pitched as a means to drastically reduce load times.

Phil Spencer, executive vice-president of Gaming at Microsoft, introduced Project Scarlett, suggesting it would be a machine predominantly built around gaming; perhaps an allusion to the Xbox One, which in its early days was seen my many to lean too heavily into being a ‘media centre’ for games, films, television and music, over being a games console in the first instance.

Microsoft teased with an image of a Project Scarlett board undergoing testing. CREDIT: Microsoft via BBC

What Microsoft didn’t share at yesterday’s briefing was Project Scarlett’s price, or what it will look like. We do know that the device will launch with Halo Infinite; the coming instalment of Microsoft’s esteemed, influential, and long standing sci-fi shooter series.

There were only hints about Project Scarlett’s cloud abilities. While Microsoft used the same press briefing to confirm that it will launch a beta version of its xCloud service in October, there were only hints as to how that might be part of the new console; albeit pretty explicit hints.

“When we talk about Xbox in the cloud, and when we talk about streaming your games, Project Scarlett and all of its power and all of its performance is the foundation of our future in console, and the formation of our future in cloud,” Spencer said.

There is, of course, no such chance that this E3 will bring more news around Sony’s next-generation PlayStation. The company is not attending E3 this year. It’s an unusual decision with regard to the tradition of E3, but Sony appears confident there are many other ways to engage industry and consumers with their coming machine.