Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) kicked off this weekend in Las Vegas, and – amidst the game trailers, announcements, and celebrity appearances (Keanu Reeves promoting Cyberpunk 2077 was an immediate fan-fav highlight of the weekend) – we’ve also seen a lot to be excited about on the hardware side.
One standout that’s gotten well-deserved buzz is Microsoft’s Project Scarlett, the next-gen iteration of Xbox. Since the first Xbox’s 2001 release, the console has stood as a common sight in gamers’ dens alongside other industry mainstays like PlayStation and Nintendo’s various platforms, from Wii to Switch. But, as gamers’ demographics and expectations change, the consoles they play on have to evolve, too.
During Sunday’s Xbox E3 2019 briefing, Xbox head Phil Spencer dropped some unsurprising but nonetheless weighty stats: In under twenty years, the numbers of gamers in the world has more than tripled. He stated that there are now more than two billion players around the world. (A quick Google search puts that into perspective as about a quarter of the world’s population, as of 2017.)
While “two billion players” sounds routine enough at first blush, the scale can be startling when you look at the broader picture. This is no niche market, and the “gamer” is not previous decades’ stereotype of the loner in their basement. Today’s gamers are your spouse, friends, kids, coworkers – people whose demand nudges the market, from e-sports leagues to the devices that families gather around in their living rooms.
As gaming joins movies and music to be just another entertainment staple, expectations rise for what’s next. Cinematic graphics, celebrity performances, fully connected co-op, and more elements of modern, triple-A titles and indie darlings alike need the hardware capabilities to support them, after all.
Microsoft has provided us their answer to “What’s next?” in the form of Xbox Project Scarlett, the codename for their upcoming, immersive console that is the successor to the Xbox One. Set for release in late 2020 with Halo Infinite as its premier launch title, the console will “set a new bar for console power, speed, and performance,” Spencer stated.
The hardware that’s going to help it manage this lofty goal is just as ambitious, with the console built around custom chip hardware engineered by AMD – the Zen 2 processing unit. This processor, backed by an AMD Navi-based GPU, is four times more powerful than the Xbox One’s CPU, according to Spencer’s statement. Scarlett will support its powerhouse performance using high-bandwidth GDDR6 system memory and a solid-state drive (SSD), which will speed along load times of scenes and levels so that players have swift, seamless, uncompromised experiences. Microsoft expects Scarlett’s SSD to deliver forty times the efficiency of Xbox One’s drive.
As the next gen of consoles looms, we’re seeing how the big players have had to up their game. Sony’s PlayStation 5 is also in the works, and it shares Project Scarlett’s foundation of an SSD and AMD chipsets, in addition to ray-tracing capabilities that will take the graphics of both consoles to a new level.
The showing of games at this year’s E3 offers yet more evidence that games are continuing to evolve as a form of both entertainment and art. This next echelon of quality, performance, and capabilities is made possible by the components that enable the immersive experiences that matter to players.
We’re excited to keep an eye on how electronic components will continue shaping this dynamic (and feverishly growing) industry.
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