Project Scarlett is the next Xbox console, launching in holiday 2020

Project Scarlett is the next Microsoft video game console. Phil Spencer, executive vice president of gaming at the company, announced the hardware during Microsoft’s E3 2019 press briefing.

“The console should be optimized for one thing and one thing only,” said Spencer, “gaming.” Spencer explained the console has been developed by the team responsible for the Xbox One X.

A promotional video featuring various Xbox employees promised variable refresh rates, real-time ray tracing, 8K resolution and frame rates up to 120 frames per second, and a new SSD that has upwards of 40 times better performance over the current generation. The tech at the heart of the console — which Microsoft said is four times as powerful as the Xbox One X — will be a custom chip based on AMD’s Zen 2 and Navi technology.

Last year, through press events and a series of leaks, we learned Microsoft had begun designing a suite of next-generation hardware under the codename “Scarlett.” The company planned to release at least two pieces of hardware, a higher-end traditional system codenamed “Anaconda,” and a lower-cost, streaming-focused device codenamed “Lockhart.”

Here’s how The Verge described rumors of the two devices in December 2018:

Codename Anaconda will be the equivalent of the current Xbox One X, with improved hardware and processors / graphics from AMD. Anaconda may also include SSD storage to reduce game load times. Microsoft is also reportedly preparing a second console, codenamed Lockhart, that will act as the more affordable Xbox (think Xbox One S). Naturally, both of these consoles will fully support existing backward compatible Xbox and Xbox 360 games, and of course Xbox One titles.

“Anaconda” appears to be what we now know as Project Scarlett.

Cloud gaming and subscription services will likely be central to both consoles (assuming the Xbox team still has plans for “Lockhart”) and Microsoft’s grander ambitions in gaming.

In May, Microsoft announced plans to expand its popular Xbox Game Pass Service to PC. For $9.99 a month, Game Pass lets subscribers download unlimited games from a ever-changing library of over 100 games. All new Xbox first-party games are available on the service they same day they’re released.

Rumors suggest the Game Pass could eventually tie to Microsoft’s xCloud service. Similar to Google’s Project Stadia, Project xCloud will stream games to PCs, consoles, and mobile devices. In February, rumors circulated that Game Pass or xCloud could eventually appear on the Nintendo Switch.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has promised public demos of xCloud within the year. An Inside Xbox demonstration in March showed Forza Horizon 4 streaming onto a smartphone via xCloud.

By contrast, Sony has revealed details about the PlayStation 5 through a handful of comments and presentations on its specs. The console will feature ray-tracing, a solid-state drive, and support 3D audio and resolutions upward of 8K. It will also be backward compatible with PlayStation 4 games. For the first time in over two decades, Sony chose not to participate in E3.

Though Microsoft has revealed its next-generation hardware, the company appears equally determined to broaden the reach of Xbox beyond official Microsoft systems. During the E3 press event, Spencer announced xCloud will be demoed at E3 2019.

We will likely learn more about its unique approach in the coming months.

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