Microsoft hasn’t made any significant changes with the processors and other internals included inside the $399 Xbox One that’s launching on June 9th, but it has confirmed that game developers will have slightly more power to create new games with starting this month.
Head of Xbox, Phil Spencer announced that the software development kit rolling out to developers this month would give video game makers more graphics processing bandwidth to play with when creating their games, saying “June Xbox One software dev kit gives devs access to more GPU bandwidth. More performance, new tools and flexibility to make games better.”
The change is just another one of the steps Microsoft is taking to ensure that developers have the resources they need to create games that look just as great on the Xbox One as they do on Sony’s PS4 gaming console.
Microsoft has taken no end of criticism for the slightly downgraded resolution of Xbox One games when compared to their PS4 counterparts. Most users would be hard pressed to tell the different between versions of the same game on both platforms, but that doesn’t mean hard-core gamers haven’t turned the design decision to reserve some processing power for core Xbox One function into a weak point.
In a statement released to Eurogamer Microsoft makes it pretty clear how it’s giving developers the extra processing power. The June Xbox One Update actually hands over some of the graphics processing power and other resources that Microsoft reserves for system operations & Kinect, to developers do what they wish with it.
“Yes, the additional resources allow access to up to 10 per cent additional GPU performance. We’re committed to giving developers new tools and flexibility to make their Xbox One games even better by giving them the option to use the GPU reserve in whatever way is best for them and their games,” one statement reads.
To be clear, users themselves won’t see a boost in the amount of power available to their games by unplugging the Kinect 2 sensor from their console. Microsoft is just sending updated game making tools directly to developers to take advantage of the extra power. They’ll have to decide how to use it on their games on a case by case basis, though Microsoft says its working with studios on how what the best use of this processing power.
For what it’s worth, Microsoft is treading into very dangerous territory by doing this. For now, it doesn’t appear as if users at home will see any difference, that is to say they’ll still be able to give voice commands to their console at any time, even while playing games. If that’s not the case and users notice that this effects what they can do with their Kinect 2 sensor and Xbox One while gaming Microsoft could be in for another backlash – this time for users who purchased an Xbox One with the Kinect 2 sensor and don’t mind games not running with a 1080p resolution at 60 frames per second as long as they get the features they were promised. There’s also no going back on this move either. Processing power is like toothpaste; once Microsoft has handed it over to developers it won’t be easy to take it back for features down the road.
Xbox One naysayers do have a point. Game developers have gone on record saying that it’s hard to hit 60 frames per second – a measure of movie-like a game feels, really – while having a high-resolution on Xbox One games. Microsoft uses those resources to power things like the Xbox Snap multitasking for example. It allows Microsoft to differentiate its console. It also allows PS4 fans to beat Microsoft over the head with talk of resolution every change they get.
There’s no word on when we’ll see the first games to take advantage of this graphics processing boost. Developers will get the option to use this extra 10% processing boost on all versions of the Xbox One, not just the $399 console debuting next week.