A new Xbox One hardware design could be on its way soon. That’s what some are taking away from comments Microsoft’s Phil Spencer made about the future of Xbox hardware and how new thinking is changing the way companies make and maintain their platforms.
Spencer’s comments came during last week’s Xbox & Windows Media Showcase, according to reports. Microsoft hosted the Spring Showcase to highlight some of the games debuting before its event at the Electronic Entertainment Expo this June. The show was stuffed with gameplay from Quantum Break, Gears of War Ultimate Edition, Forza Motorsport 6: Apex and more.
Before showing off any of the games, Spencer set the tone for the event with a speech about where he sees the gaming industry moving and his vision for Xbox.
“When you look at the console space, I believe we will see more hardware innovation in the console space than we’ve ever seen,” Polygon quotes Spencer as saying at the event.
“You’ll actually see us come out with new hardware capability during a generation allowing the same games to run backwards and forward compatible because we have a Universal Windows Application running on top of the Universal Windows Platform that allows us to focus more and more on hardware innovation without invalidating the games that run on that platform.”
Universal Windows Applications are the apps that are available in Microsoft’s Windows Store. The company created them with the idea that app makers and game developers would be able to create one thing and have it run on Windows PCs, Xbox consoles, phones and tablets. Spencer goes a bit further though, outright comparing the hardware life-cycle of the Xbox One to Windows PCs.
Polygon reports that Spencer suggested that the Xbox One might see “optional hardware upgrades.” These add-ons would, in theory, allow Xbox One owners to add more horsepower to their Xbox One console at regular intervals. For example, to get a game to run with at 4K resolution, users would add an attachment to their Xbox One to boost its graphics processing power.
In theory, the idea is brilliant – provided Microsoft goes through with it at all. Being able to add more horse power to a console in an easy way would take away one of the biggest advantages that PC gaming has. Right now, PC gamers can update their rig with more RAM and new graphics cards to get better performance for the latest games whenever. Video game consoles don’t see huge internal power upgrades over their lifetime.
In fact, big graphics improvements never come until that console is ready to be replaced. The Xbox One launched in 2013. Before then, Xbox games hadn’t seen major upgrades hardware-wise since 2005 when the Xbox 360 launched.
If there’s one problem with this scenario it’s that it could complicate the lives of console buyers. Typically, users buy a video game console because they want a cost-effective way to get the latest video games.
The best part about owning a console is that there are no upgrades to worry about. Every game that is made for the Xbox One works on every Xbox One. Introducing hardware add-ons that boost the power of a console for newer games could mean that those without the add-on buy a game only to realize that they can’t play it.
Spencer didn’t go on to confirm that Microsoft absolutely has a plan to introduce a new Xbox One console that supports add-ons for boosting processing power. In fact, it seems that he refused to comment on the company’s future Xbox hardware plans at all after his speech was done.
The Xbox One is on store shelves now for as little $349.99. That base model comes with 500GB of storage. The Elite Xbox One console has 1TB of storage and a hybrid drive so that it starts up faster than other Xbox One consoles.