As 2016 winds down, the rumor mill is running at full power with expectations for 2017. Microsoft's upcoming 'Scorpio' console hasn't escaped the rumor mill's churn, despite the fact that it will not become available for purchase until late 2017.
We've covered in the past that the only reason Microsoft announced 'Project Scorpio' already is because it didn't want to have to deal with raging fans wondering where a PlayStation 4 Pro competitor is. To that end, Microsoft has been kind enough to give us a couple of specs, so we're not totally oblivious to what we'll be dealing with at launch.
With the PS4 Pro, Sony delivered a more powerful PlayStation that can play every single PS4 game ever released, and will continue to support every PS4 game going forward (just like the original system). Project Scorpio aims to replicate that and will be there for those who want to splurge for a (much) more powerful option, but those not upgrading won't have to worry about not being able to access an exclusive game title.
Also similar to the PS4 Pro, Scorpio won't magically enhance every previously-released title, though there's no doubt that Microsoft will lead the pack with game updates that complement the improved hardware. So far, the PS4 Pro-supported title rollout has been less-than-stellar, but the situation should improve drastically with forthcoming titles.
Where Scorpio can stomp the PS4 Pro is with its performance. The Pro sports GPU performance of 4.2 TFLOPs, whereas Microsoft is aiming for 6 TFLOPs with Project Scorpio. Both consoles target (or will target) 4K resolution gaming, but whether or not they should, or can do it well, is another question.
Microsoft has said that titles like Halo 5 will benefit from Scorpio's more powerful hardware
A few months ago, a PS4 Pro architect admitted that it would require at least 8 TFLOPs of GPU horsepower to deliver quality 4K gaming, and that's hard to disagree with. Almost all 4K games on the PS4 Pro right now run at 30 FPS, so it stands to reason that 50% more horsepower isn't going to turn that 30 into 60 FPS on Scorpio or allow higher resolution gaming (whereas 8 TFLOPs could).
Following the launch of the PS4 Pro, many gamers were aching for 1080p/60 gameplay, so we'd hope that Microsoft will try to push that as being more important than 4K/30. It's not just with gaming on a TV that will be improved with Scorpio (or the PS4 Pro for that matter); these more powerful consoles will also enable much-improved VR experiences. You also can't argue with buttery smooth frame rates at 60 fps in FHD, when 4K TVs are still a fairly niche' market.
Microsoft has claimed in the past that VR is in its sights, but it isn't a priority until VR content exits the "demos and experiments" phase. By the time Scorpio lands, the VR landscape should be far more fleshed out, so the timing might be perfect for Microsoft to launch its own headset alongside Scorpio, as Sony did with its PS4 Pro and PlayStation VR.
Whatever Microsoft's Project Scorpio truly turns out to be, it stands to be an immense upgrade from the original console, with at least 3x the memory bandwidth, and 4x the graphics horsepower. And with it rumored that the unit will be priced not much different than the current crop of consoles, Scorpio could stand to become an enormous success based on its high performance target and potentially modest price point.