Phil Spencer hints at Xbox hardware upgrades to support PC unification

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Phil Spencer talks console upgrades and PC gaming

By now you’re probably aware that last week a whole bunch of journalists convened in San Francisco for Microsoft’s Summer Showcase. All sorts of new for Quantum Break, Gears of War and more poured on to the internet last evening, along with some incredibly interesting interviews with Mr. Xbox himself, head Phil Spencer. A couple of these in particular though made specific mention of an interesting, albeit risky move that Microsoft might be starting to considering.

According to Spencer, the Xbox might get hardware upgrades in the future to better keep up with the growing demands of games and the capabilities of the PC, as Microsoft strives to unify their two platforms further. Speaking to Polygon, Spencer had this to say.

“Consoles lock the hardware and the software platforms together at the beginning of the generation. Then you ride the generation out for seven or so years, while other ecosystems are getting better, faster, stronger. And then you wait for the next big step function.

“When you look at the console space, I believe we will see more hardware innovation in the console space than we’ve ever seen. You’ll actually see us come out with new hardware capability during a generation allowing the same games to run backward 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.”

Of course that brings up all sorts of questions. What will the extent of these upgrades be? Will Xbox One users have to upgrade to keep up with current releases? Does this turn the Xbox One into a simplified PC? Spencer didn’t have all the answers. But he made it very clear that no matter what upgrades made it to market, they wouldn’t put the vanilla Xbox One out of the running.

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Still it’s an extraordinary idea that suggest console cycles (at least for Microsoft) could soon become a thing of the past. With a console that is able to modularly change its internals to stay in touch with the advancements in the industry, there’s no need for it. Of course that has to come hand in hand with the affordability that makes the console market so strong too.

Spencer said in a separate interview with PC Gamer that all this ties into Microsoft’s plan to unify their two platforms: Windows and Xbox. At the core of that are Windows Universal App, which have been taking flak for their sub-par performance on PC in particular. Spencer says they’re aware of many of the issues, and see them as nothing more than early teething problems.

“Yeah, well, we obviously have the same list, and maybe even a little longer than what the community has brought up around Rise of the Tomb Raider. Certain things will happen very quickly in terms of, like, mGPU support and stuff where there’s no policy, it’s just us working through the timeline of implementation. VSync lock, kind of the same thing. There’s specific reasons that it’s there, but it’s not something that’s kind of a religion on our side that this has to work.”

It’s a very interesting way to look at the future of consoles and games though. While Sony focuses on pushing VR (with their own little hardware upgrade to the PS$,  I might add), Microsoft is focusing on eradicating the console life cycle entirely. Not matter which what you cut it, the console space is changing. Drastically.

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Last Updated: March 2, 2016

Alessandro Barbosa

You can all call me Sandy until I figure out how to edit this thing, which is probably never. Sandy not good enough? Call me xXx_J0k3R_360degreeN0Sc0pe_xXx. Also, Geoff’s a bastard.

  • Pieter Kruger

    Great, new,weird and innovative times ahead. Must admit I’m not really sure how to interpret this as good or bad and by the look of things and various different articles, no one is. I still have too many question!

    So just like Steam Machine?
    So just like Sony’s interchangeable HDD but also for Memory/GPU/CPU etc. Or actual new upgraded consoles?
    So like Sony VR, yes you can play it on PS4 but you must upgrade with this external CPU?
    So you will never lose you games library, all games going forward from the Xbox 360 to always be backwards compatible?
    So all games will play on basic Xbox One but will automatically scale up according to detected hardware?
    No need to buy an Xbox “Two” but I can upgrade my existing console at a fraction of the costat my own pace?
    A lot more advanced (PC) games coming to Xbox One?
    With UWA will developers make one game version that will work on PC/Xbox/tablet/phone etc.?
    All future games to be cross buy/save/play on any Windows 10 device?
    Lastly, will my Xbox Disney Infinity playsets work on my PC….?LOL!

    • K1FF J1MB0B (sizzle edition)

      LOL.. dude, you might as well just buy a PC at this point if you are even entertaining this idea.

      • Pieter Kruger

        LOL, I have one, never use it! ????

        • K1FF J1MB0B (sizzle edition)

          Me too.. I have PC that is way more capable than my console but no way in hell am I gaming on that.

          • Alien Emperor Trevor

            Of course not, you use Linux.

          • K1FF J1MB0B (sizzle edition)

            Fair point lol.

          • miaau

            we used to use WINE to play Starcraft:Broodwars on Linux machines. Worked very well. Just putting that out there. Am pretty sure this is not an actual solution to a problem that may or may not exist.

            Just making polite conversation

          • Alien Emperor Trevor

            Polite conversation? What do you think this is, real life? BURN THE HERETIC!

          • miaau

            WINE. WHINE.

            Coincidence? Not. WHINE. WHINE

            Less burn. more WHINE.

          • Alien Emperor Trevor

            With extra cheese.

          • miaau

            I use a console, for less hassles. I am fully capable of getting a great gaming rig, but I fail to see the point.

            My two brothers in law both have full PC’s connected to the TV;s and control the TV’s through that with wireless mouse and keyboard AND a special remote control device connected to the PC’s. So they have best of both worlds, then. Yay. Effort involved not for me.

      • lol

    • oVg

      I used to just press Play 🙁

    • Jim Lenoir (Banana Jim)

      lol dude!

    • 1) No.
      2) No.
      3) No.
      4) Yes.
      5) Sort of. You’ll get extras like MSAA, better-looking textures and more FPS from running a Xbox One game on Xbox Two.
      6) The implication is that you might want to buy an Xbox Two to keep abreast with developments.
      7) Sort of. There’ll just be better hardware and more efficient ways of rendering games with larger maps and more content at 4K.
      8) That’s the idea.
      9) That’s the general idea, but only cross-save is likely to happen.
      10) Eventually.

  • ElimiNathan

    Us PC gamers have always said it. Consoles are a “cheap” gateway to gaming. But unable to evolve with the tech and hence gaming requirements that come out. They need to change their approach

    • K1FF J1MB0B (sizzle edition)

      Batman Arkham Knight says howzit.

      • ElimiNathan

        Finding the needle in the haystack there ? Almost every game that comes out on both platforms looks and plays better on PC, as you can still play with a controller if wanted

      • BakedBagel

        Its fixed now tho?

      • red meteor

        and you wonder why they call us peasants jeez

      • Mark Treloar

        Took 3 developers 3 months to port Forza 5 to showcase DX12 for Microsoft. The fact that Arkham Knight was because if you hire incompetent developers you get second rate work. Have a look at Aliens: Colonial Marines as an example.

    • Pieter Kruger

      True that, we’re already hearing that mobile devices will surpass current gen consoles very soon….

      • miaau

        Not sure about that………. despite what they say

      • Mark Treloar

        Yeah because everybody wants to pat R15000 for the next Samsung console right? Might as well get a PC then.

    • Fox1 – Retro

      Had this debate yesterday. It came down to the forward thinking of the Master Race vs the “historic” thinking of the console space.

      • ElimiNathan

        Its the age old debate that’s getting boring now. People tend to just stick to their side of the fence no matter what arguments are brought forward. Its like the origin of the universe, everyone decides what they believe to be true LOL

  • K1FF J1MB0B (sizzle edition)

    Guess what Phil, Steam Machines are DOA because this idea doesn’t work. Sheesh, there is some seriously muddled thinking going on at Xbox these days.

    • Alessandro Barbosa

      Steam Machines are DOA because they offer gaming at lower than console fidelity for a higher price, and struggle to be upgraded. Not really the same

      • Pieter Kruger

        That also answers my first question thnx! ????

      • K1FF J1MB0B (sizzle edition)

        Honestly don’t think that’s the main problem. They’re trying to combined 2 ideologies that can’t work in tandem, and it’s confusing and doesn’t appeal to either audience. PC guys want complete freedom to upgrade things on their own terms, and console guys want a closed spec environment that puts everyone on an even keel. I don’t want to play Battlefield MP on my console knowing that some dude who can afford the new GPU upgrade is jamming at 60fps.. that’s BS. I don’t want to even consider an upgrade, because that’s why i ditched PC gaming in the first place.

        • Pieter Kruger

          What if the guy you’re playing against have a better/bigger HD tv and you don’t……?

          • K1FF J1MB0B (sizzle edition)

            Nope, performance still the same on both systems.

          • Pieter Kruger

            He’d still have an advantage in Battlefield MP though wouldn’t he?

    • Mark Treloar

      Except the release Window for consoles is getting shorter, so maybe Phil actually has a point. If the need to release a new console soon is there, it would be better to develop something modular and more in line with PC gaming.

    • You’re looking at this the wrong way. Currently, all Xbox One games are run in a virtual machine. All Xbox 360 games are also run in a virtual machine, one that mimics a PowerPC processor with extremely high efficiency (better than what the Dolphin devs are capable of).

      What he’s implying, which has been on the table since Microsoft and Sony announced the switch to x86, is that future consoles won’t have issues with backwards compatibility. Running games inside virtual machines is the answer to preserving games for future generations. We’re going to see Microsoft announce backwards compatibility with Xbox games eventually, which will also work just fine on an Xbox [whatever] thirty years from now.

  • HairyEwok

    Lol, the consoles laughed at us needing to always upgrade…… SUPRISE!

    • Pieter Kruger

      That’s the point, you will never “have to” upgrade, but you can to enjoy additional benefits at a fraction of the cost not?

      • HairyEwok

        Additional benefits like what? Actual 1080p gameplay at 30 fps? It’s Microsoft we’re talking about here, be sure to see some extremely high prices for some extra voomah. Also I believe it’ll be modular upgrades, so connecting a external gfx with a small power supply built within it to get better frames and graphics.

        • Pieter Kruger

          Well better resolution and frame rate is obviously a major benefit but also more advanced games previously only available on PC could become a reality. But if they’re going to price it out of the console market then yeah, that’ll be pointless.

          • HairyEwok

            What’s worse, and I’m sure it’ll end up going this way. Microsoft will release games and with those games will be a little notification stating that to play this game optimally you will need X item connected to your Xbox.
            So they’re actually forcing you to buy the new xbox enhancing prefs so you can play the game as intended.

          • Pieter Kruger

            NO, they clearly stated that the vanilla Xbox will never be out of the running, it’s right there, in the article…..????

          • HairyEwok

            Well we all know they’re placing way too much trust in the power of the Xbox if they want to keep on par with a low end PC power 😛

        • Fox1 – Retro

          Or it could just be a trade-in upgrade like Apple’s iPhone system.

          • Pieter Kruger

            Could be, but the logistics could become very challenging…..

    • Hammersteyn

      XD

  • Mossel

    Where do I get a PS$?

    • oVg

      Too late, the worlds economic climate has killed gaming.

      Game before Max Payne 3 R599, Game 4 years later R1200

  • Hammersteyn

    Cloud Gaming
    Kinect is integral
    TV TV TV
    Switch flipping
    Not giving sales figures
    Some other things the blab about
    Now this…
    Mr. Spencer talks and talks and talks. And then he talks some more. XBOX One can never be as good as a PC mo matter how much you upgrade it. And all this talk about unification? Essentially it means MS games on PC will be the same as XBOX one games. Especially the graphics. Who’d want that on PC?

    • HairyEwok

      So to get unification means they’ll still have to downgrade the PC version to keep up with the Xbox version no matter what. Silly Microsoft.

      • Pieter Kruger

        ROFL!

      • Hammersteyn

        Yes, like they said in the Quantum Break article yesterday. Oh but don’t worry. Phil tweeted (hints) that they’re planning to improve the experience

        • HairyEwok

          Lol, this should be good and entertaining to see.

    • Pieter Kruger

      NO, you’re obviously and by your own admission looking at this from a very biased perspective. So you’re telling me as fact that Forza, Quantum Break, Gears, Fable etc. etc. will NOT run at higher specs on PC?

      • Hammersteyn

        YES, that isn’t unification. If a game looks shinier on one platform but not on the other then what’s the point?

        • Pieter Kruger

          You are clearly talking about parity NOT unification right….?

          • Hammersteyn

            Unification – the process of being united or made into a whole. I wouldn’t want to be part of that “whole” if my games looked like console on my shiny PC rig

          • Pieter Kruger

            What if some of those Xbox games could run 4k on pc…..?

          • Hammersteyn

            Did Spencer hint at something again?

          • Pieter Kruger

            OR did you just assume that Xbox games on PC will be gimped for parity sake? ????

          • Hammersteyn

            Guess we’ll see

          • Pieter Kruger

            No need, why do you think those games have such high optimal PC spec requirements?????????????

          • Hammersteyn

            Battlefront also suggests 16 gigs of RAM, but folks with 8 run it just fine. And what’s this. I’m posting an actual link instead of asking you rhetorically weather I’m Google or not

          • Pieter Kruger

            Not sure what a 1080p BF video is supposed to prove? You stated as fact that Xbox games on PC will be gimped for “parity”. ROTR PC version is 4k capable, so is Quantum Break, Forza, Fable Legends, Gears Of War etc.etc.

          • Hammersteyn

            ROTR isn’t a MS game, the rest are.

          • Pieter Kruger

            So you see there is no gimping of Xbox games on PC as you said right? In any case, you are again by self admission a PC & PS4 gamer so the only possible way this can ever effect you is giving you more games to play on PC, so why then the vocal protest? ????

          • Hammersteyn

            And you’re a XBOX gamer, yet you smiley face and pony every PS4 article

          • Pieter Kruger

            Just doing my part to get the ponies to drop their blinkers and to realize that Sony is in no way worth their unconditional “I deserve to be punished” cult like loyalty……..they just want your money just like every other company out there…….????

          • Hammersteyn

            They deserve my money, or that’s how I feel, along with a whole bunch of other people. MS, I don’t like them, not one bit. All the lies is too much

          • Pieter Kruger

            HeHe, you also know that’s exactly how I feel about Sony, this gen MS is the only one making an effort at least, Sony is just sitting back and using your money to service their debt and VR VR VR VR VR VR!

          • Hammersteyn

            And MS lying about most things and doing a 180 like a pro dart player. But as long as you and me and everyone else is happy on their brand of gaming then it’s good for the industry

          • oVg

            Does it need TREES FX?

          • Hammersteyn

            lol

        • Alien Emperor Trevor

          I thought people used consoles because they were more convenient than PCs? That’s what I’m always being told.

          • Hammersteyn

            This is true

          • oVg

            TRUE, now they are like little Fisher Price PCs.

    • Alien Emperor Trevor

      I got 99 problems but a One ain’t one.

    • oVg

      People need reminding the silly little boiled frogs

  • Hammersteyn
  • miaau

    One of us, one of us,one of us,one of us,one of us,one of us,one of us,one of us,one of us,one of us,one of us,one of us,one of us,one of us,one of us,one of us,one of us,one of us,one of us,one of us,one of us,one of us,one of us,one of us,one of us,one of us,one of us,one of us,one of us,one of us,one of us,one of us,one of us,one of us,one of us,one of us,

    Great world. Great business if you can be the controller of “one of us”.

    Oh, and this will probably not work out like this.

    • Alien Emperor Trevor

      MAK CONSULS GREAT AGIN!

    • oVg

      Last of Us Last of Us Last of Us Last of Us Last of Us Last of Us Last of Us Last of Us Last of Us Last of Us Last of Us Last of Us Last of Us Last of Us Last of Us Last of Us Last of Us Last of Us Last of Us Last of Us Last of Us Last of Us Last of Us

      1080p/60fps 1080p/60fps 1080p/60fps 1080p/60fps 1080p/60fps 1080p/60fps 1080p/60fps 1080p/60fps 1080p/60fps 1080p/60fps 1080p/60fps 1080p/60fps

      No PC required 🙂

  • oVg

    New reveal 2013 2.0

    PC PC PC PC PC PC PC TV TV TV TV TV TV TV TV TV TV SPORTS SPORTS SPORTS SPORTS COD COD COD COD

    CROSS BUY 🙂 EXCLUSIVES ARE DEAD. BUY A PC

    PC PC PC PC PC PC PC PC PC PC PC PC PC PC PC PC

    R.I.P. Give Rover a Bone

  • Jim Lenoir (Banana Jim)

    So then what would be the point of owning a boner? You might as well join the PC master race and run the perpetual upgrade hamster wheel.

  • Pariah

    Phil for the next Oscar?

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