In a recent article on Wired, James Temperton sits down with a number of Microsoft engineers, game developers, and executives to find out exactly what will set the Xbox One X apart when it launches. While we know that Microsoft will be playing the long-game when it comes to console exclusives, Temperton came away from his visit to Microsoft convinced that Xbox will be leveraging two things in order to edge out Sony this generation: "small details and big numbers."
Innovation in Console Design
When he says small details, he means that quite literally. Xbox hardware general manager Leo Del Castillo discussed the ventilation specifically. If you're going to make the most powerful console in the world, you're going to need to think outside of the box when it comes to cooling. With great power comes great heat.
“People have been punching holes in metal for more than 100 years,” he said, gesturing to the ventilation holes on the side of the console. “When we started, if you asked the tooling engineer, ‘Can we punch these holes so close together that the webbing between them is thinner than the thickness of the material?’ we were told it couldn’t be done. When you get to that level of thinness, it’s going to start bending. Our engineers took it as a challenge and decided to solve the problem.”
The team also went to obscene lengths to ensure that even the sounds and noises that the console makes come across as pleasant and encouraging to players. Even the beeping sound the console makes when it boots up has been sped up by milliseconds, just to subconsciously communicate to the player that they're playing a faster console than the one they're used to.
Of course, the hardware design isn't even worth talking about if it's not enabling a faster, more powerful console. Don't worry, Microsoft has some big numbers to justify its waxing poetic on the One X's hardware innovations. We've all seen the figures. An 8-core, 2.3GHz CPU and GPU capable of 6 teraflops of peak performance are at the core of this fancy black box. 12GB of high-speed RAM also marks a considerable jump from the Xbox One's 8GB.
It's not all about polygons, either. Developers are able to take advantage of a wide variety of lighting and display technologies without sacrificing any of the bells and whistles. In addition to rendering games in true 4K, Halo's franchise development director Frank O'Connor believes that a more widespread implementation of HDR in games is going to make a big difference. “HDR is hard to explain,” he said. “It adds fidelity and detail, rather than just contrast. It could be as meaningful to people as 4K.”
Meaningful hardware design choices and powerful internals that allow developers squeeze the most out of their games. These are the things that Microsoft believes will set the Xbox One X apart. I can't say we haven't heard that before, but Microsoft has a lot riding on this next console generation. We're eager to see if they can finally cover some lost ground and dominate this next generation of console gaming.
Do you think power is enough to win the gen?