According to the Head of Xbox Game Studios, Matt Booty, you shouldn’t need to focus on hardware for Xbox Series X. The games will do the talking.
Even though games have come a long way since running on 512MB of RAM and using cartridges as a preferred format, hardware still defines what a game can be. For games on PC, that’s a quite literal definition — you can find the PC requirements of most titles sold on Steam right on their store page. But for consoles, it’s much different. There’s not really an upgrade path, console owners are more or less stuck with what they’ve got unless they want to buy a newer, better console altogether. That’s why when Matt Booty, the head of Microsoft’s game studios, said in an interview with the Guardian about the Xbox Series X and its games that “We’re at a point where the technology is out of the way,” it’s really quite important.
Booty went on to say that, “In previous generations, the hardware and its limitations would leave a pretty clear fingerprint on a game.” That’s even true of the current generation of consoles, which has its own fair amount of games that just don’t run all that well. In my memory, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt comes to mind, with its terrible frame rate drops any time smoke appeared on screen, or the Switch port of Saints Row 3, which often ran under 30fps. When playing these, I didn’t know who to blame for poor performance, the game’s developers, or the console itself.
According to Booty, this creates a kind of freedom for developers. “But now we’re at the point with the tech where we can just let the stories and the characters that the teams have in mind reach the screen.” However, the question from here on in is how long that freedom will last. The tech that makes games — not graphics cards or processors, but rendering tech and physics engines — is constantly evolving. Take ray-tracing as an example, the graphics rendering technique that makes games like Minecraft or Control look like real life.
That being said, both the Xbox Series X and PS5 are said to be arriving with support for ray-tracing, but what about when even that advanced technology is outmatched by something else? How long will developers be able to deploy their visions in their entirety until they outgrow the capabilities of a console?
Those worries though are not on Booty’s mind. Instead, he is more concerned with players consuming games the same way viewers consume movies: without a thought on the tech behind the media, but rather focused entirely on the spectacle on-screen. “You watch actors being portrayed as 20 years younger, you see these amazing worlds,” Booty said, “and you just take it for granted – and that’s about getting the technology out of the way.” He goes on to say that he hopes players don’t pay attention to short load times and instead are “drawn more into the story and the world.”
Xbox Series X launches Holiday 2020, though an exact date and time isn’t yet known. Follow DualShockers for more updates on Xbox Series X.