A late Wednesday post from the leader of Microsoft’s Xbox team, Phil Spencer, confirmed that the first “Project Scarlett” console is officially in the wild, ahead of its late 2020 launch window. And it appears that current Xbox One players have already unknowingly connected to it.
“And it’s started,” Spencer posted on his Twitter account on Tuesday. “This week, I brought my Project Scarlett console home and it’s become my primary console, playing my games, connecting to the community and yes, using my Elite Series 2 controller, having a blast.”
Without any extra posts or clarification as of press time, we can only surmise so much from this single statement. But it’s admittedly dense. Primarily, it affirms a few details that Spencer and the Xbox team have previously announced about Project Scarlett, the current codename for the unnamed successor to the Xbox One console.
For one, the only way Spencer is playing games that connect to the “community” is existing fare, which confirms Xbox’s pledge that all existing Xbox One software will play on Scarlett. Whether those games will receive any Scarlett-specific upgrades, like bumps to resolution or frame rate, remains to be seen.
Microsoft has also pledged that all existing accessories for Xbox One will work on Scarlett, which is good news for anyone who bought last month’s $180 Elite Series 2 Controller (which Spencer shouts out here). There’s always the possibility that Xbox will release some form of upgraded controller, but we suspect that the Scarlett console’s default controller will copy the buttons and layout of existing Xbox One pads (which already resembled other Xbox controllers’ designs).
Most intriguingly, this kit’s connectivity to the standard retail Xbox One environment, as opposed to a sandboxed “dev kit” network, is a sharp turn from standard Xbox practice. Previous Xbox generations’ dev kits have exclusively connected to private systems, including Xbox 360’s “Partnernet” (which we used to test pre-release software in the 360’s heyday). Does this mean Scarlett’s specs are closer to finalized than we previously suspected? Journalists like The Verge’s Tom Warren had argued that Project Scarlett’s specs were “nowhere near final” as recently as this Saturday, which could very well be the reason Xbox went so far as to let Spencer brag about his brand-new “primary console.”
Of course, without clarification from Spencer, there’s no telling whether he’s honestly using an unfinished dev kit whose specs could be changed or boosted at any point between now and the system’s “2020 holiday season” launch window.
We’ve already heard that Scarlett will emphasize high-performing games, whether in higher resolution (up to 8K), higher frame rates (up to 120fps), or both. Part of that power equation comes from an emphasis on solid-state hard drive technology, as opposed to spinning-plate drives, along with a jump up to a new generation of AMD chips in the “Zen 2 and Navi” families. It’s likely the core AMD technology will resemble what’s coming in next year’s PlayStation 5, which received its own buzzy, spec-filled reveal in October. That was followed last week by a revealing look at what appears to be the PS5’s official dev kit, which has a crazy V shape and a controller that looks a lot like the PS4’s DualShock 4 gamepad.