Klobrille · @klobrille

10th Dec 2019 from TwitLonger

If you are interested, read my analysis on the Lockhart/Anaconda situation.

There seems to be a certain misconception going around on what Lockhart will actually be. I see people acting like as if Lockhart is meant to be a toaster playing videogames - and this couldn't be any more wrong.

Lockhart will be a true next generation console with next generational components. Both devices - if this is really what they'll go with in less than a year from now (and yes, despite the Kotaku article, this is still an *if*) - Anaconda and Lockhart, will share the same solutions for CPU, memory and SSD. Especially the CPU area will be incredibly important for next generation consoles. Zen 2 will allow not only higher framerates here, but also better physics, worlds that are filled with more life, more characters on screen, better AI, more precise simulation. Simply said: it will allow *more*. In combination with incredibly fast SSD and memory solutions, this will allow devs to build next generation experiences without holding back.

When looking at scalability, doing so via GPU and resolution seems like the easiest and most obvious solution. Rendering games at 4K requires a lot of resources. Offering a console *option* that scales back on resolution but stays true on every other aspects of a game is a no-brainer in an age of dynamic resolution methods, ML upscaling, intelligent sharpening filters etc. It allows to bring down the price on that console, which might also be releant for xCloud in future, as resources mean everything in the datacenters just as much. You don't need to only have Anaconda's sitting there in a few years when many people only stream to max. 1080p devices anyway (mobile).

I keep reading goal post arguments that Lockhart might "hold next generation" back. This lacks any rationale and doesn't mirror the situation of gaming ... At all. First and foremost: why do we simply ignore that every single Xbox first-party game will still come to PC? Yesterday, today and in future? Minimum requirements to play certain games on PC will be lower than Lockhart will ever be for many, many years to come. Xbox Game Studios are used to allow great scaling of their gams for so many years already, with their PC versions even being some of the best on the PC market these days. Scalability is important. I keep refering to my personal prime example here being Sea of Thieves. The game basically runs on a toaster, yet it looks absolutely incredible at 4K/60fps on a high-end rig. I would go even one step further and say that giving your developers the task to make your games scale great *profits* a "high-end" version as performance optimizations are happening for every kind of scale level.

Scalability on Lockhart is primarily meant to be done via GPU scaling. How does a GTX 980 hold back Remedy's Control on a RTX 2080 Ti and its next generation raytracing rendering? How does the original Xbox One GPU hold back one of the best-looking games available with Forza Horizon 4 played on a PC at 4K/60 Ultra? How does a Surface Laptop 3 GPU hold back Gears 5 on being the most-impressive looking HDR/60fps game on consoles this generation? I could go on and on. The answer will always be the same: it doesn't hold it back. Lockhart will not hold back anything as the components that will allow "next generation" experiences will be there. Just at lower resolutions and/or some graphical effect sliders set to a lower value.

Price matters so, so much. Some countries are more price sensitive than others, this is absolutely a fair comment to make. Thinking about Jimmy's mom here, who just wants to get her son the newest "FIFA for a new generation" or the "Fortnite next gen update", going into a Walmart and seeing a $399 console allowing this as well as a $499 one standing next to each other (the prices are just exemplary), Jimmy's mom doesn't have many reasons to not pick the cheaper one here. Both play the same games.
I think it's ironic we are on a "hardcore-gaming" forum here but all we focus on right now is Lockhart. An optional console that is not even aimed towards "us". The actual news should be: if Lockhart on the one end exists, so does Anaconda on the other end. And this is where this situation gets interesting. It would mean MS sticked with their original plan on not only offering the lowest price console on the one end, but more importantly on the other end also the best-performing device going into next-gen. Lockhart allows Anaconda to do ... More. After all, both are just two more options to get into the Xbox / Game Pass ecosystem.

The last point I want to add something to is the "confusion for the customer" argument. I don't know where this is suddenly coming from, but it's yet another example of something that completely ignores the industry itself, other industries, PC gaming or even ... This console generation. We are not talking about MS offering 20 different kind of SKUs here. We are talking about 2. *Two*. Something console gaming customers are used to since the release of PS4 Pro already - and something customers in pretty much *every other tech area* are used to for many, many years already, with many more options that just two. There are Pro/Plus/S/Super/Light/Basic/Core versions everywhere. The tech industry has learned that you need to offer *options* to reach a broader pool of customers. And if the differentiation is as easy as it is supposed to be here - offering TWO options on both price/performance ends - I simply think talking about "confusion" here seems very much disconnected from reality. I'll totally admit one thing on this one though: Xbox *needs* to get the naming right. They shouldn't do any experiments here. Naming needs to be easy and on-point. No doubt about that.

If you followed my comments on this whole topic a bit in the past, you'll know that I'm a proponent for the Xbox two SKU strategy. Because the truth is: both Nintendo and Playstation have a much more dominant mind-share and more promiment brands than Xbox. That's simply part of the truth and that is totally fine. You just need to have a plan on how to deal with that. And going into next-gen with one device that only equals PS5 in both price and performance will not do much for your brand. It's as easy as that. You need to do things differently. And offering options left and right is something the Xbox brand is doing industry-leading moves in since Phil became the Head of Xbox. Xbox needs and wants to become a brand that stands for diversity and options in games, hardware and services.

Please keep in mind this post is built on the foundation that the Lockhart/Anaconda roadmap is happenig in 2020. I can't guarantee that - and I won't. But not doing it this way would be a wasted opportunity for Xbox, its community and more importantly its future.

- Klobrille

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