Microsoft launched the Xbox One X today, and STACK spoke with Albert Penello, Director of Xbox Console Marketing, to get all the details on what Microsoft calls "the world's most powerful video game console."
The Xbox One X is the third version of the popular video game platform, joining Xbox One and Xbox One S, which was released last year. The Xbox One X is the first gaming console to run games in native 4K resolution at a smooth 60 frames per second. The new console promises an improved gaming experience on Xbox One's existing library of games with faster load times, better graphics and smoother frame rates. Add in a 4K Blu-Ray player with full HDR (High Dynamic Range) capabilities, and you can see how Xbox One X could offer the best gaming and home entertainment experience available today. Check back with STACK later this week for our full hands-on review of the Xbox One X.
Check out all the tech specs here. The Xbox One X is available starting today for $499.
STACK: The specs for the Xbox One X are impressive. Can you break those numbers down into words even casual gamers can understand?
Albert Penello: We've talked a lot about being the world's most powerful console, and really all those numbers are there to deliver the best games to Xbox players. At the end of the day, that's what we really wanted to do. We wanted to create the world's most powerful console so that game developers can bring these amazing 4K experiences that they've been building on their PC and have them show up in your living room so you get the higher frame rates, the better textures, better details, higher draw distances. All these great amazing graphical features that typically you'd have to have a high-end PC to get, now you can have them in your living room in an incredible cool and small Xbox console.
Backwards compatibility is always a huge issue when a next-gen console is released. Building upon the current platform rather than creating a brand new console would seem to eliminate those concerns.
Yeah. You bring up a really good point in that console generational shifts are really difficult for customers and for developers, because you do have to take away a lot of the development work that you've done. Backwards compatibility isn't always baked into these consoles, so from a hardware perspective, I do think that what we're doing is really unique and I do think that the focus on compatibility and your game library is really something that's important to us at Xbox. We just recently released that we're going back two generations to bring original Xbox game compatibility to the new console, and those games are enhanced as well with better graphics and higher resolution. I think the focus on compatibility is really a place that Xbox is focused on and we really want to build a console where gamers can play the best of the past and present and future of games.
Will all Xbox One accessories and peripherals will work with the Xbox One X?
It is a significantly beefed up and more powerful Xbox One, so yes, all of your accessories work. Your games work, and in many cases those games will actually be improved without any work on the developers' part, so games will have better texture filtering, will load faster, and in many cases there were games that were developed with variable resolution and variable frame rate, and those games will be maxed out on the Xbox One X. So the existing library of titles that you already own will not only play but in many cases play better on Xbox One X, and it all just works.
There's over 1,300 titles on Xbox One to date; 220 exclusives to Xbox One and all those games, and all those games play on Xbox One X better without any enhancements.
What is "Xbox One X Enhanced"?
There's three things that we track for Xbox One X: 4K UHD, HDR and Xbox One X Enhanced. "4K UHD" means that the game developer is actually outputting the game resolution in 4K, and there's a variety of techniques to do that The customer can expect that they're going to get a 4K resolution experience if they see '4K UHD' on the front of the package.
HDR is a really cool feature in 4K TVs that allows for more vibrant colors and more contrast, brighter screens.
"Xbox One X Enhanced" is really designed to communicate that the developer has gone back and done work. They have to bring the game code up to the newest development tools and that unlocks the full power of the console. There is a lot of different ways the developers can take advantage of that; we don't have a standard for what is required other than the game has to be improved over the Xbox One S version in some way.
The Xbox One X 'joins' the Xbox One S; it doesn't 'replace it.' Will developers be able to utilize the full power of the X without leaving the S behind?
The Xbox One S and the Xbox One X are part of one family from a consumer perspective and also from a technology perspective. They are built from the same foundation; they run the same development tools—developers have the same environment to work on both consoles. I use the analogy of PCs in that PCs have a hugely scalable set of CPUs and GPUs and memory configurations, and developers build their engines to be able to not only run on low-end PCs but to also take advantage of these really beefy high-end gaming PCs. Our philosophy is much the same.
A developer can still make an amazing Xbox One S game and extract all the power of the Xbox One X that they need to. In fact even the games you're seeing today, the development kits have only been out for a few months now, since E3 really, and you're already seeing the best versions of games in just a few months of work. There's still a lot of the potential of the Xbox One X left untapped and none of that requires developers to stop building for Xbox One S.
With retro-gaming becoming more popular, bringing original Xbox games to the Xbox One platform sounds like a good move.
I'm actually a retro gamer myself and I totally agree. Music and movies sort of transcend technology. It's not like you have to bust out your old record player to listen to old music; it just moves along with you, and that's something that we're trying to bring to console gaming. There are amazing games on the (original) Xbox and even before the Xbox that are really difficult for people to experience these days because hardware is a barrier. So compatibility is a huge emphasis for us, and I love that the team is not only working to bring those games back but in many cases improve those games so that in some cases they are brought up to more modern standards for graphics.
What has been your biggest 'Wow Moment' with Xbox One X?
It's so hard to describe graphics, either when you're talking to someone or writing about it, but the biggest "Wow Moment" for me is watching people who haven't experienced 4K actually booting up a game in 4K. When you see Forza 7 running in native 4K at 60 frames per second in HDR, you'll never go back. You won't be able to go back and look at 1080 anymore; it's so clear and crisp and vibrant. The colors look amazing. So really experiencing that in your home for the first time where you can sit down and just enjoy it was a huge moment for me that I love that a lot of people are also going to experience for the first time.