So the Xbox One X is here…

…and I feel like I should write a big long tech-jargon filled blog post about it, but I’m kind of tired of arguing about it in various places. I just want to enjoy the console.

So far, I’m really happy with it. “Enhanced” games look amazing, of course. Folks who do things like pixel counting (aka Digital Foundry) are finding that just about every game looks better on XBX than on PS4 Pro, the one exception seeming to be Titanfall 2, but that might be due to a bug. Learn more here:

Aside from the whole “Woo 4K” aspect, the XBX loads games quicker, makes many un-enhanced games look better (either via better frame rates or dynamic scaling systems that can stay at higher resolutions longer) and it is SO BLISSFULLY quiet. I love it.

Look I’m a self-identified Sony fanboy, but Microsoft has done good with the XBX. Maybe being the underdog has been a good thing for them. Lots of games are getting patches (something I was worried about until recently) and Microsoft makes it easy to identify games that take advantage of the X (in both the store and in your game library you can filter by “Xbox One X Enhanced.”). They just seem to be doing more to make it easy for us customers than Sony did with the PS4 Pro (which, remember, didn’t even have Boost Mode at launch).

So should you buy one? Probably not. The problem with the Xbox One X (in my opinion) is that it caters to a very narrow segment of the gaming market:

1) If you’re a PC gamer that wants a console too, pick a PS4 Pro or, I guess, a Switch. Virtually everything you can play on the Xbox One is also available on PC.

2) If you’re a PS4 gamer who is curious, as nice as the system is, it probably doesn’t justify a new library of games. The games don’t look THAT much better than on a PS4 Pro

3) If you’re an Xbox gamer without a PC, then the Xbox One X is for you. Even if you don’t have a 4K TV yet, the better frame rates, loading times and ‘super sampling’ make it worth the upgrade, in my opinion (and assuming you’re a reasonably serious gamer).

The biggest struggle with a system like this is demonstrating it. I can take a screenshot like this one:

But the original of this was a 22 meg PNG so I had to compress it to make it a reasonable size, and even then the 22 meg version didn’t have the HDR effect. In the game on an HDR TV, that sun was so bright it was almost hard to look at.

Same with this video clip. It’s pretty, but not nearly as pretty as on-screen. The sun shining through the trees was stunning enough in-game that it prompted me to save this clip. Looking at it in a browser you’re probably thinking “What’s the point of this clip?” By the time you reduce the resolution to 1080P, strip the HDR and add in compression artifacts, it just doesn’t hold up.

I guess the only real way to experience the XBX is to go to a Microsoft Store or a Best Buy or something and see it in person.

Anyway, zero regrets here. So far I love the Xbox One X.

“The Internet” says the Xbox One X embargo ends on Friday

We’re less than a week away from the launch of the Xbox One X, but I’ve slowly been drifting from excited to concerned, mostly due to the lack of info about the new console.

There’ve been a skillion Xbox One X “unboxing” videos on YouTube, but no video of the thing running. Turns out there’s an embargo. Now the glass-half-empty people see this as a warning. Maybe there’s something Microsoft doesn’t want us to know, lest we cancel our pre-orders. The glass-half-full people have another angle. I guess the ‘official word’ is that they put an embargo in place so the various outlets would have time to put together quality content rather than throwing some shit together in an effort to be first. Think of lifting the embargo like waving the green flag at the start of the race. Everyone can be prepared for when it starts.

I flip-flop between the two glass halves, personally.

Another concern is this list of Xbox One X Enhanced Games (scroll down to find the textual list). It’s a nice big list, sure, but look at the “availability” column. Very few of these enhanced titles are ready. Most are “In Development” or “Coming Soon.” Even new games like Middle Earth: Shadow of War and Assassin’s Creed Origins are listed as coming soon.

If like me you’ve been holding off on these games in order to play them on the Xbox One X, it looks like your wait is going to be longer than expected. It’s possible that all of a sudden on Tuesday all these “coming soon” titles will flop over to “available” but I’m a little worried. We were also told we could d/l 4K assets ahead of the Xbox One launch if we’re using an external drive, then swap that drive to the Xbox One X and start playing on Tuesday, so there is a reason why we’d want the enhanced versions ahead of launch.

Even 2nd party titles like Forza Horizon 3 and Forza 7 aren’t available yet. When the embargo lifts I expect we’re going to see a lot of Gears of War 4 gameplay (since that’s one of the few titles ready for Xbox One X).

I’ve had the PS4 Pro for a year now and support has been pretty hit or miss. I was hoping that with two ‘enhanced’ consoles on the market developers would step up their game, but maybe I’m being too optimistic. I will give Microsoft this much: at least they are being transparent about what is available. On PlayStation you have to turn to googling to find out if a game supports the Pro.

Xbox One X and my weird graphics fetish #FirstWorldProblems

I’m in a tough spot. You see Assassin’s Creed Origins launched today. I pre-ordered it on the Xbox platform to get the pre-order goodies (I love the Assassin’s Creed games, aside from AC 1 — yes I know its cool to hate the series but I’m too old to be cool), but the reason I chose Xbox over PlayStation was because I wanted to use it as a test platform for the Xbox One X. How much better will games look on the XBX than on the PS4Pro? I need to know.

Problem is, XBX doesn’t come out until a week from Tuesday. Now I have to either not play my new game, or play it on a less than optimal system. Decisions, decisions.

Look, I’m not a hipster millennial. (Is that a thing or do you have to be one or the other?) I LOVE great graphics. I remember when EGA was a big deal and no, I don’t want to go back to those times and play pixel-art indies. Fie on that. I say again, FIE! Give me gorgeous high resolution graphics AND gameplay I love. It’s not too much to ask, at least not until single player games die.

And yes, let’s nip the inevitable discussion in the bud: I realize PCs offer the very best graphics available. For reasons that could occupy a whole other blog post, I am no longer interested in gaming on the PC. Please just accept and understand that everyone is different and for ME personally, PC gaming is off the table.

Meanwhile, I have Middle Earth: Shadow of War on the PS4 Pro. Love the game. But then someone did a comparison of it on the XBX and the PS4 Pro and it looks better on the XBX. This was from a demo at a show so it’s hard to say if it plays better, but it clearly looks better thanks, presumably, to the addition video ram in the XBX (as compared to PS4Pro). You get higher detail textures on the XBX; the Digital Foundry guys suspected they were loading in 4K textures created for the PC that the PS4Pro didn’t have the memory to handle.

So now I find myself not wanting to play Shadow of War on the PS4Pro anymore. I keep thinking I should rebuy on XBX…but I want to play it now. Plus I had a Nemesis to import on the PS4 since I completed Shadow of Morder on that platform (got the Platinum for it, in fact).

So now I find myself replaying Shadow of Morder: Game of the Year edition on the Xbox One so that I can have a nemesis to import into the Xbox version of Shadow of War IF I decide to re-purchase.

Because 4K! And HDR! And better textures! Also, for AC Origins, Dolby Atmos, but I need to buy the $15 headphone app for that since I don’t have Atmos audio in the room.

I mean, let’s be clear. These are nice problems to have. Too many great games that look too good. Am I right? I just really want to get the XBX in my hands to make sure I like it. Mostly I worry about how loud it is, and if the UI is finally snappy. Though already the most recent update to the Xbox UI seems faster than the old one.

Eh…. maybe I should play the Switch until November 7th. Ha! That’s a joke. I was being silly. I don’t play the Switch. The Switch collects dust.

Is the Xbox One X worth $499?

Yesterday Microsoft revealed the official name of Project Scorpio: the Xbox One X. They also revealed the price: $499. Of course everyone is talking about whether the console is worth it.

Funny thing about that question: “Is it worth it?” It can really mean two things. First it can mean “Does the hardware justify the cost?” In other words if you added up the price of the parts and factored in the cost of design and manufacturing, is the price roughly that cost plus a reasonable amount of profit.

In that context I think the Xbox One X is worth $499 assuming it works as advertised. In other words, if it really does “true 4K gaming” beyond the walls of Microsoft’s own development studios. As has been pointed out, you’d be hard-pressed to build a gaming PC that does native 4K for $499. Today. But prices are always coming down.

But the other context of “Is it worth it?” really boils down to “Is it worth it to me? Will I get value out of it?” and this is a lot more subjective.

Case 1: If you have a beefy gaming PC, why are you even here? You don’t need an Xbox of any kind. You’re NOT the target audience for the Xbox One X. I base that assumption on the fact that the Xbox One has nearly zero Xbox exclusives. When they say ‘exclusive’ they say ‘console exclusive’ and they really mean “This isn’t going to come out on the PS4 or the Switch.” Nearly every game that hits the Xbox One is also on the PC, though for Microsoft-published games they target Windows 10 only. There is very little reason to own an Xbox One or an Xbox One X if you’re a PC gamer.

Case 2: 4K TV owners considering Xbox One X vs PS4 Pro. When the PS4 and the Xbox One launched, the Xbox One was $100 more expensive and slightly less powerful than the PS4. Plus Microsoft botched the marketing of the Xbox One. We know what happened: Sony ate their launch. The PS4 has substantially outsold the Xbox One in the years since.

Now we have the PS4 Pro at $400 (as of right now; Sony’s E3 Press Conference is tonight and the price might drop) vs Xbox One X at $500. Again, a $100 price gap. The difference this time is that the Xbox One X is more powerful than the PS4 Pro and MS’s marketing is more on point.

This is where things get really subjective. Haters fault the PS4 Pro for not being native 4K. The truth is that PS4 Pro games fall all over the scale from native 4K down to 1080P, and the sweet spot for PS4 Pro support seems to be 1400P or 1800P (native 4k is 2160P). Here’s the thing, though. Jumping from 1080P to 1800P isn’t insignificant. PS4 Pro optimized titles look a lot better than the same games on a PS4. I think it’s weird that certain parts of the community dismiss a jump from 1080 to 1800 as meaningless whereas in the initial Xbox One vs PS4 days the difference between 900P on the Xbox One and 1080P on the PS4 was a huge deal.

So the question you need to ask yourself is whether spending an extra $100 is worth getting from 1400P or 1800P to 2160P. No one but you can answer that, really. I’m a graphics nut so I want the console that can squeeze out the highest resolutions and that looks like it’ll be the Xbox One X.

Case 3: 1080P TV owners considering Xbox One X or PS4 Pro: This is a much harder sell, in my opinion, but the Xbox One X might have the advantage over the PS4 Pro. When the PS4 Pro launched developers had to patch their games to take advantage of the improved hardware. A few did, but not many. Eventually Sony introduced “Boost Mode” which would let any game take advantage of the increased horsepower and it does help older games run a little better and load a little faster.

For the Xbox One X, Microsoft has baked-in improvements for older games from the very start. Combine this with the fact that the hardware is more powerful and I anticipate that the Xbox One X will do a lot more for older games than the PS4 Pro does.

That said, casual gamers who own a 1080P display probably don’t need either of these beefed up consoles. If you don’t really care if a game drops a couple of frames now and then or if objects in the distant have a little fuzz, then skip both the PS4 Pro and the Xbox One X, at least until you get a 4K TV.

So those are my opinions. Oh one last thing: I saw some folks in my Twitter feed who were surprised that the Xbox One X had no exclusive games (ie games that only ran on the Xbox One X, not the Xbox One). That has always been the plan. For now at least, every new Xbox game has to run on the Xbox One and the Xbox One X. I expect that to change eventually, but not until there’s a solid install base for the faster hardware. MS doesn’t want to fracture their audience. For the record, same is true for PS4 and PS4 Pro. Games have to run on both. This isn’t a new console generation, its more of a refresh.

Last are the facts that don’t really relate to the hardware. You know, the same old stuff we always ask. If you’re a MP gamer, where are your friends playing? If there are exclusives you’re interested in, which platform has them. Stuff like that.

Me, I’m getting an Xbox One X. I upgraded from PS4 or PS4 Pro (I have a 4K TV) with no regrets and ever since MS started talking about Scorpio I’ve stopped playing Xbox One games, so I’m going to finally be playing stuff like Forza Horizon 3 and Gears of War 4 in 4K. But then I consider myself a pretty dedicated console gamer who doesn’t have a current gaming PC and doesn’t want one.

I also think the Xbox One X is great for PS4 Pro owners. Having more console gamers who can take advantage of post-1080P resolutions means we should get better support from 3rd party developers on both platforms.

If after this huge wall of text you’re still undecided, I would suggest waiting. Let’s see what actually happens when Xbox One X hits the market. Let’s see how well 3rd partys support it. If it doesn’t sell strongly at launch, by spring Microsoft will be sweetening the deal by bundling games with the console (or by an early price cut), and by then the first way of 4K titles will be available at a discount. There’s no good reason to be an early adopter for console hardware unless you’re a big nerd like me who has to have the newest toys.