When the current crop of consoles came out we witnessed what was probably the largest single leap in average system requirements of all time. Within a matter of months, the trusty GTX 8800 was obsolete and the reliable GeForce GTX 660 slid into the pile marked ‘crap’. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not consoles that hold PC games back, it’s the pure economic cost of advancing technologies. What a console generation does serve to do, however, is accelerate the bottom end upwards in one fell swoop. Where once we were comfortably playing games, now we were dropping settings like crazy in order to achieve a decent frame rate.
Now we stand on the cusp of a new generation, or at least what Microsoft would have us believe is a new generation. Project Scorpio is touted as a generational leap, rather than the mere stop-gap that was Sony’s PlayStation 4 Pro. Packing 6 teraflops of compute performance, 12GB GDDR5 memory and capable of native 4K resolution at 60 frames per second, Project Scorpio will comfortably be the most powerful console on Earth when it launches later in 2017. Its GPU alone is 4.6 times more powerful than the Xbox One.
But where does this leave us, the PC gamers? Are we going to have to endure the same lurching leap in system requirements when Project Scorpio launches?
The simple answer is - probably not. Unlike the jump from the 7th to 8th console generations, Project Scorpio will be running on what is essentially the same architecture as the Xbox One. This not only makes it backwards compatible, but it also stamps a baseline. Every game on the Scorpio also has to run on the Xbox One. The minimum specs for Xbox games on PC should, therefore, stay exactly the same; they’ll just look like visually lesser versions than the amped up Scorpio titles.
Secondly, from everything we’ve been shown of Project Scorpio so far, that additional horsepower is going to be largely dedicated to a resolution bump. Whereas Forza 6 runs at 1080p on Xbox One, it’ll run at native 4K on the Scorpio. On paper, this means the resolution bump alone requires four times the GPU capability. That doesn’t leave much headroom for other graphical niceties. Essentially, the games are going to be the same as they always were, only console gamers will have the option of a higher resolution. If you’re playing at 1080p, in theory, nothing is going to change.
Games are also primarily going to be aimed at the biggest market. Right now that’s the PlayStation 4 by a comfortable margin. Obviously, this excludes Xbox exclusives, but third-party titles are, for the most part, going to be designed to run on PS4. There’s a market for more than 60 million players, and Project Scorpio is going to need to become an enormous success if Microsoft hopes to topple Sony and become the console of choice.
The one fiddly bit is the 12GB GDDR5 memory. On the Xbox Scorpio, this is unified memory, split between the GPU, the system memory, and 4GB dedicated exclusively to running the 4K OS. This doesn’t suddenly mean you’re going to see games with a 12GB RAM minimum requirements. In an average gaming PC these days, you’re going to have 8GB RAM + at least 4GB GDDR5 memory on your graphics card. Nothing should really have to change on this front. And besides, all these games are going to need to work on Xbox One regardless, which has just 5GB DDR3 memory available for gaming.
In summation, we shouldn’t see any major changes to PC system requirements when Project Scorpio comes out. The only caveat is if, or when, Microsoft decides to drop the platform parity situation. As it stands, all games need to run on both of Microsoft’s Xbox consoles. Eventually, we’re going to get a Project Scorpio exclusive. In that event system requirements will surely rise, however, we’re probably a few years away from this eventuality, a time when the PlayStation 5 is probably going to be inbound anyway, prompting an actual general leap in PC system requirements.
For now, just sit tight. The current PC hardware available now is more than capable of matching up to the Scorpio, and in the case of the enthusiast hardware, shred it to pieces.