When Microsoft announced both Scorpio and the upcoming Xbox One S, there was plenty of concern that the company might have harmed sales of its current Xbox One family (including the S) by announcing the much more powerful Scorpio console too early. While Scorpio isn’t expected until Christmas 2017, it’s also expected to be an extremely powerful console — possibly more powerful than Sony’s own PS4 Neo.
Microsoft, it seems, is aware of this problem and has a solution already in mind to counteract it. The general manager of Xbox Services, Dave McCarthy, told the Daily Starthat “Some of our retail partners today do trade-in programs and that’s definitely going to be partnerships we continue to move going forward. We want to make that transition as smooth as possible.”
“The compatibility thing is a big deal,” McCarthy said. “Because you feeling you have to give up your games isn’t a good feeling, so we take that angst out of the equation. We’ll try partnerships with our retail partners to smooth it even more with trade-in programs and things like that.”
It’s not clear what kind of trade-in value Microsoft might offer or whether there will be a difference between the Xbox One and the Xbox One S (presumably yes, but how the company chooses to value that difference at trade-in is its own question). Geek.comreports that the Xbox One can currently be traded in for $80 cash or $100 store credit. That’s not much cash for a system that retailed for $500 just three years ago, and it doesn’t look as if GameStop much cares if you have Kinect or not.
Scorpio’s hardware loadout is still uncertain. The simplest move for AMD and Microsoft would be a straight port of the current Xbox One CPU to 14nm. Simple, however, doesn’t always mean cheap. The Xbox One uses a GCN-derived GPU and AMD’s low-power Jaguar core as a CPU. Jaguar was a solid CPU design when it debuted three years ago, but AMD opted not to continue iterating on the core and didn’t port it to 20nm or 14nm.
Shifting from Jaguar to Zen-derived cores could give Microsoft a leg up on Sony, which may have stuck with a 14nm version of Jaguar to get the PS4 Neo out the door ahead of its chief rival. The flip side to this, of course, is that Microsoft won’t ship a new Xbox One for as much as a year after Sony shifts its own PlayStation Neo. Redmond is clearly betting that it can hold on to the Xbox One’s market share for an additional year, and it may be right — at this stage we aren’t sure how many console gamers are undecided when it comes to which platform they’re going to stick with this generation.
The larger problem, of course, is that console sales have generally favored Sony. The PS4 has now racked up nearly double the lifetime sales of the Xbox One, at 40.7 million PlayStation 4’s compared with just 21.1 million Xbox One’s. Some of those sales may have come from new console gamers and markets, but it suggests that Sony won former Xbox owners this time around.
Scorpio’s design may well be more powerful than the PS4 Neo, but Microsoft could have real trouble peeling off PS4 customers this late in the cycle. The promise of a good trade-in value could, however, give the new console a valuable short-term boost in overall sales while simultaneously protecting the value of the Xbox One S.