Image: Microsoft

More and more developers seem to be piling on the hate for the Xbox Series S – Microsoft’s cheaper, lower-ended next-gen console. Speaking in an interview with Wccftech, Quantic Dream’s David Cage (Heavy Rain, Detroit: Become Human) admitted that he wasn’t a fan of the system due to its separate, weaker hardware configuration, which “complicates” the development process.

While the Xbox Series X boasts a 12.15-TFLOP AMD RDNA 2 GPU (52 CUs at 1.825 GHz) and 16 GB of GDDR6 RAM, its lesser sibling features a 4-TFLOP GPU (20 CUs at 1.565 GHz) with 10 GB of memory. That translates to a lower performance target of 1440p at 60 FPS vs. the flagship’s 4K at 60 FPS (although both can still hit 120 FPS in certain titles, according to Microsoft).

“Many developers prefer consoles to PC because on consoles you only have to deal with one hardware, whereas on PC there are so many configurations, graphic cards, drivers, controllers etc. that makes the development much more complex,” Cage began.

He goes on to suggest that the power of the Xbox Series X will be wasted because developers tend to build their titles with the lowest-tier hardware in mind.

“When a manufacturer offers two consoles with different specs, there is a strong chance that most developers will focus on the lower-end version to avoid doing two different versions,” he continued. “I must confess that I am really not a big fan of this situation. I think it is confusing for developers, but also for players, and although I can understand the commercial reasons behind this choice (a difference of €200 on the street price) I think the situation is questionable.”

“Regarding Quantic Dream, as we develop our own technology and engines, we are determined to optimize our titles for each platform. Being now a PC developer, we are implementing scalable features based on the platform, which is very helpful to highlight what the hardware has best to offer,” Cage added.

As much as we’ve enjoyed Quantic Dream’s games, we can’t help but scratch our heads at what Cage is saying, especially for someone who’s regularly had to port games to the PC in the past. What makes the Xbox Series S different? And did he forget that separate tiers already exist in the market (e.g., PS4/PS4 Pro, Xbox One X/Xbox One S)?

Who knows, but in a recent interview with The Verge, Jason Ronald (Microsoft’s director of Xbox program management) tackled the issue head on and suggested that the disparity is a non-issue.

“We did a lot of analysis of what it would really mean to run a game at 4K with 60fps and then to scale that down to 1440p at 60fps,” Ronald said. “The reality is you don’t need as much memory bandwidth because you’re not loading the highest level MIP levels into memory. You don’t need the same amount of memory as well.”

“Developers have a whole host of different techniques, whether that’s changing the resolution of their title, things like dynamic resolution scaling frame to frame — that’s something we’ve seen a lot of adoption of, especially towards the end of this generation,” he explained. “And obviously the ability to enable and display different visual effects, without actually implementing the fundamental gameplay.”

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3 Comments

  1. Now if Quantic Dream actually made "games" that people wanted to play. All they have produced is very slick looking interactive … things. I don’t know what to call them, but they don’t feel like games.

    I’m actually about 2/3 way through Beyond Human right now. It looks amazing, but is it fun? Ehhhhh. More like a choose your own adventure interactive movie. And the only reason I even have it is because Sony gave it away on PS+, no way I would pay for these.

  2. I don’t like David Cage or his non-video-games, but this is the first time I can agree with him about something. I’ve been saying for generations that it’s **** annoying when developers choose to continue to support a previous generation of consoles when a new generation is here, cuz it holds back game development for the new consoles, preventing the developers from fully utilizing the hardware in the new consoles. Now in the same generation, we have Xbox Series X and S. Developers might end up standardizing around the lower-end model. At the very least, they’ll have to keep that lower model in mind when designing their new games. It never works out well to have multiple models of a console with different levels of hardware power. By the end of the 8th-generation, a sizeable gap had opened up between the base consoles (XB1/XB1S and PS4) and the upgraded/refreshed versions (XB1X and PS4 Pro). Now right off the bat we’ll have XBSS potentially holding **** back. I don’t know, it could turn out to be a non-issue (especially as console devs grow more accustomed to the PC model of supporting different hardware configs), but I’d rather not have that variable that is the Xbox Series S in play. Developers often choose to develop based around the lowest common denominator. It was bad enough that a general focus on console development hurt PC. Now among all the 9th-gen consoles, the XBSS could be ****ing things up. Then again, with Microsoft pushing devs to continue to support XB1, XBSS may not even be the limiting factor. I do wonder how long Microsoft plans to continue to support XB1 in the 9th-generation, and how long developers will stick with that. The multiplatform devs may not take too kindly to it. If you’re making games for PS5 and XBSX, it’ll probably be dang annoying to have to factor in the XBSS or XB1. Devs might indeed decide to base a game’s design around XBSS or XB1 and then try to scale up for PS5 and XBSX (it seems like XB1 support might have been a limiting factor for Halo Infinite’s graphics). I’d rather XBSX and PS5 were the lowest design targets from the get-go (barring a return to the old proper way of designing a game for PC first, then porting down to consoles – though with XBSX and PS5 having Zen 2 and RDNA2, that might not exactly be "porting down," since this is the first time new consoles have been relatively up-to-date with PC hardware at launch). Well in a few years, when the 9th-generation starts to really get rolling, we’ll see what becomes of all this.

    I general I just have no idea what the purpose of the Xbox Series S is. It seems like a useless SKU to me.

  3. I don’t like David Cage or his non-video-games, but this is the first time I can agree with him about something. I’ve been saying for generations that it’s **** annoying when developers choose to continue to support a previous generation of consoles when a new generation is here, cuz it holds back game development for the new consoles, preventing the developers from fully utilizing the hardware in the new consoles. Now in the same generation, we have Xbox Series X and S. Developers might end up standardizing around the lower-end model. At the very least, they’ll have to keep that lower model in mind when designing their new games. It never works out well to have multiple models of a console with different levels of hardware power. By the end of the 8th-generation, a sizeable gap had opened up between the base consoles (XB1/XB1S and PS4) and the upgraded/refreshed versions (XB1X and PS4 Pro). Now right off the bat we’ll have XBSS potentially holding **** back. I don’t know, it could turn out to be a non-issue (especially as console devs grow more accustomed to the PC model of supporting different hardware configs), but I’d rather not have that variable that is the Xbox Series S in play. Developers often choose to develop based around the lowest common denominator. It was bad enough that a general focus on console development hurt PC. Now among all the 9th-gen consoles, the XBSS could be ****ing things up. Then again, with Microsoft pushing devs to continue to support XB1, XBSS may not even be the limiting factor. I do wonder how long Microsoft plans to continue to support XB1 in the 9th-generation, and how long developers will stick with that. The multiplatform devs may not take too kindly to it. If you’re making games for PS5 and XBSX, it’ll probably be dang annoying to have to factor in the XBSS or XB1. Devs might indeed decide to base a game’s design around XBSS or XB1 and then try to scale up for PS5 and XBSX (it seems like XB1 support might have been a limiting factor for Halo Infinite’s graphics). I’d rather XBSX and PS5 were the lowest design targets from the get-go (barring a return to the old proper way of designing a game for PC first, then porting down to consoles – though with XBSX and PS5 having Zen 2 and RDNA2, that might not exactly be "porting down," since this is the first time new consoles have been relatively up-to-date with PC hardware at launch). Well in a few years, when the 9th-generation starts to really get rolling, we’ll see what becomes of all this.

    I general I just have no idea what the purpose of the Xbox Series S is. It seems like a useless SKU to me.

    Well seeing as how the consoles aren’t special, purpose built CPU and GPU architectures anymore and are all based on AMDs x86 CPU and their Radeon GPUs what you’re seeing now is just the different levels of performance PC gamers have had the options of for decades.

    I do not think anything will be "held" back as people with PCs do not feel like they’ve been held back by weaker PCs in terms of visuals, but rather by older consoles where porting them to a PC was a lot of work.

    Everything is basically a PC now.

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