Project Scorpio has some great specs behind it, but there’s reason to believe Digital Foundry’s estimated $500 price could easily derail the 2017 console. Competitively, is it really worth it to make a console that’s that premium? Between PS4 and PC pressures, here are five reasons why we say no.
1) $500 Doomed The Original Xbox One: Microsoft is haunted by Xbox One’s $499 launch price in a very similar capacity to Sony’s PS3 struggles at $599. At the time when value was probably most important, the Xbox One featured additional hardware that priced itself just outside the competitive barrier. That “always online” stuff didn’t help much either, but inflated starting cost is a major factor that doomed Xbox One from the start.
The Scorpio situation is a little different because consumers can purchase a cheaper Xbox One S if they choose, but the S hasn’t changed the dynamic of the console race much because bundle prices remain fairly close between the S and standard PS4. The whole Scorpio situation reeks of $500 déjà vu, and that won’t help Microsoft gain traction.
2) The Pro Will Be Cheaper: It also doesn’t help that Scorpio probably will be far more expensive than its most comparable counterpart, the PS4 Pro. Right now it costs $399, and it could feasibly drop down to $349 at E3 to be even cheaper for Black Friday. Whether that happens or not, you're still talking about a minimum price difference of $100. That’s a large chunk of change for the average consumer.
It’s more or less confirmed the Pro won’t have the same 4K chops as Scorpio, but, for $100 less, it’s not crazy to believe most folks might feel “close to native is good enough for me.”
3) That PC Problem: Causing even more pressure for Project Scorpio is the rising popularity of affordable, self-built gaming PCs. While it’s true a $500 console probably would offer a better gaming experience than a PC for the same price, we’ve seen time and again that consumers are willing to pay just a little bit more for the versatility a PC offers. Plus, the additional cost of PC hardware is largely offset by the low software prices on Steam.
To make the issue more complicated, Xbox Scorpio is a product largely marketed toward the “premium” gamer who cares about horsepower and framerates. If that’s truly something you value, chances are you’re gaming on PC already. In that sense, a $500 machine just won’t cut it.
4) Sony’s Exclusives: Microsoft should also be timid about highballing the Project Scorpio price considering the growing catalog of stellar exclusives derived from Sony’s partnerships. Exclusive games still sell hardware, and Xbox technically doesn’t have any exclusives. All high-profile Microsoft games are planned to release on PC for the foreseeable future, and there just aren’t as many first-party efforts in the pipeline.
This contributes to Scorpio’s potential pricing problem because it’s hard to convince gamers to spend more money on hardware that plays fewer games. We need to see a considerable effort from Xbox first-parties at E3 because Scorpio won’t sell without some great exclusives.
5) Potentially Expensive VR Partnerships: Microsoft hasn’t officially commented on Scorpio’s VR beyond saying the console will be “VR-ready.” That being said, the general assumption is Microsoft will partner with Oculus Rift or the HTC Vive to offer those experiences.
That makes sense given that premium headsets should be compatible with a premium console, but, at the same time, the potential $500 Scorpio base cost makes the entry fee for those accessories even higher. How much can you truly expect people to pay for a current-gen gaming experience? Right now a PS4 and PSVR can be purchased for as low as $700. If VR ends up being a Scorpio-exclusive feature, that cost rises to $1,000 or $1,300. That trend is set in motion by the starting cost.
Project Scorpio is expected to release this fall. It will be revealed during Microsoft’s E3 press briefing on June 11 at 5 p.m. EDT.
Do you think $500 is too much for Scorpio? Do its high specs make up for it? Tell us in the comments section!