After announcing Project Scarlett, Microsoft may have scrapped cheaper “Lockhart” next-gen console

Laurent Giret

A little less than two weeks ago, Microsoft first the shared details about Project Scarlett, its next-gen Xbox console to be released next year. The “Scarlett” codename was accurately revealed in multiple reports last year, including one from Brad Sams.

As you may recall, Scarlett was initially said to be the codename for the family of next-gen Xbox consoles that would include two devices, a high-end “Anaconda” console, and a cheaper SKU codenamed “Lockhart.” Phil Spencer himself said during Microsoft’s E3 2018 press briefing that the company was “deep into architecting the next Xbox consoles,” and Spencer’s use of the plural “consoles” gave some serious weight to the idea of two next-gen Xbox consoles.

Ultimately, Microsoft confirmed at E3 2019 that Scarlett was the codename for its next-gen Xbox console, and the company never confirmed that a second cheaper SKU (“Lockhart”) was also in development.

According to what Brad Sams wrote today, Microsoft has changed its plans since last year, and the Lockhart console is no longer on the company’s roadmap. As it turns out, asking developers to optimize their next-gen games for two consoles with different capabilities may have been too much work, with some unclear benefits.

Talking with various people inside and outside of Microsoft, here is my best conclusion as to why the device was removed from the roadmap.

First, developers were having a harder than expected time creating next-generation games that spanned across two systems with various specs. As you might expect, developers were putting a focus on making games that would run well on the lower-end device first and then scaling them up to the higher-speced, Anaconda.

Keep in mind, it’s easier to scale up than it is to scale down. Because of this, next-gen Xbox games would be at performance and visual disadvantage which is not what Microsoft would like to see as it starts to go head-to-head with the next generation PlayStation.

Launching two new next-gen consoles at the same time next year would have been a first for Microsoft, and this strategy wouldn’t have been without complications. In addition to the required additional work for developers, Microsoft may have had a hard time trying to market two different consoles when Sony is expected to keep things simple with a single PlayStation 5. Focusing on a single next-gen Xbox console is probably for the best, especially since the video games market will soon get more complex with the rise of game streaming services.

We don’t have all details about Project Scarlett yet, but Microsoft aims to reiterate what it did with the Xbox One X and release the most powerful console on the market next year. The software giant said during E3 2019 that Scarlett will support 8K capabilities and up to 120FPS in games, while also highlighting hardware-accelerated raytracing and next-gen SSD technology. The next-gen Xbox console will also come with a disc drive and support games from all three past generations of Xbox consoles, as well as all existing Xbox One accessories. We may have to wait for next year to get pricing details and more information about new features.