Microsoft’s cheaper next-gen “Lockhart” console is still in the pipeline according to new report

Laurent Giret

Xbox One at E3 2018

After Microsoft officially announced its “Project Scarlett” next-gen Xbox console at E3 2019, the rumored “Lockhart” SKU that has been mentioned in various reports since last year is apparently not dead, according to new information from Kotaku Jason Schreier. Interestingly, Microsoft watcher Brad Sams suggested the same in a video just two days ago.

So far, Microsoft never confirmed that it was developing a cheaper next-gen console to go along with the high-performance Project Scarlett, but Xbox head Phil Spencer had an ambiguous answer to a Lockhart question from Eurogamer back in November.

“I will never remove options for us,” Spencer said to Eurogamer during a X019 interview, adding that the Xbox One S All-Digital Edition, a cheaper version of the Xbox One S without a disc drive was “doing well.” Well, Kotaku is reporting today that Lockhart will be a “cheaper, digital-only alternative to Scarlett,” meaning that Microsoft could reiterate what it did with the Xbox One S All-Digital Edition.

According to Schreier’s sources, Lockhart is expected to rival Sony’s PlayStation 4 Pro in terms of raw performance, meaning that the console shouldn’t be able to run games in native 4K. However, the console will come with a next-gen SSD to improve loading times.

Lockhart is said to have a solid-state drive, like both Anaconda and Sony’s upcoming PlayStation 5, which is expected to have a significant impact on loading times. Developers briefed on Lockhart also say it has a faster CPU than any current video game console, which could allow for higher frame-rates, although there are other factors that might not become clear until the console is completely finalized, such as clock speed and cooling.

Microsoft’s ideal target performances are said to be 4K resolution and 60 frames-per-second on Anaconda and 1440p resolution and 60 frames-per-second on Lockhart.

Microsoft’s sticking to a two-tier approach for its next-generation of consoles should be a good thing for consumers, but probably not so much for developers. “Game developers will be expected to support both Anaconda and Lockhart, which some are worried might hamper their ambitions for next-gen games in the coming years,” wrote Schreier.

Interestingly, the report goes on to mention concerns from Microsoft and Sony about Google Stadia, which has received pretty underwhelming reviews since launch. “Over the past couple of years, a number of developers have remarked to me that staff at both PlayStation and Xbox would talk frequently and reactively about Google’s plans, emphasizing each company’s own response to streaming as a result,” explained Schrier.

As you may know, Sony has recently lowered the price for its PlayStation Now cloud gaming service, adding some new AAA games such as God of War and GTA V along the way. On the other hand, Microsoft recently announced at X019 that its Project xCloud game streaming service will be integrated with Xbox Game Pass, though details about the business model are still unclear. Anyway, Schreier now believes that “The next generation of consoles will remain a battle between Sony and Microsoft, and will be one of gaming’s biggest stories in 2020.” After seeing Google’s struggles with Stadia, it’s hard to disagree with that.

In a recent interview with The Verge, Xbox head Phil Spencer explained that the Xbox team had “a goal of having market success” with the next generation of consoles, and the cheaper Lockhart SKU may help with that. “We will talk about the SKU lineup and how it works,” the exec said in the same interview, adding that “I think the root principle of we don’t want to confuse people, we share that.”

Do you think Microsoft launching both a high-end Scarlett console and a less powerful digital-only Lockart alternative could help the company take the lead over Sony, or do you think this plan may confuse consumers? Sound off in the comments below.