Earlier this year, Microsoft launched the Xbox One S All-Digital Edition, a console that was identical to the standard Xbox One S in every way with the exception of an omitted disc drive. It appears ditching discs could be a strategy Microsoft uses going forward as the company is reportedly making a less-expensive and all-digital Xbox Scarlett as an alternative to its more powerful version.
According to Kotaku, Microsoft is still planning to release two versions of its Xbox Project Scarlett machine, which we had heard rumors about prior to E3 in June. Those died down as Microsoft emphasized that it was launching one machine, but this is apparently not the case.
The less-expensive Project Scarlett system will not include a disc drive and will feature power more akin to the PlayStation 4 Pro, but will be capable of hitting higher framerates. It likely won’t be capable of consistent 4K visuals, unlike the more powerful system we’ve heard is internally called “Anaconda.”
Releasing a less-expensive and less-powerful version of a next-generation console seems like an odd move at the start of its lifespan, but Microsoft isn’t just relying on its system’s hardware for games. Its Project xCloud game-streaming service means that those who buy the less-powerful Xbox Scarlett system can stream games to their console and take advantage of Microsoft’s own servers to run them. Those with the more powerful machine will have less incentive to do this when they’re at home, as they won’t have to use any data in order to consistently hit higher resolutions and framerates on their machine.
One major downside that will come with choosing a disc-free Xbox Scarlett system is that you won’t be able to fully take advantage of the console’s backward compatibility. The console will be backward compatible with all Xbox One games, as well as a selection of 360 and original Xbox games. If you own these games on disc, you’ll not be able to play them on the disc-free system and will have to keep your Xbox One out on your shelf.
The Xbox Scarlett is scheduled to arrive for the holidays in 2020. It’s unclear if both versions will launch together.