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Xbox Head Breaks His Silence On 8k Gaming

The release of the Xbox Series X and Series S is fast approaching. With both consoles set to battle the PlayStation 5 and PS5 Digital Edition in the upcoming console war, extra attention is being paid to the people in charge of shepherding these console launches. During a recent chat with Wired, Xbox boss Phil Spencer made a few comments that may surprise fans, mostly concerning 8K gaming.


In the interview, Wired talked about the differences between the Series X and the Series S. Specifically, the Wired article mentioned that the Series S is significantly less powerful than the Series X and lacks 8K support. However, Spencer's response to this point made it clear that he doesn't see the lack of 8K capability as a deterrent from purchasing a new console, at least not at the moment.

 "I think 8K is aspirational technology," said Spencer. "The display capabilities of devices are not really there yet. I think we're years away from 8K being—if it ever is—standard in video games.

As pointed out by one fan on Twitter, many modern televisions aren't actually equipped to provide full 8K displays. Meanwhile, the ones that actually can produce 8K images are by and large way too expensive for the average gamer to purchase. For a clear example of that, you really don't need to look any further than Sony's upcoming "Ready for PlayStation 5" televisions.


There was quite a bit of fanfare surrounding the latest TVs to be added to the Sony line of products. The X900H/XH90 4K HDR and Z8H/ZH8 8K HDR television models from Sony use Full Array LED lights to create a more dynamic image than most standard LED televisions. These are also supposedly capable of producing 8K, but they are extremely cost-prohibitive. The sad truth about Sony's "Ready for PlayStation 5" TVs is that the X900H retails for $999 USD, while the Sony Z8H model sells for $5,998 USD. Not only that, but the televisions will have to receive regular updates in order to provide the services that they're advertised as having. 

In other words, even if a game is designed to produce 8K visuals, many consumers may not have a display powerful enough for them, and purchasing one may be outside of the average gamers' means. This would make 8K gaming even more of an "aspirational" concept. This disconnect between performance and affordability is something that is actually pointed out by Wired. As mentioned during the interview with Spencer, IGN's top pick for an 8K television in 2020 costs an eye-watering $8,000.

Another thing that was touched on in the interview is ray-tracing. At one point, Wired referenced an article from PC Gamer regarding ray-tracing, which "calculates how light would bounce off digital objects in real life." This is meant to create a more realistic sense of lighting in games. While it is impressive, PC Gamer maintains that ray-tracing has not lived up to its promise to change gaming forever. According to Spencer, the criticisms regarding ray-tracing were "probably right." 


This may shock some gamers, particularly considering the fact that ray-tracing has been something of a hot topic within the last few years of video game development. In regards to upcoming video games, ray-tracing has been something of a buzz term to get people excited. The teams working on both Marvel's Spider-Man Remastered and the next-gen version of Grand Theft Auto 5 have talked a big game regarding the fact that these releases will take advantage of ray-tracing to improve the visuals on already beloved releases. To hear Spencer downplay it is certainly a surprise.

However, Spencer further explained that he thinks ray-tracing is impressive, but that it's not the end-all, be-all of the video gaming experience. Essentially, he feels like it's not necessarily a make or break function. Spencer elaborated, telling Wired, "When I think about games where ray-tracing has had a dramatic impact on my experience as a player, it's kind of spotty." He thinks that there is a bit of "buzzword bingo" that is occurring when people get extra excited about ray-tracing in games.

There have been plenty of questions popping up as the release dates for the PS5 and the Xbox Series X have drawn closer. It seems as though Phil Spencer will be fielding many of these questions up until the new consoles finally debut. It's a good thing, too; for a while, it was starting to look as though Microsoft didn't care whether or not the fans bought an Xbox Series X.


The Xbox Series X and Series S will be released on Nov. 10, 2020.