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The Xbox Series S could Hinder Next-gen Graphics Gains: AAA Devs Express Concern

If ninth-generation AAA titles don’t impress on the graphics front, it could be Microsoft’s fault for delivering an underpowered console. Wait, how does that work when the Xbox Series X is the fastest console ever built and could potentially go toe to toe with the GeForce RTX 2080?

The situation’s got more to do with the Xbox Series S, its underpowered GPU, and small memory pool that’s actually a step backwards from the Xbox One X. Shortly after Microsoft unveiled the Xbox Series S (after a massive leak), developers at AAA studios including Doom Eternal’s id Software had some fairly damning things to say about the budget $299 console.

id’s Axel Gneiting said he was “very bummed” about the Xbox Series S’s memory configuration. He made a strong case for a more powerful base spec, saying that “min spec matters.” He aired something of an open secret about why visuals in the eighth-gen haven’t evolved quite as much as we’d expect. Gneiting said assets for just about AAA game made in the “past decade” were built once to run on the min spec device (which, so far, has been the Xbox One). Regardless of 4K and ray-tracing effects on PC, eighth-gen games are built with a 1.3 TFLOP GPU and a netbook reject CPU in mind and graphics scaling outside the core assets doesn’t offer anywhere near the visual return on investment.

Gneiting, along with Dustin Land, and Billy Khan — all at id specifically called out the Xbox Series S’s memory configuration. The series S features a smaller memory pool than the Xbox One X, with substantially lower bandwidth at 224 GB/s for its 8GB segment and just 56 GB/s for the additional 2GB segment. The memory limitations here impose a hard limit on the complexity of ninth-generation assets: regardless of what would run on the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X, developers might feel compelled to squeeze their creative visions onto 8+2GB of slow Series S RAM. Dropping framebuffer resolution — what Microsoft expects developers to do, considering their 1440p pitch — could help “marginally” per Khan, but wouldn’t be enough.

Are you planning on buying a Series S? What’s your ninth-gen platform of choice? Let us know.

Arjun

Penguin-published author, and journalist. Loves PC hardware but has terrible hand-eye coordination. Most likely to be found playing Total War or watching weird Russian sitcoms.

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