Report: Microsoft to Release More Powerful Xbox One in 2017, Xbox One Slim in 2016

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Microsoft’s Phil Spencer first introduced the possibility of incremental hardware upgrades for the Xbox One earlier this year.

A couple of months ago Microsoft’s Phil Spencer announced that the company was considering a new strategic direction for the company’s Xbox gaming platform: Instead of releasing a new console once every 5-10 years, Microsoft might start following the smartphone model and “decouple” the Xbox One’s hardware from its software systems and introduce upgraded versions of the console on a regular basis. Now, a report from Kotaku’s Keza MacDonald and Jason Schreier has confirmed this strategy and offered some more information on the future of the Xbox One.

The big news is a new model of the Xbox One that will include a more powerful GPU and the technical capability to support the Oculus Rift. According to three sources independently confirmed by Kotaku, this console is currently codenamed “Scorpio” and it should launch sometime in 2017. The report also indicates that Microsoft will continue to release regular incremental upgrades similar to Apple’s iPhone and iPad release schedule.

In less dramatic news, Kotaku’s also reports that Microsoft will be releasing a slimmed-down and less expensive hardware revision of the current Xbox One later this year. According to sources, that unit may feature a larger, 2TB hard drive and should be revealed at Microsoft’s E3 press conference in June.

This strategy is part of what sources say is called “Project Helix,” Microsoft plan to bring together the Xbox and Windows platforms closer together. This is in line with what the company has already announced about the move towards increased connectivity and game parity between the Xbox One and the PC, which was also outlined during Spencer’s talk back in February. Sources describe a “new mandate” to release future games (including new games in the Halo series) across both platforms–though it’s unclear if this mandate is only for first-party games and exclusives, or if this pressure is also being put on third-party publishers and developers.

I’m curious to see if Microsoft will address this report either in the coming days or at E3. Everything here is philosophically in line with what Spencer told the press a few months ago, so it could be that the company is ready to pitch the public this new vision soon, too. On the other hand, as a potential Xbox One buyer, the knowledge of the “Scorpio” model makes me want to hold off on the Xbox One slim–and I’d wager that I’m not alone in that. Now that this info is out there, it makes the current Xbox One hardware a pretty tough sell, even if it is a cheaper and lighter-weight unit.

We’ll find out how (or if) the company speaks about these initiatives in less than three weeks–Microsoft’s Xbox briefing is on June 13th at 9:30 PT. Expect live, caffeinated reactions from us as usual.