The Xbox One S has more powerful hardware, but will developers take full advantage?

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Microsoft delivered a very interesting E3 2016 keynote yesterday, even if many announcements had already leaked in the press a few days before the annual gaming show. However, while we already knew that the company would announce a slimmer Xbox One as well as a way more powerful hardware revision for late 2017, we’re still impressed by what Microsoft has achieved with the new Xbox One S: at a $299 price tag, the gaming console features a 40% smaller body, a 500GB internal HDD, an internal power supply, an IR Blaster and a redesigned controller with bluetooth support.

Following the press event, we also reported yesterday that the new Xbox One S will still run on semi-custom AMD SoCs which is obviously more powerful as it will enable 4K video streaming and HDR support. The Xbox team shared more technical details in a blog post yesterday:

You’ll now be able to watch Blu-ray movies and stream video in stunning 4K Ultra HD video, with content from partners like Netflix and Amazon Video. Xbox One S also offers High Dynamic Range (HDR) support for video and gaming, so you can experience richer, more luminous colors in games like Gears of War 4 and Scalebound. With a higher contrast ratio between lights and darks, HDR brings out the true visual depth of your games and media.

On the official product page for the Xbox One S, Microsoft clarified that HDR functionality will be “available with supported games and TVs” which means that it’s up to developers to implement it into their games. Furthermore, according to what The Coalition studio head Rod Fergusson explained yesterday to Polygon it’s up to developers optimize their games for the Xbox One S :

According to Fergusson, the Xbox One S has additional raw GPU and CPU power compared to the Xbox One, and The Coalition’s engineers have been able to take advantage of that to reduce the frequency of frame rate or resolution penalties in more demanding sections of the game.

While Microsoft has clarified yesterday that all existing games and accessories will work with every Xbox One console going forward, some questions still remain. How many upcoming games will leverage the improved performance of the Xbox One S? Could developers patch their existing games to improve performance on the new console? Lastly, could existing Xbox One games still run marginally better on the new hardware without any optimization work from the developers? We can’t wait for Microsoft to answer those questions as it seems the landscape of Xbox One games could soon become fragmented.