Spencer: 4K & HDR Don’t Offer the Same Transformative Leap We Saw from SD to HD

Alessio Palumbo
Posted Nov 2, 2016
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In an interview with the Game Informer Australia magazine (now available here on the Web), Head of Xbox Phil Spencer talked about several hot topics. One of this was whether there’s a transformative leap in graphics with cutting edge technologies like 4K & HDR, which are being implemented in popular platforms such as Xbox Scorpio, PlayStation 4 Pro and PC. As usual, he offered a refreshingly honest answer.

Big leap is an interesting one… I’ve been around Xbox since the original Xbox and I remember the shift from SD to HD. I remember seeing Gears of War 1, which for us was the first game that I saw on pre-release 360 hardware, and I went, “Wow, that just looks like something new…” The first time you saw a sporting event on live TV in HD, you went, “Okay, that is something different.”

One of the challenges for the generation we’re in now is the jump from 360 to Xbox One, or frankly PS3 to PS4, is visible on screen but not at that same level. It’s not a 2D to 3D transition or an SD to HD transition. You have to be closer to understanding the content and appreciating the content, because those late-gen 360 games look pretty good.

When I see 4K games, they look demonstrably better, but it’s not the same difference that we saw from SD to HD, or from 2D to 3D when gaming went that direction. HDR is the same way: I love the way movies and games look in HDR, but I don’t think it’s that same transformative thing that we saw with [earlier leaps].

Considering that Microsoft is already selling an HDR compatible console (the Xbox One S) and that it will try to offer “true 4K gaming” with Project Scorpio next year, Spencer’s obvious reply would have been the exact opposite. And yet, he is definitely right in a way due to the law of diminishing returns. Of course, true enthusiasts will keep getting the latest and greatest hardware no matter what.

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