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Xbox Sows Confusion with Shady ‘Optimized for Series X’ U-Turn

Last Updated September 23, 2020 1:55 PM
Thomas Bardwell
Last Updated September 23, 2020 1:55 PM
  • Microsoft walked back comments about the Xbox Series X offering a “standard 60 fps output.”
  • The platform holder now claims that is it up to developers to decide how they leverage the power of the console – “60 fps is not a mandate.”
  • The situation raises questions about what a game needs to land the “Optimized for Series X” badge.

It turns out that the Xbox Series X’s promised “standard 60 fps output” won’t be quite so standard after all. According to Microsoft, developers have the autonomy to determine how they utilize the console’s hardware.

It’s the second straight bewildering blunder from Microsoft, whose perfectly-paced and near-flawless Xbox Series X marketing campaign came to a grinding halt last week. Gamers weren’t too pleased that the next-gen gameplay focused Inside Xbox failed to feature any actual gameplay.

But rather than make amends after that relatively excusable misfire, Microsoft appears determined to double down on its mistakes. The console manufacturer has once again been caught in a discrepancy between what it says and what it means.

Microsoft Goes Back on ‘Standard 60 fps’ Promise

After Microsoft proudly unveiled the badge for games benefiting from the “Optimized for Series X” treatment last week, marketing lead Aaron Greenberg tweeted that 60 fps will be the standard output with the possibility to “support up to 120 fps.” 

Microsoft Sows Confusion With Xbox Series X '60 fps Standard' U-Turn
Source: Twitter 

Official marketing material on the Xbox Series X website suggested as much too :

120FPS Support: With support for up to 120 FPS, Xbox Series X allows developers to exceed standard 60FPS output in favor of heightened realism or fast-paced action.

Yet less than a week later, Greenberg qualified his comments, appearing to perform a U-turn on the previous promise of 60 fps as standard.

The Verge’s senior editor, Tom Warren, took to Twitter  to reveal that Microsoft says: “it is up to individual developers to determine how they leverage the power and speed of the Series X.”

And then Greenberg chimed in to clarify :

Developers always have flexibility in how they use the power, so a standard or common 60fps is not a mandate.

Source: Twitter 

The news comes in the wake of Ubisoft announcing that Assassin’s Creed Valhalla will, as it stands, run at 30 fps on all platforms.

Doubly confusing is that marketing material for “Optimized for Xbox Series X” proudly brandishes Valhalla artwork  as its backdrop alongside the following blurb:

Games built using the Xbox Series X development kit are designed to take advantage of the unique capabilities of the Xbox Series X. They will showcase unparalleled load-times, visuals, responsiveness, and frame rates up to 120FPS.

Valhalla will run at 30 fps, so why does it feature on the “Optimized for Series X” marketing materials? | Source: Xbox 

Not So Optimized for Xbox Series X

All this raises serious questions about what exactly we should expect from games that sport an “Optimized for Series X” label.

If it alludes to a vague promise of potential support for 120 fps, while the vast majority of developers fail to even offer 60 fps, then the supposed “bar” isn’t all that high.

In Greenberg’s own words :

This badge is like next-gen magic. The bar is high for a game to be Xbox Series X Optimized. Way beyond just 4K…hope you all are ready for an exciting future of console gaming!

Microsoft is sowing the seeds of confusion here, which could prove pivotal in its long-term next-gen prospects.

Once again, Xbox is laying the groundwork for the PlayStation 5 to pounce when Sony (finally) gets around to revealing the console.