Microsoft may be looking to improve the Xbox One’s graphics performance, a new report from Hothardware.com suggests. Currently, 10% of the machine’s GPU is reserved for the motion-sensing Kinect, but a new patch could loosen that restriction. Sources say Microsoft could allow developers to make use of 8% of that, with the final 2% being reserved for voice commands. Xbox One’s performance has been coming under scrutiny since launch, most recently with the news that Tomb Raider: Definitive edition runs at a higher framerate on PS4.
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Here’s the statement from a Microsoft spokesperson:
“At Xbox, we are always thinking of what’s next for our platform and looking for new ways to innovate. We believe Kinect is an integral part of the Xbox One platform and its use of voice and gesture lead to unrivaled ease of use, premium experiences and interactivity for consumers. Beyond that, we have no further comment”
Noncommittal, naturally, but notice what it doesn’t say. Normally I’d expect to hear “Microsoft does not comment on rumors or speculation,” the boilerplate answer for the vast majority of reports. It leads me to believe there might be some truth in it. It would certainly make sense — games that aren’t making heavy use of the Kinect, for example, the aforementioned tomb Raider: Definitive Edition, could easily make good use of a little extra processing power. All of this number competition has added up to some bad press for Xbox One with core gamers, so a little more juice could assuage frame rate issues.
The Kinect is arguably the crucial defining of the Xbox One — it’s the reason that it costs $100 more, its voice and gesture controls are one of the most important features of its entertainment lineup, and its the biggest differentiating feature from its chief competitor. Even so, few launch titles have taken any real advantage of it. The one Kinect-centric game, Fighter Within, sits at an impressive 24 on Metacritic — that’s one mixed review and 37 negative. I’ve tried to use Xbox Fitness, which works fine as a normal exercise video, but is hopeless when it comes to recognizing anything I’m doing. The voice commands lose a little luster once you find yourself repeating “Xbox, Pause” for the fifth time.
All of that is going to take a lot of work to fix. This change would say something a little different — it reminds us that the Xbox One is not just a Kinect machine. It’s a traditional console as well, and traditional games should be able to use it as such.