At Gamescom, Microsoft came out with a big claim; at launch there will be over 100 games enhanced for the Xbox One X. But with certain games like ReCore: Definitive Edition not being enhanced to full native 4K, it seems that there might be big differences in the quality of enhancements between games.
When we asked for a definition of what exactly 'Xbox One X Enhanced' means, Xbox's UK marketing manager Harvey Eagle said, “[Enhanced] means different things for different games. It’s really up to the developers to deploy the power of the console in whichever way they feel is right for their game.
“Whether that’s true 4K gaming, HDR, improved frame rates, faster load times, or Dolby Atmos. Those ingredients are [all available, and it’s] up to the games maker to decide how to use them.”
It's great that developers have choice about what they can change, but obviously it potentially leaves the door open for developers to make minor changes and sell a game as enhanced.
To get to the bottom of whether there are any minimum requirements for developers before they can call a game Xbox One X Enhanced, we spoke to Xbox Marketing Manager Albert Penello.
“We then have another program called Xbox One X Enhanced which basically just tells consumers that developers have gone back and done work," explained Penello, "We don’t have a specific requirement for what that work needs to be, but it essentially means that they’ve brought their code up to the latest development kit that runs on Xbox One X, and that they’ve gone back and they’ve done something.
“We do have requirements for HDR and 4K however. HDR is obvious, the game supports HDR or it doesn’t. 4K is basically telling the customer that the game is outputting 2160p, it is not an upscaled 4K image.”
Penello also reiterated that games would run better even if they hadn't been specifically enhanced.
“All games are compatible between the two systems [the Xbox One S and Xbox One X]. Every game runs on both and in many cases existing games will run better [on the X] without the developer doing anything.
"We’ve got better texture filtering, faster load times (since we have a more powerful CPU and GPU), [and] games that were at unlocked frame rates or resolution (Project Cars and Halo 5 for example), will run better on the box. That’s without the developer doing any work at all."
Pulling a fast one
So it sounds like regardless of what work’s been done, games are going to look better on the Xbox One X, but our concern was that a developer could make a small, arbitrary change to a game and then sell it as an Enhanced title. Penello had this to say:
“I’m not worried about that. We work closely with developers on this stuff and they understand the spirit of what we’re trying to do. Myself and others in the team want to strike a balance between simplicity and mandating. Because we don’t always know what interesting things developers are going to do."
He continued, "I don’t want to restrict creativity, but at the same time I don’t want [consumers] to feel like we can pull a fast one on them. So we have check and balances internally in place to say ‘what’s the spirit of what we’re trying to do with this?’ There’s a dialogue with the developers, the partners, and us internally, to make sure that there’s a material difference in the game when you get an Xbox One X Enhanced title.”
The takeaway seems to be that Microsoft hasn't put any strict rules in place about what standards developers will need to reach to qualify as 'Xbox One X Enhanced', it's hoping that its close working relationship with developers will keep standards high.