Microsoft: Xbox One and PS4's published specs "might not tell the whole story on performance"

Product planning boss "wasn't trying to be arrogant or dismissive" with PS4 comparisons

Microsoft' product planning manager Albert Penello has chimed in on last week's OXM story about "meaningless" PS4 and Xbox One spec comparisons, reiterating that "great games are what matters". Intriguingly, he's also hinted that Xbox One's current on-paper specifications might not offer a fair indication of what the machine will be capable of come release day.

Speaking to OXM during our pre-reveal first look at Xbox One in May, Penello had suggested that debating the technical merits of the new Xbox versus Sony's PS4 is futile, because consumers ultimately buy consoles for the games they offer. "I heard this exact same argument last generation and it's a pointless argument, because people are debating things which they don't know about," he told us. "They're not [head silicon engineer] Nick Baker or [corporate vice president of IEB hardware Todd Holmdahl], and I'm not [lead PS4 architect] Mark Cerny, so why are we having this discussion?"


Before we begin on the new stuff, I'd like to apologise to Penello and his "good looking friend Kevin who works in Marketing" for publishing a picture of the latter in place of the former last week. Wrist slaps have been administered.

"I'm not diminishing Sony's performance claims and I wasn't trying to be arrogant or dismissive," Penello told the assembled representatives of NeoGAF in a thread about his comments over the weekend. "What I was trying to say is - I'm not Sony's engineering team. So I can't comment on what they have published as specs.

"I know what our teams are doing, and I know how they thought about architecting the system. The guys who are building these machines (on both sides) are unbelievably talented and experts in their field. Nobody knows the specifics of how the machines are architected or if there may be bottlenecks in one system or accelerators in another that change the impact of the published specs.

"What I believe is that our games are going to be great and they are going to look next-gen, and I *think* E3 sort of showed that," he continued. "And great games are what matters. And while you guys joke about the cloud stuff, I think the stuff the Respawn guys have said starts to clear up what we've been talking about with cloud performance (cue the "have you seen Titanfall" meme).

"Games on both systems looked awesome. I was there, and while I know RYSE took a hit on the gameplay that was shown, I thought it was the most next-gen looking game I saw on either platform. Of course, I get I'm biased and I didn't have time to see everything.

"As always, I love taking the hits. And I appreciate that while the words I used were probably worth some scrutiny, I do appreciate that some of you got what I was trying to say."

In a startling twist, Penello went onto suggest that Xbox One's specifications might yet be subject to alteration in the months between now and the console's November release.

"I would like to pose this question to the audience," he remarked in a subsequent post. "There are several months until the consoles launch, and [as] any student of the industry will remember, specs change.

"Given the rumored specs for both systems, can anyone conceive of a circumstance or decision one platform holder could make, where despite the theoretical performance benchmarks of the components, the box that appears "weaker" could actually be more powerful?

"I believe the debate on this could give some light to why we don't want to engage in a specification debate until both boxes are final and shipping."

Penello retreated from the idea in a third post, however. "Nope, not implying that. I'm asking if people could conceive of a circumstance where the published specs might not tell the whole story on performance. I'm not talking about the cloud, either."

This could have something to do with a Digital Foundry claim that Xbox One's memory performance may have been hugely underestimated - we'll ask for comment. Here's our definitive Xbox One guide to chew on in the meantime.