The next-gen Xbox console could be the best system ever for fighting games in terms of input lag

Xbox One S and X already have technology that helps optimize inputs, but it's currently going underutilized

Posted by Steven 'Dreamking23' Chavez • January 7, 2019 at 8:38 a.m. PST

With the start of the new year and the end of the current console generation drawing ever nearer, fans continue to speculate about what the next era of gaming will bring.

Concrete details are currently scarce about the rumored PlayStation 5 and the Xbox "Scarlett" — both of which are expected around 2020 - 2021 — but many are looking to the current hardware for clues of what's to come.

The Xbox One S and Xbox One X consoles contain technology that is currently going underutilized, but could very well make a difference for input lag and how we experience it in the future. We're talking, of course, about automatic low-latency mode (ALLM) and variable refresh rate.

Forbes recently put together an article that sheds more light on these two features and why they're important. If we do in fact see ALLM and VRR in the next big Xbox console, it could potentially make the next-gen system the best yet for fighting games.

So what do these two features do exactly? Automatic low-latency mode optimizes the timing between the input from the controller and the game's response based on what is appearing on screen when it is enabled, as Forbes explains. This makes it so that input lag is reduced, which should make it no longer an issue. "Competitive multiplayer games in which millisecond lags can mean the difference between success and failure will benefit the most from ALLM," Forbes writes.

VRR caters to a broader spectrum of games as it creates more frame rate stability. With most televisions refreshing images 60 (60 Hz) or 120 (120 Hz) times each second, the screen and the game remain in sync if the game holds at either 60 or 30 frames-per-second. But games don't always remain constant in their frame rates, and that's where VRR steps in.

"Many games don’t have constant 30 or 60 fps frame rates, however, and this creates problems," Forbes says. "The production of images by the game and the display of the images on the screen is out of sync which produces either visual stuttering or screen tearing."

Essentially, televisions with VRR make it so that the screen's refresh rate automatically adjusts to the game's frame rate, keeping both the game and the screen in sync. This helps eliminate any issue that arises from frame rate inconsistency such as slow down, screen tearing, and more.

The quest for the least amount of input lag in fighting games is one that is constant for serious players. Outside of each game's natural amount of input lag baked directly into it, competitors are often trying to find the best hardware, monitors / televisions, and peripherals with the least amount of input delay in order to optimize their experience. Every single frame counts in competitive fighting games.

If the next Xbox console comes equipped with ALLM and VRR — which is likely considering that televisions are now being built to handle both features — it could make the system the optimal console for fighting games and possibly the best ever for the genre, especially if Microsoft continues to put out the strongest consoles on the market.

Both of these features were introduced to the Xbox One S and Xbox One X in the consoles' April 2018 update, however, televisions at the time did not support either. HDMI 2.1 (which supports VRR and ALLM) is beginning to make its way into televisions as LG announced that certain top-end 2019 models of their LCD TVs will feature 2.1 ports. The Xbox One S and X are equipped with HDMI 2.0 ports, but it stands to reason that the next-gen console will also feature HDMI 2.1, which would allow VRR and ALLM to work harmoniously between the console and newer televisions.

These two features look likely for the Xbox Scarlett, but whether or not the PlayStation 5 will incorporate similar technology is uncertain.

As we move closer to a new generation, we can only hope that console exclusivity for mainstream fighting titles (such as Street Fighter 5) is left in the past. This goes doubly if the next Xbox console further optimizes input lag.

If that doesn't happen, though, and we continue to see triple-A fighting games confined to certain consoles, the prospect of seeing support for ALLM and VRR on Sony's (and to an extent Nintendo's) next console will become even more crucial.

As it stands right now, automatic low-latency mode and variable refresh rate seem like game changers for competitive fighters, and they might be in full effect by the time the next generation of consoles is released.

Photo credits — Xbox, Razer.

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