Microsoft will soon launch a dedicated device for game streaming, the company announced today. It’s also working with a number of TV manufacturers to build the Xbox experience right into their internet-connected screens and Microsoft plans to bring cloud gaming to the PC Xbox app later this year, too, with a focus on play-before-you-buy scenarios.
It’s unclear what these new game streaming devices will look like. Microsoft didn’t provide any further details. But chances are we’re talking about either a Chromecast-like streaming stick or a small Apple TV-like box. So far, we also don’t know which TV manufacturers it will partner with.
It’s no secret that Microsoft is bullish about cloud gaming. With Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, it’s already making it possible for its subscribers to play more than 100 console games on Android, streamed from the Azure cloud, for example. In a few weeks, it’ll open cloud gaming in the browser on Edge, Chrome and Safari, to all Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscribers (it’s currently in limited beta). And it is bringing Game Pass Ultimate to Australia, Brazil, Mexico and Japan later this year, too.
In many ways, Microsoft is unbundling gaming from the hardware — similar to what Google is trying with Stadia (an effort that, so far, has fallen flat for Google) and Amazon with Luna. The major advantage Microsoft has here is a large library of popular games, something that’s mostly missing on competing services, with the exception of Nvidia’s GeForce Now platform — though that one has a different business model since its focus is not on a subscription but on allowing you to play the games you buy in third-party stores like Steam or the Epic store.
What Microsoft clearly wants to do is expand the overall Xbox ecosystem, even if that means it sells fewer dedicated high-powered consoles. The company likens this to the music industry’s transition to cloud-powered services backed by all-you-can-eat subscription models.
“We believe that games, that interactive entertainment, aren’t really about hardware and software. It’s not about pixels. It’s about people. Games bring people together,” said Microsoft’s Xbox head Phil Spencer. “Games build bridges and forge bonds, generating mutual empathy among people all over the world. Joy and community — that’s why we’re here.”
It’s worth noting that Microsoft says it’s not doing away with dedicated hardware, though, and is already working on the next generation of its console hardware — but don’t expect a new Xbox console anytime soon.