Soon consumers will be able to play Xbox games in their living room without owning an Xbox console.
Xbox is no longer a console, but a service offered on consoles, PCs, mobile phones, and soon smart TVs. Microsoft's Project xCloud tech will allow direct game-to-TV game streaming possibly as soon as 2021, Xbox boss Phil Spencer says in a new interview with The Verge.
Spencer says we could see an Xbox app emerge sometime in the next 12 months, but is careful to say that the best cloud gaming experiences will require a hybrid of local and streaming tech. Latency is a big issue and Spencer says dedicated console and PC gaming isn't going anywhere anytime soon.
"I think you're going to see [an Xbox app on TVs] in the next 12 months. I don't think anything is going to stop us from doing that," Spender said.
"...Now, as you said, a TV is really more of a game console stuffed behind a screen that has an app platform and a Bluetooth stack and a streaming capability. Is it really a TV anymore or is it just the form and function of the devices that we used to have around our TV, consolidated into the one big screen that I'm looking at?
"I do think you're going to see hardware change."
In the same interview, Spencer also re-confirmed the Xbox Series S and Series X consoles won't be the last Xbox hardware that Microsoft creates.
"I don't think these will be the last big pieces of hardware that we ship."
Another important part was the downplaying of cloud-only gaming.
"When we think about the evolution of our game platform, it's really more of a hybrid game platform between edge and cloud that we're shooting for.
"When we think about xCloud, which is our version of Stadia or Luna, I think what it needs to evolve to are games that actually run between a hybrid environment of the cloud and the local compute capability, and that they can actually take full advantage of the cloud that's there and that's available, but also full advantage of my edge compute capability that I have in my home in the console. It's really a hybrid between both of those.
"That's, I think, the compute model that most people are going to move to with most app development, a hybrid model between edge and the cloud where things that - either from a security, or latency, or even cost and bandwidth standpoint - can be done locally, should be done locally, and things that really could use the scale that you can get through cloud, and be able to light up multiple blades to deliver whatever experience you want to deliver to somebody, would use the power of the cloud.
Direct game-to-TV streaming is something we've long predicted.
This concept is an evolution of Microsoft's aspirations with the cancelled Project Hobart; a small, NVIDIA Shield-like set top box designed specifically for game streaming. Instead, Microsoft could roll out an Xbox Stick to plug directly into a TV's HDMI slot, or even design a Project xCloud app natively to run on smart TVs without any extra hardware.
Microsoft will reach many millions more consumers and fold them into the Xbox ecosystem. The Xbox TV app will introduce more people into the brand and likely push them to upgrade to dedicated hardware--or play games on-the-go via mobile. Either way, the incentive is clear: playing games regardless of where you are in a form factor and frictionless way that doesn't waste your time.
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