Xbox has approached this current console generation in an aggressively different way. For years, console generations and the box itself have been at the heart of the video game industry. However, as technology advances, there’s a good question about just how important these boxes actually are.
Xbox must have noticed this because their latest actions confirm what many of us have been thinking for a while: They care more about getting people into the ecosystem of Xbox rather than putting a box in their living room. In some ways, they plan on taking the box out of the equation entirely. In a presentation to the media on Thursday, Xbox went over what their plan is for Xbox in the near future. While consoles will still be a part of what they do, they’re going to focus on creating more ways to experience games.
This will require a stronger emphasis on cloud gaming. Xbox has already been embracing this with services like Gamepass, but they may be taking it a step further with Xbox integration into smart TVs and maybe streaming sticks. Players may not even need much more than a stick and a controller, similar to the model of the Google Stadia.
Expect cloud gaming to come to Xbox Series X/S and PC later in 2021. This will allow players to play games before purchasing and downloading them. There’s potential to play games while they download, which would fix a major problem of modern gaming where players have to wait for a game to download to their console before playing it. To assist in this push to the cloud, Microsoft datacenters are being upgraded with Xbox Series X hardware so there won’t be too many issues with framerate or stream lag.
Anyone that is a part of Gamepass Ultimate will get to experience all of this firsthand. Members of that service will be able to utilize Xbox Cloud Gaming from Chrome, Edge, or Safari. Imagine playing the newest Halo game or Gears of War from a browser — something that sounded impossible five years ago is now being advertised as a feature by Xbox.
All of this lines up with how Xbox has been approaching the current console generation with their focus on Gamepass, the accessibility of the Xbox Series S, and their embrace of PC gaming. Xbox is setting up an ecosystem to play games in rather than a single box that can play some games, but not all of them. It’s pretty clear that they believe this is the future of video games, and to be fair, they’ve got a point.
Console generations, exclusivity, and a lot of what has defined the business of gaming just isn’t as important as it used to be. Look at how the majority of multiplayer games include crossplay now. The idea of a group of friends needing to all own the same console so they could play together is long gone, and Xbox making video games more accessible is part of that. While we don’t know how effective this strategy will be, we can give them credit for trying something new.