As the landscape of the gaming industry continues to change, Microsoft looks to change with it, implementing new technologies to stay ahead of the competition. One of these technologies is Microsoft’s “Project xCloud”.
Announced last year, xCloud is yet another game streaming service scheduled for release at some point in 2019. Microsoft says that xCloud is going to be able to push out AAA games at console quality not only on Xbox consoles, but across the user’s entire tech ecosystem. Gone are the days of lugging around beefy consoles on trips and vacations, instead, all players are going to need is either a smartphone or tablet.
This sounds like a god send for players, but you might be wondering how this makes any kind of business sense for Microsoft. At first glance, this seems like a great way of gouging out a good chunk of Xbox sales in the years to come, but it turns out that consoles aren’t even really a priority for Microsoft anymore.
Phil Spencer, Microsoft’s head of gaming said that consoles just aren’t “where you make money.”
“The business inside of games is really selling games, and selling access to games and content in means like that is the fundamental business. So if you open it up, the more often people can play, the more they’re enjoying the art form. It increases the size of the business.”
This week, the company laid out its strategy surrounding its upcoming cloud service at a tour of its gaming headquarters in Redmond, Washington. According to Microsoft’s estimates, today there are around 2 billion gamers worldwide, a figure that seems nearly insurmountable in terms of traditional console sales. For reference, Sony has only sold around 75 million PS4 systems in the console’s lifetime. The Xbox One has managed a measly 30-50 million.
“We know we aren’t going to sell 2 billion consoles, and there are a lot of markets around the world where a console is not necessarily part of the lifestyle,” says corporate vice president of Microsoft’s Gaming Cloud, Kareem Choudhry.
XCloud has the ability to change all that. Instead of potential customers having to go out and purchase a physical console, all it would take is a phone and a broadband internet connection to gain access to hundreds, if not thousands of games. In an instant, Microsoft would be able to open up the market to people who may have never even purchased one of their consoles otherwise.
“Not all of those players are going to want to pay $60 to go play something that they haven’t heard of before, and I see that model as being something that can really help us as an industry grow,” Spencer said.
This isn’t the only step that Microsoft has taken to try and make the industry more accessible though. The company is currently at the forefront of cross-play gaming, with Microsoft rumoured to be extending their Xbox live service to iOS, Android and even Switch in the future. This news comes courtesy of a session description for Microsoft’s GDC 2019 next month, first reported by Windows Central.
Microsoft isn’t exactly alone though. Amazon is already rumoured to be working on their own rival game streaming service. Companies like Apple and Google are apparently following suit and are in the middle of developing their own proprietary streaming services. With the television and film industries already in the middle of a transition into content streaming, these upcoming gaming services might be yet another step in the right direction for nearly frictionless gaming. Streaming services could completely get rid of the barriers to entry for potential customers around the world, and as costs go down, player bases are sure to go up.
Xbox seems to be taking an extremely liberal approach to how they work with other companies. Instead of directly competing, Xbox is looking to collaborate to reach wider markets, something basically unheard of in the industry. In today’s current climate of console exclusives and proprietary online services, Xbox is taking huge risks and potentially changing the gaming landscape forever.