Microsoft’s next-generation Xbox Series X and S are just a little over two weeks away, but Microsoft’s Head of Gaming and Xbox Phil Spencer is far from done talking about new hardware. In fact, in a recent interview with Stratechery, Head of Gaming and Xbox Phil Spencer has revealed that Microsoft intends to release a “streaming stick” solution akin to Amazon’s Fire Stick to bring Cloud Gaming with Xbox Game Pass (still referred to informally as xCloud) into even more homes. Also on the drawing board are plans to potentially bundle this streaming stick and/or other types of xCloud-streaming hardware into subsciption bundles that would take the form of new price-tier offerings on Microsoft’s Game Pass service.
“I think you’re going to see lower priced hardware as part of our ecosystem when you think about I think you’re going to see lower priced hardware as part of our ecosystem when you think about streaming sticks and other things that somebody might want to just go plug into their TV and go play via xCloud,” Spencer implied. “You could imagine us even having something that we just included in the Game Pass subscription that gave you an ability to stream xCloud games to your television and buying the controller.”
Also during the interview, Spencer alluded to the possible introduction of a fourth tier to the current Xbox Game Pass hierachy dubbed “Xbox Game Pass Platinum” that would provide “guaranteed access to new Xbox Hardware”. Given that the Xbox All Access financing program already exists, it isn’t clear whether this would be another “lease-to-own” financing plan along those same lines or a less-committal arrangment such as a month-to-month rental program, though the lower cost of similar streaming devices such as the Amazon Fire Stick and Google Chromecast with Google TV in relation to game consoles would appear to suggest the former option.
Spencer’s increasing willingness to speak candidly about Microsoft’s future xCloud ambitions seems to be a good indicator of how comfortable the company is within the cloud gaming space in comparison to its rivals, namely Google Stadia and the newly-announced game-streaming service from Amazon, Luna. Having already shored up its already strong partnership with Samsung to feature a customized version of the Xbox Game Pass service on the Korean manufacturer’s latest mobile devices (and ultimately its new televisions in the future), the streaming stick solution is yet another example of a seed planted by the Microsoft long ago finally taking solid root. Microsoft reportedly had an “Xbox TV” streaming stick device in the works as far back as 2016, but for one reason or another, cancelled those plans (or in retrospect, wisely put those plans on the backburner, as no one was ready to trust Microsoft with the word “TV” yet ).