It has been clear all year that Microsoft is approaching 2021 differently than it has ever approached a fiscal year, with the launch of the Xbox Series X/S, continuing to support and grow Xbox Game Pass, and its xCloud streaming service.
Specifically, with xCloud, Microsoft is using it as a way to push the Xbox ecosystem across non-standard platforms, such as mobile through the smartphone, tablet, and laptop users.
According to an interview with The Verge, head of Xbox Phil Spencer said xCloud will be available as an app on TVs and other new devices soon. Whether it be on the TV itself as a smart app or on other hardware like a media stick, Microsoft is planning to push its game streaming service to even more platforms.
Spencer doesn’t think there is anything in place to keep Xbox from expanding directly to TVs in a way that the brand has never done before.
“I think you’re going to see that in the next 12 months,” Spencer said. “I don’t think anything is going to stop us from doing that. I thought what you said about the TV was spot on. What we used to call a TV was a CRT that’s just throwing an image on the back of a piece of glass that I’m looking at. Now 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.”
According to Spencer, Microsoft views every platform as a potential outlet for its apps in the same way that there is has been an ecosystem for other apps on the last three generations of Xbox consoles has led to usage beyond just for gaming.
“One of the primary things that people do on game consoles is watch video; they watch Netflix and Disney Plus and Hulu and everything else,” Spencer said. “What it’s meant is we actually have to build out an app platform inside of a game console so that these providers can go and build their Spotify app and the different things that run. There’s real hours and hours of usage on these things, which — my N64 didn’t do that. The first Xbox didn’t do that.”
This also extends to making sure xCloud does make it onto every platform possible, including a full release on iOS.
As of now, Apple’s policies for the App Store keep services like xCloud, Amazon’s Luna, and Google’s Stadia from being readily available on the platform. Amazon is already running Luna on the Safari browser because of the limitations and rules, but according to Spencer, Apple is open to changing things in the future.
But even if Apple does eventually allow xCloud onto the App Store without requiring Microsoft to make every game on the service available as an individual app, the developers are building out the browser version anyway.
And whether this approach leads to Microsoft eventually putting an app on Smart TVs, media sticks, or selling its own, smaller hardware that will run xCloud and other apps, Microsoft is moving forward with this hybrid mindset.
“I don’t think these will be the last big pieces of hardware that we ship,” Spencer said. “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.”