This week, we got a closer look at the hardware that is coming soon to the Xbox family, the series X. While the hardware should excite those waiting for a new console, the future of Xbox will not be hardware, but software.
And that’s a good thing, Microsoft is quite good at building software and for the Xbox brand, this means xCloud. During the last couple of weeks and months, Microsoft has slowly been expanding its once closed preview service to include iOS hardware, new countries, and the company is adding new games too (at least for Android users).
Microsoft’s marching orders from the top down are to build software as a service but hardware, while is a means to develop and build more software, is not the end goal for Xbox. While it is hard to predict when the ‘classic’ style console will go away, if ever, there is no mistaking that this generation of hardware is far more ‘PC-like’ than previous iterations.
Because when you can game at 4k 60 FPS on your phone, in the browser, or using a built-in app on your TV, why do you even need a console anymore? This is the future Microsoft, Google, and many others are chasing but it’s not quite here, yet.
While we know many details about xCloud, there are still several things on the table that we have yet to hear about and there are new features that are currently being tested. Microsoft previously stated that xCloud would be part of GamePass but we don’t know yet if there will be a standalone offering or if xCloud will be a bundle that raises the price of GamePass.
Business model aside, we still do not know the final name of xCloud. As it stands today, xCloud is the temporary name but Microsoft may be looking to make the final branding announcement in the near future, possibly at GDC.
What will Microsoft name the service? I know many, myself included, would not mind if they stuck with xCloud but the name may not resonate well with those not familiar with the beta. Further, xCloud, as a stand-alone brand, doesn’t make all that much sense; I would expect Microsoft to go with something like Xbox Cloud or similar for the retail name.
There are also other features coming to the service that have not yet been released, such as streaming PC games using xCloud. While the details are still a bit thin, people familiar with the company’s plans state that it looks like the next step for xCloud will offer a solution similar to that of what Nvidia recently launched, GeForce Now. We have seen a similar feature where you can stream games from your Xbox console to another device, PC gamers will soon be able to do the same.
Microsoft’s goal is to make xCloud the backbone for all future gaming options going forward and I expect we will hear more about the company’s plans at GDC which takes place in a couple of weeks. At GDC, the company will likely be pushing its GameStack tools as Micorosft looks to bring more developers into the Azure/Xbox ecosystem.
For now, know that Microsoft is investing heavily into xCloud and that the company is looking to position the service as the foundation of the future of gaming. As the marketing engines kick into high gear for the series X, don’t lose focus that xCloud is the ace in the sleeve for Microsoft.
<p>Console gamers are probably the second easiest targets for a cloudification of their experience, second only to mobile gamers. It probably helps that Microsoft as a platform holder can harm the experience of local players at will, so they can put a finger on the scale if adoption doesn't go along their projected path.</p>