A few days before Microsoft’s big ol ’E3 livestream, the company’s executives got to talking – eh, read remarks prepared by the communications team – about the future of Xbox. In a pre-recorded media briefing, Xbox CEO Phil Spencer, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, and others boasted about the Game Pass and Azure show, as well. left some news on the company’s cloud gaming and subscription strategies
First, Xbox works with global TV producers to get Game Passes on smart TVs. Considering a Game Pass Ultimate subscription unlocking capability in the cloud, this feature will allow people to play Xbox titles with just one controller, with no console required. In addition, Microsoft is officially building a video game streaming stick, cume Spencer teased at the end of last year.
“We’ve also developed standalone streaming devices that you can plug into a TV or monitor, so if you have a strong internet connection, you can stream your Xbox experience,” said CV Ham of gaming experiences and platforms Liz Hamren. There’s no word on when to expect the smart TV app or streaming hardware to hit the market, but neither seems too far off.
Spencer and friends shared a handful of additional news stories, including:
In the coming weeks, all Game Pass Ultimate subscribers – of which there are at least 18 million – will have access to browser-based cloud games, supporting Chrome, Edge and Safari. This function launched in beta April, and also unlocks cloud games on iOS through a progressive web app.
Even in the coming weeks, cloud players will see improvements in load times, framerate and optimized games as Microsoft completes a next-gen update in its data centers. Until now, the Xbox Cloud game has been powered by blade servers based on Xbox One S consoles, but with the move to new-gen and the ambition to support streaming on larger screen devices, Microsoft has replaced several of these units with blades based on the serial Console.
Later this year, cloud games will be available through an Ultimate Game Pass subscription in Australia, Brazil, Mexico and Japan. In addition, Microsoft will integrate cloud games directly into the Xbox app on PCs, and will launch cloud features on Xbox consoles, such as “try before you download.”
Xbox plays with new Game Pass levels designed to be more accessible to gamers around the globe. In addition, the company plans to expand the Xbox All Access program, which allows people to purchase a new Xbox Series console and an Ultimate Game Pass subscription for $ 25 a month over two years.
As for the massive cache of talent studios that Xbox currently has – including Bethesda, id Software and Arkane – the company plans to release at least one new first-party title in the Game Pass library each quarter.
All this highlights Microsoft’s ninth-generation strategy, which diverges drastically from that of its longtime rival, Sony. While the PlayStation 5 follows a traditional console upgrade path with an emphasis on high-power storage and exclusive software, the Xbox Series X and S are ships for Game Pass and streaming subscriptions, taking advantage of the massive Azure network – something Sony can’t do (at least not without it paying Microsoft first).
This is the pivot that Microsoft was ready to do it since the launch of the Xbox One in 2013. Eight years ago, Spencer launched a console that would always be online and constantly listening, designed with digital game downloads and streaming media in mind. Just at the time, neither players nor broadband networks were ready to make the leap away from physical discs. Today, it’s a completely different story.
U Showcase of Xbox & Bethesda Games begins Sunday, June 13 at 1PM ET, and will feature 90 minutes of fresh software news and trailers from third- and first-party studios. This is without a doubt the biggest live stream of E3 2021, although Nintendo’s upcoming Switch show on June 15 could give it a run for its money. Discover ours full program E3 2021 here, and stay tuned for live streams on the Engadget YouTube channel all week.
All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, you can earn an affiliate commission.