Gamescom 2015 was a blast for Xbox fans. Just as E3 was before it. Microsoft keeps floating the phrase, "the best games line up in Xbox history," and it's probably true. After a flaky launch for the Xbox One by anyone's standards, under Phil Spencer's stewardship things are going in the right direction.
And that direction is out. Xbox is finally becoming something bigger than the box that sits under your television. Gaming is important to Microsoft, and Xbox is its brand. Everywhere.
There have been smatterings of it outside the console for a while, like Xbox Live Achievement support for Windows 8 and Windows Phone games, and the now revoked Xbox branding for Microsoft's music and video services. With the removal of the latter, Xbox is now exactly what it should be for Microsoft. It's all about the games.
The big push really began in January when Spencer appeared at Microsoft's big Windows 10 event. It was the launch of Xbox on Windows 10 and while it all sounded grand, as the months have passed the vision has become so much clearer. Phones, tablets, PCs, consoles, HoloLens, Xbox is going to be everywhere. Cross-buy, cross-play and game streaming are but the beginning.
Take this quote from Spencer in a recent interview with Polygon as an example:
"I think when we look back on Xbox five years from now or so, I think Windows itself will be a critical component to the success I think we can realize of Xbox itself — and gaming will be a critical component of the success of Windows. I really believe that. When we say 'putting gamers at the center,' that's different than putting a piece of plastic or a specific device at the center."
Our recent trip to Cologne for Gamescom helped further put this into perspective. The vast space that was the Xbox booth lined with both consoles and Windows 10 side-by-side. Windows wasn't shoved away in a corner, it was right there alongside the biggest new titles Microsoft had to show. Games like Fable Legends and Gigantic playable together, on both platforms. The only difference, your preference for a controller or keyboard and mouse.
Windows 10 is a big step forward for Microsoft in so many spaces. It's allowing the company to do things that it, nor anyone else has done before. Sure, Sony has dabbled with game streaming, but unless you own a PlayStation and at least one other Sony product, it's useless. How many more people already have what they need to stream Xbox One games? A Windows PC. Sony can't boast what Microsoft is able to do with its games on Windows 10. No-one can.
It's also going to become, I believe, less important to focus on how many consoles Microsoft sells versus Sony. And that's because of the platform. In the same way that a smartphone is a way to deliver Microsoft services to your pocket, the Xbox One will be a way to deliver Xbox to your living room. With Xbox as the games platform available here and on hundreds of millions of Windows 10 PCs around the world, who really gets the bigger marketshare?
And let's not forget that as of Windows 10, official Xbox peripherals, including the forthcoming Elite Controller, are compatible out of the box. Just plug 'em in and away you go.
We're only at the beginning. There's so much to look forward to that we do and don't know about. The new Xbox One experience powered by Windows 10, cross-play games like Gigantic, Fable Legends and Killer Instinct, not to mention Halo Wars 2 in 2016. Engineers have told us that yes, they'd love to reverse the Xbox One game streaming feature, but whether it happens or not is still an open question. The Xbox app on Windows 10 will get better every month and we've got things like Crackdown 3, leveraging the power of the Microsoft cloud, to look forward to.
To sum up, I heard this phrase while at Gamescom that I think says everything. What if you could imagine a future where there weren't Xbox One games and Windows games, there were just Xbox games.