In statements to press, Microsoft outlined the future of its gaming business across Xbox consoles, Xbox Game Pass, and its cloud offering.
Microsoft has seen some impressive momentum, taking hardware sales initiatives in many key markets, while growing out its nascent cloud service backed by hundreds of games in the Xbox Game Pass subscription service. Competition in the cloud space is heating up, with Amazon, NVIDIA, and others trying to muscle in on this growing market. Microsoft is uniquely positioned to take the lead in this sector, owing to its vast library of exclusive content and industry-leading Azure cloud platform, but the info herein shows the company is taking its competitors seriously.
Microsoft's Xbox Cloud Gaming service is currently in beta, and is available as part of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate. The service is relatively small, with mainstream audiences generally unaware of its existence. However, its footprint is growing, particularly since Microsoft and Epic included Fortnite into the service for free — making it the only way to play Fortnite on iOS devices where the game is banned. Indeed, since Fortnite hit the service, I've noticed Xbox Cloud Gaming hit by access queues as the servers hit capacity.
In view of surging interest, Microsoft has detailed ways it plans to expand the service across the next fiscal year.
- Microsoft is partnering with Samsung to offer the first Xbox Cloud Gaming TV app as part of Samsung's 2022 TV range from June 30. To speculate, it will most likely expand to other TV sets as server capacity expands.
- Microsoft is expanding the list of countries for Xbox Cloud Gaming to Argentina and New Zealand. This includes the free access to Fortnite.
- The Windows version of Microsoft Edge will grab Xbox Cloud Gaming's "clarity boost" resolution upscaler by default, and also grab a gaming-featured tab option.
- Windows 10 and 11 will get a new Xbox Controller Bar, to make accessing cloud games with a controller more convenient.
- Microsoft is adding "thousands" of additional Xbox Cloud Gaming server racks to keep up with growing demand for its cloud gaming services across the next year. Cloud capacity will grow by 125% as a result.
- Microsoft revealed that 20% of users on cloud fall under the "new to Xbox" performance indicator, which highlights the company's effort to introduce the platform to users who have never had, or intend to have an Xbox console.
- Microsoft revealed that they're working on a new feature codenamed "Project Moorcroft," which will add exclusive game demos to Xbox Game Pass, set to roll out within the next year.
- Additionally, Microsoft is gearing up to expand Xbox Cloud Gaming beyond the Xbox Game Pass library. Right now, there are hundreds of games to play with a controller, and around a hundred to play with touch controls. Microsoft will debut a selection of games you can buy and play via the cloud that isn't part of Xbox Game Pass.
Cloud and Xbox Game Pass represent a huge opportunity for Microsoft. With the console market generally serving the same few hundred million users year in, year out, Microsoft's cloud gaming platform has a chance to break into the wider PC and mobile phone ecosystem, delivering high-quality games to platforms that are typically known for low-quality, pay-to-win titles and storefronts completely devoid of curation. Microsoft is also known to be exploring streaming-only console devices with Xbox "Keystone," and possibly even a Nintendo Switch-like handheld.
With Apple and Google gatekeeping their respective platforms to the point where certain games can't operate (like Fortnite), Xbox Game Pass and its more developer-friendly approach also has an opportunity to bring those high-quality games to a bigger audience via Microsoft Edge, while giving game developers a far better deal.
None of this is to suggest Microsoft is seeking to get out of the console game, though, as many detractors like to suggest. Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer re-emphasized that cloud is simply one part of a diverse array of business models Xbox wants to offer both consumers, and developers:
“[Xbox Cloud Gaming] should be part of you playing any game on any device, whether it’s a game that you own, whether it’s a free-to-play game: it is really about delivering great game content to any customer on any device through multiple business models.”
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Jez Corden a Managing Editor at Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!