Microsoft gaming chief Phil Spencer teases 'Keystone,' the unreleased mini Xbox console

Xbox lead Phil Spencer
(Image credit: Microsoft)

What you need to know

  • Phil Spencer is the head of Xbox, as CEO of Microsoft Gaming. 
  • Today, Spencer revealed that PC Game Pass is expanding to forty new markets with a quick clip on YouTube. 
  • Eagle-eyed fans noticed that Spencer's shelf contained a mysterious box that is unmistakably, Xbox Keystone. 
  • Spencer has teased upcoming products on his shelf before, and it has become something of a meme. The appearance of Keystone is likely significant, hinting that the project is still going ahead. 

Last year, Microsoft revealed its cloud console concept codenamed Keystone (wow, lot of alliteration there), in an exclusive discussion with us about the mysterious unreleased "Keystone" Xbox. Despite shelving the current iteration of it, Xbox lead Phil Spencer unshelved it recently and placed it lovingly on his ever-increasingly notorious magical shelf. 

Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer today announced that Xbox Game Pass for PC is heading to 40 new territories, vastly expanding the service's footprint. Game Pass for PC sports hundreds of high-quality games for all types of gaming PCs, and with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, you can even run Xbox console games via Xbox cloud gaming. Microsoft is all-in on cloud gaming, with a promise to allow future versions to run any game you own from its massive Azure data centers, dotted around the globe. 

To announce the PC Game Pass expansion, Spencer took to YouTube with a quick clip, thanking gamers for their continued support. Eagle-eyed Xbox fans noticed, however, that Spencer's magical shelf of goodies and wonderment once again teased the Keystone console. 

As you can see, the Xbox Keystone console (albeit blurry) is unmistakable here on the right side of the top shelf. White like the Xbox Series S, complete with an Xbox logo on the front and a USB type-A port for controllers, charging accessories, and so on. We're told that essentially, Keystone was a near-pocketable device that simply ran the Xbox Game Pass app, already available on some TVs. Microsoft ultimately took it back to the drawing board for iteration. We heard that the main reason for this was to add support for third-party apps, such as Netflix, YouTube, and other services. 

It remains to be seen whether or not Keystone "2.0" will make it into consumers' hands, but it makes a lot of sense. Spencer has teased upcoming products on his shelf in previous videos and interviews, including the Xbox Series S, as many outlets doubted its existence. The fact Keystone has appeared here so prominently is more than likely a hint that the project continues, and may even make an appearance at the upcoming Xbox Showcase in June, 2023. 

We heard this device was gunning for a $99 price point with an Xbox controller, which would make the barrier to entry into the Xbox ecosystem incredibly low for those with a stable enough internet connection. A dedicated streaming box could also feature better optimizations for encoding video and maintaining a stable Wi-Fi signal, potentially taking advantage of advancements in Wi-Fi signal technologies seen in Wi-Fi 6E and beyond. It's not a stretch to consider that Microsoft could even produce an LTE model in partnership with a carrier like EE, who just signed up to a 10-year cloud partnership with Microsoft for Xbox Cloud Gaming. 

Jez Corden
Co-Managing Editor

Jez Corden is 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 tea. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his XB2 Podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!