Microsoft introduced Clubs in 2016 as part of the console's big Summer update, allowing users to create unique spaces based around any game or any topic. Now with the Xbox branch of the Windows 10 Creators Update, Club owners can endow their pages with custom branding and backgrounds, giving them a stronger presence.
Private documents for Xbox developers and partners have given us a glimpse at the future of Xbox Clubs, which include third-party API access (as we've previously reported, but can now confirm!) and some other new features.
Microsoft touted the adoption of Clubs, which already enjoys 5 million active users across 33,000 active groups, based on all sorts of subjects. Microsoft emphasized that Clubs are being created not just for games, but also topics, including LGBT and Anime.
Microsoft analysed two months of data from separate groups of Club-using and non-Club-using Xbox Live users, and found that users who had joined a Club sent more messages, made more friends, and connected to Live more frequently than those that didn't. Club usage increases Xbox Live engagement upwards of 40% per player on average, which, of course, in turn leads to more spending on Xbox Live.
It certainly seems within developer's and publisher's interests to give Clubs a serious look in, particularly when you consider just how powerful they will be when placed inside games in the future.
Soon, developers will be able to leverage the Xbox Live Club's API to build clan infrastructure directly into the games. The idea is to gives players the ability to remain engaged across mobile apps and the web, even when away from their consoles or PC. For gamers, it'll mean that we can manage scheduled playdates, in-game invites and parties anywhere, at any time.
Using the example of Minecraft Realms, Microsoft will soon give developers the option to set dedicated servers in their games as Clubs on Xbox Live, allowing those communities to stay in touch at all times. With the example of Minecraft Realms, you'll be able to see how many people are currently online in your dedicated Realm from your friends list on the dashboard and on any of the apps, pinned to the top.
Developers will also be able to add deep links to their game-focused Clubs. For example, there will be a button to jump straight into Minecraft from the Realm's dedicated Club page, making it quick and easy to join your friends.
It's easy to imagine how this could work in other games, including other sandbox-type games like ARK: Survival Evolved or Astroneer. Perhaps you could use it to instantly jump into a party with your Platoon on Battlefield 1, or prepare for a raid with a clan in Destiny. The feature has huge, HUGE potential, if, of course, it gets adopted by developers.
Microsoft continues its push to turn Xbox Live into a network you want to be in, rather than have to be in, simply to access your games. Every feature Microsoft has put together in recent times is about making the experience more engaging, more fun, and more interactive than ever before, and it's only going to get better.
With Beam, Looking for Group, custom avatars, the new Clubs system, and whatever else Microsoft is cooking up, Xbox Live could certainly evolve into something far more than Microsoft's multiplayer platform.
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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!