No, Microsoft is not ditching Xbox consoles for TV and Game Pass cloud streaming

Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S
Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S (Image credit: Matt Brown | Windows Central)

One of the prevailing narratives I often see revolving around Xbox Game Pass cloud streaming is this idea that Microsoft wants to eliminate the home console completely. It's this notion that their ultimate goal is to move everyone over to the cloud and a subscription service, wresting you of some kind of control over your home content and entertainment experiences. Indeed, Microsoft itself confirmed last week that they're working on streaming-only Xbox Game Pass apps for smart TVs, and streaming-only Xbox console boxes in the future.

In an interview posted on Bloomberg TV, Microsoft's head of creator experiences for Xbox Sarah Bond offered some details on exactly how Redmond is positioning gaming. She even said in the interview that Microsoft views retail outlets like Gamestop as integral to offering consumers choice over how they want to play. Yet, despite that, Bloomberg TV slapped a large banner across the screen reading "Games move to TV, ditch consoles," prompting a wave of fear in my DMs.

Source: Bloomberg Sarah Bond appears on Bloomberg TV, with a banner scroll that claims "gaming is ditching console." (Image credit: Source: Bloomberg)

I think it's a tad disingenuous, or at least erroneous, of media outlets and other commentators to continue with this idea that cloud gaming is designed to be anything other than supplementary for Xbox. Perhaps it's the struggle to separate Xbox Game Pass from the effects Netflix and Spotify have had on their respective industries. In a virtual Xbox press briefing offered to Windows Central and most likely Bloomberg as well last week, Xbox head Phil Spencer and his team spoke up about how Xbox Game Pass cloud streaming (formerly known as xCloud) is designed to be an option, aimed at people who can't afford a console, don't want a console, or simply want more ways to get at their content.

Related: Why you can't compare Xbox Game Pass to Netflix

Spencer also said explicitly that he expects that there will always be a home console option from Xbox, while noting that new hardware is already being incubated.

"Of course, there's still a place for console and PC, and frankly, there always will be. Through the cloud, we'll be able to give a robust gaming experience to anyone connected to the internet, even on the least powerful and least powerful devices, devices people already own.""When I was a kid, it was crazy to think about having a Galaga or a Ms. PacMan machine in your house. You had to go to the arcade. More recently, if you couldn't spend the hundreds of dollars on a console or thousands of dollars on a high-end PC, you simply couldn't participate in the global gaming community in a significant way. The cloud will allow us to completely remove these barriers to play."What makes us different from a service like Netflix, is that give players both players, a subscription package and a full retail store. [...] On console, we believe we'll see share growth this generation, as we have the lowest next-gen console on the market, and the most powerful next-gen console on the market. Game Pass is becoming a deciding factor in people choosing which console to buy. The majority of new gen-9 console sales attach Game Pass."

Cloud IS an Xbox console

Xcloud On Da Phone

Source: Windows Central Playing Monster Sanctuary on the Surface Duo via Xbox Game Pass' cloud. (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Even if you don't believe Phil Spencer is being honest, it's potentially irrelevant. There are technical reasons why Xbox Game Pass cloud servers will remain an option. The greatest maneuver Phil Spencer and his team pulled in his tenure as lead of Xbox was bringing the gaming division into closer alignment with Microsoft's cloud-oriented vision, leading to huge investments from the top down. Instead of playing along with the established idea of what gaming is, Microsoft is redefining what gaming is, giving you access to all the best Xbox games across any device, anywhere, at any time.

And yes, it will be an option. And why? The cloud is literally powered by Xbox home console hardware, and the home console development environment. By making the cloud effectively a console, it creates a win-win scenario where Microsoft can move outside of the established and relatively static console install base, and find growth on devices that have, historically, been too underpowered to offer high-end gaming experiences.

Is there a sci-fi future where we'll play video games via brain implants and cloud-based Windows Mixed Reality holograms projected straight onto our ocular nerve? Sure, maybe. But as long as global demand remains strong for console hardware, you needn't worry about Microsoft getting out of the game.

Jez Corden
Managing Editor

Jez Corden is the Managing Editor for 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!

7 Comments
  • It wouldn't be good business for Microsoft to dump consoles. Media always needs something to get views, I guess. Providing broader options for consumers to game is the best way to stay relevant in the gaming industry.
  • Media always needs clickbait.
    And there is a large audience for bad views of XBOX, especially when they're doing well.
  • Xcloud is to unstable to ditch consoles atm and devs have lot to do to get it up an running without needing any console. I think one day maybe they will drop consoles becuse thay don't do much profit on it but we just have to wait and se what will happen.
  • We will at least have another generation of consoles, streaming is still not there.
  • I mean they should though, eventually. Not now, and not in the next decade (maybe), but they definitely should at some point because honestly once streaming is on par with at home then it's just wasted overheads to continue churning out consoles.
  • Depends on how good the hardware gets.
    It's like PC vs Consoles: no matter how good consoles get, the best PCs get even better. Odds are that for the forseeable future there will be use cases that require high local capability.
    Back in the XB1 intro days, MS extolled the XB1's ability to enabled hybrid games that combined local resources with cloud computing assistance. That required always on internet which was vilified at the time even if it is routine today. Multiplayer tactical shooters (like Gears5) seem to derive great benefit from 120fps and the kind of bandwidth and latency required for those games is too much for streaming today and may remain so indefinitely. What we are seeing, though, is a segmentation of the gaming hardware market beyond lowend, high end, and PC and expanding the range of options to reach consumers interested in gaming that can't justify the cost of dedicated hardware beyond a controller. A good example of how it may develop is the Kindle ebook market, where Amazon offers dedicated hardware ranging from entry level to premium but also provide free apps for reading on phones, tablets, and PCs. This works brilliantly because while avid readers can consume up to 200 books a year (seriously) and can justify the best possible reader (and a buffet style subscription) the book market has waayyyy more casual readers who buy one or two books a year and can live fine with reading them on the phone or laptop. Covering all use cases let them maximize their reach and allows readers to move seamlessly from casual to avid readers over time. The same applies to gaming: folks might start gaming on TV and migrate to consoles over time, maybe even the premium models. It takes all kinds and reaching everywhere will let them grow the XBOX ecosystem to the largest possible size.
  • The future of consoles.
    Without internet ?
    Or Pc optimized gaming ?