Having Two Consoles Could Be The Least Surprising Move By Xbox In Years
As was already confirmed by Phil Spencer at E3, Microsoft is well on their way towards the next console generation. Rumors from all over the internet are already swarming about what the next console will look like, feel like, what the specs will be and when it will release. One of the most enticing rumors is that Microsoft is working on not one but two different consoles for the next go around. One will be the standard powerhouse already promised to continue Xbox’s claim of “world’s most powerful console”, while the other will embody an ideal that’s been floating around the gaming space for years: game streaming.
In a recent article by Brad Sams of Thurrott (HERE) it was rumored that this second new console would be a smaller, more affordable console that, instead of focusing on having the strongest hardware and best graphics, would allow users to play games streamed from the cloud in real time similar to the Playstation Now service. Many claimed this to be a huge surprise, an absolute game changer, a paradigm shift. While it is true that this would be a first for our industry, I don’t see this a shock in any way.
Since the debacle that was the release of the Xbox One, it is no secret that total hardware sales for Xbox have lagged behind that of Playstation by a wide margin. Even with the release of the newer, sleeker Xbox One S and the current reigning king of consoles the Xbox One X, Microsoft has still had to find creative ways to get new players to enter their environment. And creative they have been!
"While it is true that this would be a first for our industry,
I don’t see this a shock in any way."
Over and over through the past half decade, Microsoft has shown their customers that they care about them and want to make their time in the Xbox ecosystem worth their while. One great example of this is the Xbox Backwards Compatibility Program. Since November 2015, Microsoft has made available over 500 games from the original Xbox and the Xbox 360 to Xbox One owners through both physical discs and digital downloads. This by itself is an enormous benefit to many and has lead to thousands of hours of play for gamers looking to get back into their old favorites.
In addition to backwards compatibility, we recently passed the one year anniversary of Microsoft’s introduction of the Game Pass, a Netflix-style games library available to every Xbox owner for only ten dollars per month. What started as a charming, albeit small collection of mostly indie titles has transformed into a monumental collection of over 150 games including some incredible AAA heavy hitters such as Elder Scrolls Online by Bethesda Studios and The Division from Ubisoft. Microsoft has also used this platform to release all of its first-party titles day one. If you own Game Pass, you get access to top tier games the same day as others who buy flat out.
Finally, with last year’s purchase of the streaming service Beam (now called Mixer) Microsoft has made it easier than ever for players to share their gaming exploits with the world. Only months after the acquisition, Microsoft was able to seamlessly integrate the ability to livestream directly into the Xbox home interface. Now if a player wants to create a Twitch-style livestream, and connect with others on the platform through a particular game, they are only 3 button clicks away.
This list of features is not by any means exhaustive of the services that Microsoft continues to provide its users in order to add value on top of an already incredible suite of hardware and accessories. This is why the release of a feature like a low-cost stream box in addition to a new heavy duty console is not surprising in the slightest. Microsoft wants to bring people into its environment. It wants players to play games on the Xbox Game Pass, it wants players to livestream through Mixer, and it wants players to shop in their marketplace. With this new stream box, they are simply lowering the barrier to entry for people who are torn between two companies that, from the outside might not look very different. Now that Microsoft has shown that they are willing to give the players what they want in regards to services, making that ecosystem more accessible through a cheaper console offering is about the most logical thing I’ve seen Microsoft do this generation.