After a year of beta testing, Microsoft officially launched its cloud gaming service (Project xCloud) on Android devices last month, making it free for all Xbox Game Pass Ultimate members. Xbox cloud gaming remains in beta in its 22 launch markets, but Microsoft is already planning to bring it more platforms beyond Android.
In the near future, Windows 10 PCs, iOS devices, and Samsung Smart TVs should support Xbox cloud gaming, but Xbox head Phil Spencer recently discussed the opportunity for Microsoft to launch its own Xbox streaming sticks as well. Spencer's complete interview with Stratechery is behind a paywall, but The Verge shared the most interesting bits earlier today.
“I think you’re going to see lower priced hardware as part of our ecosystem when you think about streaming sticks and other things that somebody might want to just go plug into their TV and go play via xCloud,” Spencer said in the interview. “You could imagine us even having something that we just included in the Game Pass subscription that gave you an ability to stream xCloud games to your television and buying the controller.”
The idea of an Xbox streaming stick isn’t exactly new, and we first heard about it four years ago ahead of the launch of the Xbox One S. We later learned that Microsoft ultimately decided to cancel the streaming stick codenamed “Project Hobart,” though this was two years before Microsoft announced its "Project xCloud” game streaming service.
Spencer hinted that Microsoft could include an Xbox streaming stick with Xbox Game Pass subscriptions, and Google did something quite similar with its Stadia Founder’s Edition bundles that coupled a Stadia Pro subscription with Chromecast streaming sticks. In the same interview, the head of Xbox actually mentioned the possibility of a new "Xbox Game Pass Platinum” tier that would include access to new Xbox hardware.
If Microsoft is really launching its own streaming sticks, it would be interesting to see what kind of software the new devices would run. However, it may just be easier to continue working with partners to bring Xbox cloud gaming to more platforms including smart TVs, as well the Android-based Amazon Fire TV sticks and Google’s different Chromecast devices.
Microsoft did something quite singular by launching Xbox cloud gaming first on Android devices, while both Google Stadia and Amazon Luna are also available on TVs and PCs via a web browser. However, the company opted for the right business model by making cloud gaming a free Xbox Game Ultimate perk, with new games supporting cloud gaming every month. Over 100 Xbox Game Pass games are currently playable on Android devices, and 11 of them are now playable with touch controls.