As Microsoft is getting ready to let gamescom attendees go hands with Project xCloud next week, Phil Spencer has just confirmed that a new Xbox console dedicated to game streaming isn’t in the works. Speaking with Gamespot, the head of Xbox reiterated that Microsoft was focusing on phones with Project xCloud, putting an end to rumors about a low-cost “cloud console” that could launch alongside Project Scarlett next year.
"Last year we talked about xCloud and then we said we were working on new game consoles, but that's all I said." Spencer clarified, "We didn't say that [a streaming console was in the works]. I think maybe some people thought that that was the disc-less one that we just shipped. We are not working on a streaming-only console right now. We are looking at the phone in your pocket as the destination for you to stream, and the console that we have allows you to play the games locally."
The rumour mill was pretty active last year as “Scarlett” was initially said to be the codename for a family of next-gen Xbox consoles. This family was expected to include a high-end console codenamed “Anaconda,” a cheaper model codenamed “Lockhart” (which has since been canceled), and this cloud console was mentioned by Brad Sams on Thurrott.com. A month ago, Sams said in a YouTube video that he believed this cloud console was still being worked on.
Well, Spencer just made it pretty clear that this “cloud console” doesn’t exist as Microsoft is now fully focused on Project xCloud for phones and Project Scarlett for for console gamers. Speaking about the next-gen Xbox console, Spencer said to Gamespot that the Xbox team’s priority is to improve the console gaming experience by delivering high frame rates and short loading times.
"I think the area that we really want to focus on next generation is frame rate and playability of the games," Spencer said. "Ensuring that the games load incredibly fast, ensuring that the game is running at the highest frame rate possible. We're also the Windows company, so we see the work that goes on [for] PC and the work that developers are doing. People love 60 frames-per-second games, so getting games to run at 4K 60 [FPS] I think will be a real design goal for us."
Following the mixed reception that the Xbox One S All Digital Edition received earlier this year and the general skepticism around Project xCloud and Google Stadia, Microsoft is probably right to focus on Project Scarlett while leaving xCloud has a "nice to have" option for mobile gamers. Google has chosen a different path with Stadia, which will be available on PCs running the Chrome browser and TVs with a Google Chromecast Ultra device, in addition to select Pixel smartphones. It's still early days for video game streaming, and Microsoft probably doesn't want to repeat the terrible Xbox One launch from 2013 when an excessive focus on Kinect and TV features disappointed gamers looking for a traditional gaming console.