Microsoft has always been a software company, and its major push towards being a product-independent company under CEO Satya Nadella’s leadership has also been very well documented. Despite that, Microsoft’s Xbox gaming business has still been rather tied to its console hardware for the most part — and for obvious reasons. With Microsoft’s approach towards bringing its Game Pass experience to more platforms, along with Project xCloud game streaming service at hand too, is Microsoft finally acknowledging (ironically while launching new generation gaming consoles) that it is definitively taking Xbox beyond its consoles?
All eyes on X/S
Maybe in future, but for now, consoles are very much roped into Microsoft’s immediate future plans for the gaming sector, says Jeremy Hinton, head of the company’s Xbox business for Asia. Speaking to News18, he says, “We believe that playing on console remains an important choice for gamers, and (it is) the best place to play and experience high-fidelity gaming at a lower price point — when compared to hardware with similar specifications, such as a high-end gaming PC.” Beyond this, Hinton believes that at least for the immediate future, taking Xbox features to non-Xbox devices would not be a sudden jump, hence still keeping major features linked to the consoles.
“Take cloud gaming with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, powered by Project xCloud, as Microsoft’s vision for a streaming technology that is complementary to our console hardware. It will give fans more choice in how they game, and importantly, enable console players to pick up and play on the go,” says Hinton. In essence, this sets a stepping stone that buys Microsoft time to rope in more gamers into their ecosystem — a battle that they have waged against Sony (and others) since forever.
Opening a tight-knit ecosystem
Eventually, though, Hinton agrees that the idea for Microsoft is to be everywhere. “Whether it’s PC, the cloud or the new Xbox consoles — no matter how you choose to play, we support it. This player-centric mindset is also reflected in how we deliver content — our Xbox Game Pass fuels access to content for gamers as well as the flexibility to reach players wherever they are. It’s an exciting time to enter the Xbox ecosystem and we’re proud of the diversity of content that’s available,” he adds.
Hinton holds a cautious, conservative approach towards the clear transitions and advancements that Microsoft has so far made in the Xbox ecosystem. For now, he maintains that the Xbox consoles are super important to the company’s gaming ambitions, stating that the company is “proud” of the local, country-wise demands it has seen for the Xbox Series X and Series S consoles. While Hinton doesn’t divulge Xbox sales figures, he adds that Microsoft does “expect to sell every new Xbox made this year”, and that it has seen “record player usage” in the 2020 holiday season. It has been 17 days (at the time of publishing) since the new consoles went on sale, including in India.
How far, then, will Microsoft go to open up their Xbox ecosystem to various platforms? Will they even choose to venture into enemy territory? Case in hand is Microsoft’s acquisition of gaming giant Bethesda, and speculations around whether the production house’s much-lauded game titles would launch on rival platforms such as Sony’s PlayStation. Understandably, Hinton refuses to offer additional comments on this for now. However, he does close by hinting at a diverse future ahead for both the game and the gamer, in the Xbox ecosystem.
As he says, “Cloud gaming is additive to console gamers, and will ultimately give more choice in how they game. Gamers are playing across nearly every device, and we want to empower them to play the content they want, when and where they want it.”