Do Xbox consoles still have a place at Microsoft?

two decades ago, when the first Xbox arrived, it used the internet for small-scale multiplayer and each game came on a disc. Microsoft built a huge business selling consoles that grew out to play games beyond those drives. As the company looks to the next 20 years, it does so in an industry that is shifting from gaming brought to you by a single device, to a true mobile. will inevitably catch up Xboxes and cloud gaming are completely wiping out physical platforms. One where it’s easy to ask: Does Microsoft have to make consoles yet?

It’s a tempting prospect. Supply chain shutdowns and a global chip shortage – both spurred on by the Covid-19 pandemic – have made the Xbox Series X/S very difficult to find without constant vigilance or overpaying a reseller. Meanwhile, the Xbox gaming app is coming to Samsung smart TVs under the Gaming Hub on June 30, so anyone with the right Bluetooth controller can stream Xbox titles without a console.

But for Phil Spencer, the man at Microsoft responsible for his well-known gaming device, hardware is still key. For him, the shift to the cloud was about creating a hybrid approach, one that allows Microsoft to expand its market beyond Xbox fans. He told the edge in 2020 that he didn’t think the latest generation of consoles would be the last the company shipped, and his stance on this hasn’t changed. “We’ve been through two years of real constraints in the market,” Spencer tells WIRED. “Giving people more choice in how they can play games has certainly been a good thing, both for our company and for gamers.”

Cloud-based gaming through platforms such as Google Stadia have the smoothest launches, but companies like Sony and Microsoft are better able to make this work. Sony has just merged its cloud gaming service, PlayStation Now, with its more popular PlayStation Plus subscription. Microsoft has branding that makes the service easily recognizable against potential competitors.

Spencer also notes that while cloud gaming can bring in new players, there will always be “people looking for dedicated, high-end devices to play games in the highest fidelity they can in their homes.” For many of those players, that device is an Xbox, something even the head of Samsung’s service team, Won-Jin Lee, agrees: “The hardcore gamers will always play their games on consoles.”

The Xbox app will be available first, but not exclusively, on Samsung TVs. The company says it is exploring other collaborations. Likewise, Samsung will not end up with Xbox. Lee says the point was not to build their ecosystem around Xbox, but to work with it and companies like it. “Working with Xbox has really given us the foundation for building this service and how to move forward,” said Lee. “From the beginning, our philosophy has always been to provide the discovery experience that is very open.”

In lieu of E3, Microsoft is gearing up to show off upcoming games at a streamed event on June 12. Spencer points to the company’s games library, as well as the recent acquisition of Activision Blizzard, as a key focus for the company going forward.

It is indeed video games that sell, be it hardware or cloud gaming. Without a strong lineup to court players, it doesn’t matter how many TVs Xbox catches up with if no one wants to play.

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