A new interview with Xbox chief Phil Spencer could indicate where the company is taking some its gaming services in the near future.
Speaking to Stratechery, Spencer hinted at new ways to access ‘xCloud,’ the company’s Xbox Game Pass Ultimate’s exclusive game streaming feature that’s currently only available on Android. (It’s important to note that while Spencer refers to the service as xCloud, that’s not its official name; since it launched in September, Microsoft has been referring to it as ‘Cloud gaming (beta) with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate.’)
“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,” said Spencer. “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.”
Spencer has been open about his desire to bring Xbox game streaming to as many devices as possible, but this is the first time he’s specifically proposed a streaming stick that’s offered for free to Game Pass subscribers. That said, Microsoft reportedly cancelled development of an Xbox-branded streaming stick in 2016, so a similar peripheral for Game Pass seemingly wouldn’t be completely new territory for the company.
Earlier this year, Microsoft also teamed up with Samsung on a Galaxy S20 xCloud bundle and exclusive version of the Game Pass app that supports in-app purchases like downloadable content (DLC). Given that existing partnership, and Samsung’s own large presence in the TV space, it seems likely that Microsoft will work together to bring streaming to the South Korean tech giant’s TVs sooner rather than later.
In addition to streaming to TVs, Spencer addressed Microsoft’s ongoing efforts to bring xCloud to iOS, which have so far been blocked due to Apple’s restrictive App Store policies. In the Stratchery interview, Spencer confirmed earlier reports that Xbox is developing on a browser-based game streaming iOS app as a workaround to the App Store limitations. “We have a good solution on iOS that I think it’ll be coming kind of early next year, I feel good about the solution that we have,” he said, while stressing that there are still challenges to overcome.
Elsewhere in the interview, Spencer also teased the possibility of a new tier of Xbox Game Pass. Currently, there is a base tier on Console and PC for $11.99 CAD/month each, or the $16.99/month Game Pass Ultimate tier which includes Game Pass for Console and PC, Xbox Live Gold and Android game streaming.
Now, Spencer is suggesting that Microsoft could introduce an ‘Xbox Game Pass Platinum’ which would guarantee access to an Xbox console on top of a Game Pass subscription. However, Spencer didn’t elaborate, so it’s unclear how ‘Game Pass Platinum’ would differ from Microsoft’s existing Xbox All Access program, which lets consumers pay monthly fees to receive an Xbox Series X or S along with 24 months of Game Pass Ultimate. In Canada, All Access is exclusive to EB Games.
Overall, Stratchery‘s interview with Spencer shows that Microsoft has many ideas for how to evolve Game Pass. In the meantime, though, the company is preparing to launch its two next-gen consoles, the Xbox Series X and S, on November 10th in Canada. Find out more about the more premium new Xbox, the Series X, from our hands-on impressions.