Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft have been battling for consumer attention for a long time now, and they all have their own built-in fanbases. The real challenge for all three companies has been attracting the ‘non-gamer, gamers’ or ‘casuals’ if you like.
Microsoft has been publicly flirting with the idea of taking its popular Game Pass service and expanding it, in an attempt to distinguish itself from the competition and make gaming more accessible and affordable to a wider audience.
Back in November 2020, Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer announced, "We will be able to stream Xbox games straight to our TV in the next 12 months". Fast forward 18 months (a little behind schedule) and reports suggest that Microsoft are working with various television manufacturers, notably Samsung, on the release of a smart TV app alongside a plug and play stick.
All you’d have to do is simply insert it into your TV or monitor to get access to a wide range of its games via the cloud. Google has already tried their hand at a game streaming service with Google Stadia and was released to mixed reviews.
Game Pass is a subscription service that provides access to a large and diverse library of games you can download to your Xbox console. With the Top Tier (or Ultimate) subscription, you can play these titles on your console, PC, laptop or even your mobile phone, and all you need is a solid internet connection, all for a reasonable £10.99 a month.
Although the Game Pass cloud streaming service was in a beta phase for a long time, and is still not yet available in all regions, over 18 million users are currently subscribed to Game Pass. This built-in audience, collaborating with Samsung, and the copious amounts of money spent acquiring some of the best game development studios around will give any future expansions of its service a real head start towards success, compared to Google’s attempt for example.
Microsoft has decided that the future of gaming is streaming and has positioned itself as such by buying up these development studios so they can offer exclusive first-party titles to those happy to live in the Microsoft ecosystem.
An online game streaming platform is the perfect option for an average consumer/gamer or even if you were someone wanting to dip a toe into gaming for the first time. Users will have access to Microsoft’s ever-growing library of games through a simple subscription service, and won’t have to make the commitment of shelling out £300-£500 for an Xbox series S/X console.
If you don't really care about teraflops or framerate, and just want to pick up the latest game and play then this streaming service could be for you. The Alternative is paying £60+ for a game, on top of the cost of the console which is a big ask for those watching the wallet. If, as it has been suggested, all that’s needed is to download an app or plug a box into your smart tv, then why not?
Will the experience be exactly like playing from a console? The short answer is, no. Graphics and other options will have to be scaled back slightly because you’re bound by the limits of your internet connection. While It will surely be a cheaper option, which is no terrible thing, consumers wanting the fullest game experience, with the best resolution and the highest specifications possible, might not find the same appeal.
The £68 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard (among others) is a real statement of intent. Bolstering its huge library with fan favourites like Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, Overwatch, Elder Scrolls and Doom. Having such a spread of genres and titles can only help summon both new and lapsed gamers, creating a more diverse and accessible gaming experience for everybody.
No official announcement has yet been made but the concept is very exciting. Will it be a game-changer? Only time will tell.
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