Microsoft has invaded almost every home across the world. The Windows operating system barely has competition outside of professionals and hobbyists. If someone isn’t specifically trying to get into film or have complete control over Linux, it’s likely they own a computer running Windows. Microsoft has achieved an install-base that Disney and Apple would kill for.
The Xbox brand has always struggled. The original Xbox sold twenty-four million units. They managed to beat out Nintendo by two million units with their opening act! The PlayStation 2 beat them by one-hundred-thirty-one million. The Xbox 360 fared significantly better, but the PlayStation 3 still sold more. The Xbox One has seen an incredibly rocky lifecycle, but Microsoft spent the last three years well. Instead of playing catch-up to the PlayStation 4, Xbox has been preparing for the next generation. Instead of releasing late titles as a last resort, they bought up studios and began developing titles for the opening act.
The Xbox Gamepass service launched in 2017. For a small subscription, you can download any game on the service for free. Microsoft made the decision to release every first-party title onto Gamepass at launch. If you are enjoying a game on Gamepass, you can own it for a discounted price. Gamepass is the Netflix of games, but it was never as easy to use. We’ve been streaming video since we figured out live news broadcasts. Netflix became so popular because you could just pick a movie and go. To play games on Gamepass, you’d need to download them to your system.
To combat this problem, Microsoft began developing xCloud. xCloud is a game streaming service that would allow you to play your favorite Xbox games at any time, wherever, instantly. xCloud would’ve worked much like Google Stadia. You would need to purchase games, but you could play any game on any device.
Microsoft has been unifying the Windows platform and Xbox brand for years. Instead of having an Xbox account, you have a Microsoft account synced to your home computer and an Outlook email. They’ve been trying to turn the regular Windows-base into Xbox consumers. Such big goals are lofty and often impossible, but Netflix has already done it. Game-streaming can do it.
It has been confirmed that the Xbox Gamepass Ultimate subscription will include xCloud. At any time, you can access hundreds of Xbox titles spanning every generation. It’s almost like being able to browse hundreds of movies and just hop in. It has become that simple. Microsoft has always been much bigger than the Xbox. If an Xbox completely flopped, it wouldn’t matter. Microsoft can take any barrage of punches the world throws.
The Xbox Series X is designed for core-gamers. Microsoft wants to push truly innovative experiences. The Xbox purists want big powerful machines. It seems that Series X exists only to satisfy them. At any time, you’ll be able to stream any Xbox Series X title to your phone or PC, and if you buy into Gamepass, you’ll have instant access to a library that fills every niche.
The console wars are a long-dead tradition paraded by thirty-something men in their mother’s basement and kids who justify their jealousy with baseless vitriol, but if this was a war, Microsoft has made the winning move before the enemy even realized they were fighting. Microsoft has turned Xbox into an ecosystem. You can hop in with anything, and it’s likely that the Nintendo Switch could see some of the action too.
I am that core-gamer. I am excited for both launches later this year, but I can’t get over how smart this move is. It’s the type of move from an action-flick that would precede an overly cocky “checkmate!” Microsoft just won the next console generation by exiting. It’s crazy, isn’t it?