If you want to play Xbox games, historically the first step has been to buy, borrow or steal an Xbox. But ever since Microsoft launched Xbox Cloud Gaming, having access to a console hasn’t strictly been necessary as anything with a web browser could run a small (but growing) selection of Xbox titles, streamed straight to your screen with surprisingly little latency.
But opening a web browser and typing a URL isn’t as convenient as switching on your TV, and it looks like Microsoft has plans to make streaming titles more easily playable in their natural living room habitat.
Last year, Liz Hamren, CVP of gaming experiences and platforms at Microsoft, revealed the plan for a Chromecast-style streaming stick ahead of E3. “We’re also developing standalone streaming devices that you can plug into a TV or monitor, so if you have a strong internet connection, you can stream your Xbox experience,” she said in a pre-recorded E3 panel.
Now Microsoft has reiterated this is coming, but possibly not imminently. “As announced last year, we’ve been working on a game-streaming device, codename Keystone, that could be connected to any TV or monitor without the need for a console,” a spokesperson told Windows Central. (Probably don’t need a codename if you’re talking about it in public, guys.)
“We have made the decision to pivot away from the current iteration of the Keystone device,” the spokesperson continued. “We will take our learnings and refocus our efforts on a new approach that will allow us to deliver Xbox Cloud Gaming to more players around the world in the future.”
Why the need to “pivot”, other than marketing executives’ natural love of putting the word “pivot” into sentences? Well, given this has been in the works for some time, Microsoft may be a little spooked by the underwhelming performance of Google Stadia — something which also streams games on the widely available Chromecast hardware.
And while Microsoft has plenty of loyal gaming customers already, which is obviously something Google does not, the problem is that these people already own Xboxes which already do the job far more efficiently.
It will be interesting to see what Microsoft does to make the Xbox streaming stick more appealing to gaming-curious types. A low cost of entry certainly wouldn’t hurt…