Xbox chief hints at TV streaming sticks for xCloud

Microsoft’s head of gaming and Xbox, Phil Spencer, has hinted that the company is planning TV streaming sticks for its xCloud cloud gaming service. In an interview with Stratechery, Spencer discusses the potential for additional tiers of Xbox Game Pass, which could include a free bundled TV stick to play xCloud games.

“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,” says 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 also teases the potential for an “Xbox Game Pass Platinum” with guaranteed access to new Xbox hardware. Microsoft has been bundling Xbox subscriptions and hardware together in something called Xbox All Access, which includes access to Xbox Game Pass and the latest Xbox Series X and Series X consoles. It’s a bundle that Spencer is obviously keen to experiment with in the future.

Microsoft’s xCloud service.
Photo by Nick Statt / The Verge

The idea of an Xbox game streaming TV stick isn’t a new one for Microsoft. The software giant was preparing lightweight Xbox streaming devices back in 2016, but it canceled the hardware. Microsoft has been investigating streaming sticks and hardware ever since the company originally demonstrated Halo 4 streaming from the cloud to Windows and Windows Phones all the way back in 2013.

Spencer’s first public mention of Xbox streaming TV sticks implies the hardware could be ready soon, though. Microsoft has so far only bundled xCloud game streaming with its highest Xbox Game Pass Ultimate tier ($14.99 per month). There’s certainly room for additional tiers, and easier access to the service beyond just Android devices.

Microsoft partnered with Samsung earlier this year for xCloud, and it’s only a matter of time before we see the company’s game streaming service appear on Samsung TVs. 2021 could be an interesting year for xCloud, especially as Microsoft is planning to upgrade its server blades to the more capable Xbox Series X hardware. We should also start to see xCloud appear on Facebook Gaming next year.

Microsoft is also working on a web-based iOS solution for xCloud that will debut in early 2021. Spencer confirms our recent report on this iOS workaround in the Stratechery interview, but warns that not being in the App Store is still a challenge for xCloud. “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,” says Spencer.