Microsoft could soon remove the biggest barrier standing between gamers and its popular Xbox Cloud Gaming service. The company will reportedly release a streaming stick—described by VentureBeat as possibly resembling an Amazon Fire Stick or Roku-like Puck—that would remove the need to buy a console, a barrier to entry that has been particularly tricky to overcome during the ongoing chip supply shortages.
Similar to a Roku stick, the small device would plug into your TV’s HDMI port and give you access to the Xbox Cloud Gaming service, which includes hundreds of games through Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, along with TV shows, movies, and other media. VentureBeat reports that those with Samsung TVs won’t need any additional hardware, as the company is teaming with Microsoft to create a game-streaming app built directly into its sets—similar, in a way, to TCL’s Roku TVs.
As for the timeline, VentureBeat’s Jeff Grubb and The Verge’s Tom Warren report that the streaming stick will be available within the next 12 months. I wouldn’t hold my breath. Xbox chief Phil Spencer said in November 2020 that we’d see an Xbox app on TVs in—get this—12 months, and that he doesn’t “think anything is going to stop us from doing that.” The company doubled down last June, revealing plans to launch an app and streaming stick “soon.” It’s been almost a year and there is no sight of such products.
In any case, Microsoft is continuing its campaign to make Xbox accessible to everyone. On that note, the company has reportedly launched an “Xbox Everywhere” initiative, which kicked off by bringing Fortnite to Xbox Cloud Gaming, giving gamers the option to play it on iPhones, Android devices, and Windows PCs through the web browser.
Allowing gamers to play a vast library of Xbox games without a console could give Microsoft an edge over its main rival, Sony, particularly at a time when the demand for consoles exceeds supply. With a streaming stick, customers could play hundreds of Xbox Game Pass games while skipping the hassle of finding a console in stock and then paying for expensive hardware.
Whether this streaming stick will convince consumers to forgo buying an Xbox console remains to be seen. The accessory will need to be priced competitively and deliver a compelling gameplay experience compatible with what the Xbox Series X and Series S offer. I’m particularly interested to see what resolution the streaming stick will support, and at what frame rates. As it stands, Xbox Cloud Gaming (xCloud) plays at 1080p at 60 fps by default.
Cloud gaming on a streaming stick or directly from an app might not interest competitive gamers who need low latency, and it won’t be a viable solution for those with a poor connection. However, if properly implemented, this could be a popular option among casual gamers who can’t justify spending up to $500 on a console—or anyone who is tired of waiting for this supply hell to end.