Gaming

Microsoft is building Xbox game streaming right into smart TVs

The company dropped a number of astounding news bombs at today's E3 presentation.

Microsoft's Xbox Series X (black) and series S (white) gaming consoles are displayed at a flagship store of SK Telecom in Seoul on November 10, 2020. (Photo by Jung Yeon-je / AFP) (Photo by JUNG YEON-JE/AFP via Getty Images)
JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images

Xbox’s subscription Game Pass service is about to get a lot more expansive. Game Pass was the main focus of Microsoft’s E3 2021 briefing today where it revealed it has some huge developments in the works that will make it easier to play Xbox games across all your devices.

Microsoft announced it’s working with TV manufacturers to “embed the Xbox experience” right into smart televisions — which would allow users to stream Xbox games via xCloud without owning any actual console hardware. This would be a first not only for Microsoft but for the gaming industry as a whole, allowing unprecedented access to Microsoft’s ever-growing library of streaming-enabled games.

Further details of this so-called embedding process were not discussed — this was more of a teaser than anything else. Microsoft execs have teased this feature in the past — last year Phil Spencer mentioned bringing an Xbox app to internet-connected TVs with similarly minimal details.

The ability for non-Xbox owners to play Xbox games via just their televisions would be nothing short of industry-shaking. And somehow that’s not even the end of Microsoft’s incredible teasers.

A streaming stick! — Microsoft said today that it’s also developing some sort of plug-in device whereby users would be able to stream Xbox games directly to a TV or monitor. Spencer alluded to this device last year, too, but today Microsoft confirmed it’s very much a real product in the pipeline.

“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,” said Liz Hamren, head of gaming experiences at Microsoft.

Again, details on these “streaming devices” (more than one?) are sparse. We could be waiting a while for this one.

Improved xCloud all around — If it weren’t already obvious, Microsoft is ready to pour way more of its resources into Game Pass and xCloud. The company is currently in the process of moving its xCloud servers to run on Xbox Series X hardware, which should reduce load times and improve overall frame rates.

The xCloud experience is coming to web browsers — even on the iPhone — in the next few weeks. That experience should be greatly improved by the server-side move to the Series X as well.

The Xbox streaming infrastructure is quickly becoming Microsoft’s biggest selling point not only for the current-gen Xboxes but for the company’s gaming ecosystem as a whole. That’s smart business from a company that doesn’t have quite as many first-party exclusives as its rivals.