A Streaming Next-Gen Xbox Could Be as Revolutionary as Xbox Live

An Xbox that streams games over the internet could blow open the video games market.

Opinion by Tom Orry, .

My son wanted to play Minecraft. He's too young to really play it, but he had become aware of it via a tiny mine cart toy I won in an arcade machine (a coin pushing machine, if you must know, and the toy is one of those that has a metal ball underneath so you can roll it around). After explaining that the controls might be a bit tough, him swearing blind that they wouldn't be and that he knows better than I do, and me suggesting we carry on with Disneyland Adventures instead, I weakened and said we'd give it a go. He wanted to play it immediately, of course. This, as anyone who plays modern video games knows, is something that's becoming increasingly difficult to do.

I own a physical Xbox One Edition of Minecraft, yet by the time I'd installed it, downloaded the updates, and actually got into the game, my son no longer wanted to play Minecraft. He wanted to watch Paw Patrol, which I could get playing on the TV is seconds. There's a barrier to entry with video games that a lot of people don't see, but it's there. These days video games come with a lot of baggage that eats away time. As far as worst offenders go, Minecraft is saintly, yet it still couldn't be played quickly enough.

While a next generation low-cost Xbox that focuses on game streaming tech might sound like an abomination to purists (you're probably counting the pixels on the images in this article, aren't you?), it could revolutionise video games for the kind of people that aren't reading this website (or any other video game website). Bringing the ease and speed of services like Netflix to the video game industry will open up a casual market that platform holders have been desperate to tap into since ET on the Atari 2600. A standard Xbox Two will be available too, of course, functioning just like consoles do today.

Microsoft has turned the Xbox One around, but more work is to be done with the next consoles.

There are obvious problems with video game streaming tech as it stands. Of the services available today (PlayStation Now and Nvidia's GeForce Now being the two most high profile), it's hard not to feel that you're getting a compromised experience. Whether it's a cutback library of titles, disappointing image quality, or the dreaded input lag, I can't help but see game streaming as exciting tech that ultimately feels a long way from being something that's ready for the mainstream. Microsoft (if the report is accurate) feels differently.

There's a lot of talk and marketing in the games industry about 4K, which is understandable as video games in 4K look amazing. But when it comes to streaming, consumers seem to be fine with less. Even devices and services that offer 4K TV and movie content don't do so uniformly. Take Netflix, which streams in 4K for most of its original output if you pay for the more expensive sub, but only 1080p for the bulk of the catalogue. Apple seems to be making a decent push at selling 4K streaming via its Apple TV, but it's still not universal, and rival services like the Google Play store are woefully lacking in UHD 4K options. Microsoft's next-gen Xbox streaming device doesn't need to offer 4K gaming if it can accurately mimic the home console 1080p experience with the added layer of convenience streaming offers.

Microsoft's Xbox Game Pass is a superb service that delivers value in spades, but its real brilliance could be unlocked when paired with streaming, removing the lengthy wait for games to install before you can play them (something Microsoft's FastStart tech only goes part way to fixing). Instant access to titles that are all included in a subscription is how Netflix boomed (and seemed rather magical at its launch), and it's easy to underestimate the impact such a model could have on casual video game consuming households.

People have been quick to brand streaming tech a gimmick lke Kinect.

Naysayers will shout loudly about how video game streaming will never work. They might be right, but I want to be optimistic. Microsoft is a company built on creating software, with its services in the gaming sphere often being industry leading and transformative. Looking back it's hard to believe Xbox Live happened during the original Xbox era (I beta tested it and it felt like a new console generation in terms of impact), and without it who knows how online gaming on consoles would be today. Do you remember how online gaming was on the PS2? SOCOM was great, but the disjointed mishmash of services was not. The Xbox One's backwards compatibility program is now almost taken for granted, while other platforms offer nothing that comes close. I understand the skepticism but Microsoft has defied expectations before, and streaming video games looks to be the company's next big bet.

I'm not going to rush out and buy a next-gen Xbox streaming console for myself (I'm a gaming snob, naturally), but I'd certainly consider one for my son's bedroom if he wanted one. While I firmly believe that the Xbox One lost to the PS4 primarily due to a large power difference and 'scandals' such as missing grass in Grand Theft Auto 5, the Switch has proven that convenience has a place. A low cost, easy to use, instant access next-gen games console could be very tempting for a lot of people come 2020. Let's just hope internet providers don't let the whole thing down.

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Comments 30

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  • Avatar for Bsmittel #1 Bsmittel 3 months ago
    Pretty reasonable take, I think it's been blasted way too much early on due to lack of imagination by people of what the tech really is. I could maybe understand it if this was the only option and they aren't also releasing a regular console. There are places that could definitely run a streaming system like this now as well as many areas of the country that couldn't and very well may never have the speeds needed to do it. When Xbox Live first launched I was lucky enough to live by the Arizona St research center when "cable" internet was first rolling out it was probably a good 4-5 years after that my parent's area in small town Michigan got anything above 56k.
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  • Avatar for SargeSmash #2 SargeSmash 3 months ago
    It's an abomination not because it's a bad idea, but because it basically locks those of us out that don't have reasonable ISPs. I'm stuck on a 4G LTE plan because I can't get DSL, fiber, or cable where I live, despite being only a couple of miles outside a city that offers all of those. The current generation has already been awful as far as chewing through data; I have to drag my system to my work network to download major updates.

    I don't think game streaming is an impossibility, but I worry that some of us would be cut out of the market entirely should gaming go this route.
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  • Avatar for Fourfoldroot #3 Fourfoldroot 3 months ago
    Great idea, let's show a whole load of non gamers the depth of shit gaming can be. Instead of, you know, the best gaming has to offer. That'll grow the market.

    Oh, and streaming subscriptions are the polar opposite of low cost and ease of access. You'll pay far more in the long run and be locked out of quality gaming whenever there are network issues.Edited July 2018 by Fourfoldroot
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  • Avatar for Bappy #4 Bappy 3 months ago
    If the revolution has changed and Xbox provide streaming for gaming , it's the good news for the world wide games lover and games industry.
    Thing to look, a good gaming headset can increase your gaming skill. So gamers let's see the best gaming headset for Xbox One and complete your gaming needs..
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  • Avatar for SuperShinobi #5 SuperShinobi 3 months ago
    I doubt it. Sony could release a dedicated PS Now streaming box tomorrow and Nvidia could release a GeForce Now streaming box and how much would they sell - maybe some thousands of units? Certainly not millions.

    I think MS may release a Scarlet streaming box, but it'll be to test the market and gather data, while the regular next-gen Xbox will be responsible for most of the unit sales. The main benefit of the streaming box would be a cheaper price, but price isn't the Xbox's problem. The Xbox One S is already very affordable, but it still isn't selling that well.

    I don't think being able to start games quickly is a big deal, when modern AAA games require a huge time investment of 20-200 hours in any case. What matters more is that the experience is good and stable without any connection issues and such.

    Being able to stream Xbox Scarlet games to a high-end smartphone might make more of an impact, although there's still the question of can you connect the phone to the TV easily via HDMI, and also you'd need to buy a physical controller and be able to connect that easily as well.
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  • Avatar for WiIIyTheAntelope #6 WiIIyTheAntelope 3 months ago
    I've used quite a bit of PS Now and while it's far from perfect, it's definitely playable. But it still suffers from the main problem that any streaming games service does. With anything less than an absolutely perfect internet connection, it falls apart, and falls apart fast. No matter how casual a player is, the last thing they want is for their game to be ruined by factors completely out of their control. Let's pretend Fortnite is still the casual game of choice when this thing shows up. Little Petey comes home from school one day and fires up Fortnite, but whoopsy, for some reason there's a lot of line noise in his internet connection that day. Now suddenly Petey has gone from pretty good at the game, to being killed within the first minute of every match because the dreaded artefacting keeps popping up at the worst times. Of course all of Peteys friends don't have a problem with this because they have the real machine. And now suddenly the real machine is on the list of things he wants Santa to bring him.

    I know it's pretty easy to forget since games writers live almost exclusively in the Bay Area, where there's plenty of choice in what internet services you can get, but reality is, most of the country doesn't have that option. Your options for internet are whatever company holds the monopoly in your area..or dial up. That's it. Whatever nifty tech MS talks about isn't going to mean much to them when they're completely at the mercy of a potentially flaky internet connection.
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  • Avatar for Number1Laing #7 Number1Laing 3 months ago
    Count me as one of those naysayers. The problem is that no matter how good the tech is, it still has to run through the internet, and for most people, their ISPs just aren't good enough and probably never will be. At best, the streaming services work for some people in some places some of the time. You can't build a business on that.

    Oh and there's no need for a streaming console. The whole point of this stuff is that it runs anywhere.
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  • Avatar for Pandalulz #8 Pandalulz 3 months ago
    It seems silly to throw it all in for the first go. Make it an option on a regular system, make the sub dirt cheap (maybe half or less of Game Pass, or included and then spins off for cheaper), get people to use it, and then see where it goes. If it works well enough at a cheap price, and enough people have internet that can handle it, slowly bump the price up and work to a dedicated machine. If you make too many changes too fast, people will hate it and you. It worked for Netflix, follow their lead. Of course, they also invested billions in exclusives, maybe do that too.
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  • Avatar for Funny_Colour_Blue #9 Funny_Colour_Blue 3 months ago
    It will happen, but it will be 10-20 years before the tech and hardware can catch up - I remember when youtube could only be played on a handful of home computers, now it can be accessed on any device - it's that sort of phenomena that needs to happen before cloud gaming can catch on.

    It may not happen for years though.
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  • Avatar for The-Challenger #10 The-Challenger 3 months ago
    I hope streaming isn't the next big gaming revolution, if it is then what a fucking disappointment.
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  • Avatar for LBD_Nytetrayn #11 LBD_Nytetrayn 3 months ago
    Are all the people talking about areas without great internet services forgetting that the same rumor that spoke of this also said there would be a more traditional version, likely for that precise reason?
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  • Avatar for CK20XX #12 CK20XX 3 months ago
    ...yeah, like others have said already, American infrastructure is simply not designed to support a next-gen streaming Xbox. If Microsoft wants to swing their great flippin sacks of cash around though and clobber the people determined to hold everyone back from the future Microsoft envisions, more power to them. Even Wario can be a hero sometimes.

    But there's also something to be said about teaching kids the value of patience. What other effects could such an instant-gratification future have...?
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  • Avatar for Captain-Gonru #13 Captain-Gonru 3 months ago
    Wow. Let's skip over the flimsy arguments that the article makes (Xbox One's backwards compatibility that "no one" else does? You mean, like how Wii U was fully compatible with its predecessor's hugely successful library, but still managed to somehow fail?).
    Where exactly would one purchase this magic streaming-only box? What retail outlet would sell hardware (which has historically sold with very little profit margins) to consumers who would never need to come back for software (which has historically sold with very healthy profit margins)? And before you say "online retailers", remember that those same retailers are moving away from low margin merchandise like toys and, you guessed it, video game hardware.
    See, your local Wal-Mart will sell a PS4 to you because they figure enough shoppers of PS4s will also buy not only PS4 games and accessories, but also higher profit margin items like food and clothing. Online spaces, which have little ability for "impulse" purchases or other means of compelling add-on shopping, are focusing on items they can maximize profit on. In neither of these scenarios is a box that you never need to buy anything else for of any use to them.
    So I ask again, where are you buying this system?
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  • Avatar for Number1Laing #14 Number1Laing 3 months ago
    @Captain-Gonru Pretty sure you can buy a Roku pretty much anywhere dude.
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  • Avatar for link6616 #15 link6616 3 months ago
    I think this is a great idea for countries with high speed internet! I could see a pure streaming service take off in Korea or Japan, especially if perhaps you also release a controller and a smartphone app too.

    A number of games in Japan for mobile already run this way and do so pretty well. PSO cloud for switch similarly works well.

    I think getting initial uptake would be hard in many markets, but this sort of device would be cheap, it wouldn't surprise me if MS tried something really crazy like offering the streaming box for some stupidly cheap price with a year of game pass. Or even included it as a second room device for free with the base model of the full console.

    What I'd be curious about though is... what if MS actually decided to use this to work with Nintendo in Asian markets. What if game pass streaming came to Switch just in certain territories where MS traditionally hasn't done well?

    Reading through the comments it seems a lot of people are taking it as streaming only for the full thing? I think that's deliberately misreading it. I got the impression from the pieces that this would be a supplemental console. Almost more how sony pushed the PSTV than anything else.Edited July 2018 by link6616
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  • Avatar for docexe #16 docexe 3 months ago
    @link6616 Frankly, I think a lot of commenters in this thread, not to mention people in general who are both in favor and against certain new technologies (like streaming) fall into the same trap of assuming it’s a zero-sum game: That a new technology becoming commercially successful means it will completely vanquish and replace an older technology completely and in a short time-frame. That’s not really how it works however. More often than not, the two technologies actually tend to co-exist, in some cases even for very extended periods of time. It all comes down to both accessibility and usability: If the new technology is only available to a limited number of people or doesn’t address the needs of a specific but very large group of people, then the old technology simply won’t go away. It will remain available until the new technology is actually widespread enough or becomes usable enough for most potential consumers.

    In that sense, if Microsoft (or any other company really) releases a streaming-only gaming platform, and said platform actually becomes a hit with the “casual audience”, that doesn’t mean by itself that streaming will become the dominant form of gaming or that it will replace traditional home consoles altogether. Given all the pitfalls and limitations that streaming currently has, it’s unlikely that such a thing will happen in the next decade or probably even more. So, just like how smartphones becoming such a big thing in gaming hasn’t killed traditional consoles yet, a successful streaming platform won’t do it either.
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  • Avatar for geniusattestation #17 geniusattestation 3 months ago
    Deleted November 4000 by Unknown
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  • Avatar for Roto13 #18 Roto13 3 months ago
    Streaming only works if you don't play anything fast paced, and then only barely. Ever try to play a fighting game on PS Now? It's excruciating. The technology to eliminate that lag will never exist. No matter how much bandwidth you have, sending an input over a distance and receiving the results back over that same distance will always take time.
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  • Avatar for MetManMas #19 MetManMas 3 months ago
    I'm not opposed to a streaming focused gaming device. Yes, I get that it won't be perfect (crap ISP services, input lag), but for those who can use it, it would make for a potentially very accessible way for families to have access to a large variety of games without having to shell out a bunch of cash.

    Honestly, I'm surprised Sony hasn't already done this shit, put a cheap li'l box with a controller packed in* that can stream PlayStation Now services up on the market. Like, I've seen Walmart selling li'l boxes that do nothing but be a way to access a streaming service.

    I'm confident that a streaming box and a proper game console can coexist peacefully with one another.

    * I know, I know, PlayStation TV...but that wasn't a streaming service, that was just a PlayStation Vita with less games and without the touch screen or portability.Edited July 2018 by MetManMas
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  • Avatar for BulkSlash #20 BulkSlash 3 months ago
    Regardless of where you stand on streaming (I'm personally not interested) I think Microsoft should be very, very careful not to talk too much about this when they announce the Xbox Two. I'd imagine most gamers aren't going to be interested in streaming so Microsoft could well have another "TV, TV, TV" moment if they bore the hardcore with fluff about streaming.

    For the next gen, MS need to fully lay to rest the under-powered Xbox One with top end hardware and no Kinect-like gimmicks to compromise performance. Anything less than that and I suspect they'll be handing another generation to Sony.
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  • Avatar for cldmstrsn #21 cldmstrsn 3 months ago
    This would definitely work if everybody had fiber and super fast internet speeds for cheap.
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  • Avatar for Flipsider99 #22 Flipsider99 3 months ago
    While I think that streaming is going to continue to grow and get more important, IMO there is one thing that won't change: it's still gonna be the GAMES that determines a console's success. That's why Microsoft's consoles have taken a sharp decline, while Sony and Nintendo fortunes are on the rise; they simply have better exclusives and better libraries.

    And people who want to stream from those consoles can for a bit of extra money, I certainly do!
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  • Avatar for Number1Laing #23 Number1Laing 3 months ago
    @docexe The thing is that this technology already exists. We have streaming platforms. Sony has had a streaming platform co-exist with their console business for years. Nvidia sells really expensive GPUs but also a fairly affordable streaming platform to play many of those games.

    The truth is that these streaming platforms are not that good and not that popular. Barring MS taking control of the entire internet infrastructure, whatever service they come with will have all the same issues.
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  • Avatar for Funny_Colour_Blue #24 Funny_Colour_Blue 3 months ago
    @Roto13 It's really interesting that you pointed this out, because this was the same problem Netflix and Youtube faced: Like DVD players were cool, because you could play movies at a higher picture quality, without having to rewind them - but people don't necessarily want to know how to operate dvd player in order to watch movies - So iTunes/Apple TV had digital movies, movies you would watch without owning a dvd player, you could just download them - but often the file sizes are too big to fit on your computer. Netflix's online video service circumvented all of that, by having a small selection of movies readily available to play without having to worry about file sizes, loading times, or operating a dvd player - you just watch movies.

    The next 20 years is going to be trying to figure how to circumvent this lag/filesize problem. We may never be able to eliminate lag, this is something that still exists today. Even through television broadcasting or when you're calling a friend whose watching tv from a city away whose watching tv at the same time as you - But file sizes become smaller and processing becomes faster.
    Like, I remember playing "Nights into Dreams" on Playstation Now: it was hot garbage, I couldn't even beat the first level because the lag was so bad. But like, several years later, I bought it on steam, for two dollars and it was a 600mb download that only took maybe 2 mins.

    Like, we may never be able to eliminate lag, but there's a solution there, that will at least eliminate the problems that surround it, so these games can be accessed quicker and played together faster.
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  • Avatar for docexe #25 docexe 3 months ago
    @Number1Laing Err... No offense, but what you point out doesn't really contradict or refute what I said. I mean, I'm aware of the platforms that you mention, which is why I pointed out that streaming has pitfalls and limitations hence why it won't replace traditional forms of gaming even in the hypothetical of Microsoft (or anyone else) finally releasing a streaming-only platform that actually becomes popular with casual gamers. Or you mean that even that hypothetical is plainly impossible to begin with?Edited 2 times. Last edited July 2018 by docexe
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  • Avatar for Captain-Gonru #26 Captain-Gonru 3 months ago
    @Number1Laing Roku is a TV accessory, like a Blu-Ray player. Lower ticket item with a higher margin.
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  • Avatar for Bsmittel #27 Bsmittel 3 months ago
    @Pandalulz isn't that exactly what they are doing?
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  • Avatar for Pandalulz #28 Pandalulz 3 months ago
    @Bsmittel Maybe, I'm still unclear on how streaming, if it exists so far is being sold, which is just confusion on my part. Is it a service, is it standalone, how much does it cost?
    If I were doing it, I'd make it a part of Game Pass, not it's own thing.

    So keeping with my Netflix example, I was paying $30 a month for three physical discs. They threw in streaming for free. I kept paying for three discs, and dabbling with streaming. They eventually made it so I could cancel physical discs and keep the streaming for only $6 or whatever once I considered it "stable" enough. Now I'm paying almost as much for just streaming as I was for the three discs and streaming.
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  • Avatar for Poltergeist8606 #29 Poltergeist8606 3 months ago
    @SargeSmash It doesn't "lock" anyone out. Did you even read the article? There are to be two flavors -- a streaming box and a traditional console. So if you live somewhere crappy with bad internet you can buy the traditional console.Edited August 2018 by Poltergeist8606
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  • Avatar for johnparker04 #30 johnparker04 3 months ago
    As I love gaming and use to play Xbox games the whole day,Mcafee support number , the new version of this famous PlayStation is really very cool and amazing as it has a lot of features in it.
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  • Avatar for xfiglo #31 xfiglo A month ago
    I think this war never ends as people will use both Xbox games, depends on the resources. Why not discuss about how we can try both? Yes, internet speed & Its price are the biggest issue for many countries, but trying hands on any of these worth your money as a Gamer.

    For any issue related to Xbox live, we offer remote computer assistance from anywhere.
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