In a pay-walled interview with Stratechery, Xbox boss Phil Spencer teases that its xCloud cloud-based gaming service might be getting additional support for the living room through the use of a “TV streaming stick”. Quoting The Verge, Spencer discusses the ways in which they could bundle the Xbox TV streaming stick to a Game Pass subscription and let people play xCloud games. All you need are just the dongle and a controller; any other hardware isn’t necessary.
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. 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.
Together with the Xbox TV streaming idea, Spencer also hints at another tier for the Game Pass subscription. Called “Xbox Game Pass Platinum”, along with the usual perks of Game Pass Ultimate you could then be guaranteed access to new Xbox hardware as well.
Interestingly, the idea for an Xbox TV streaming dongle isn’t exactly new. According to Windows Central‘s report, prior to E3 2016 Xbox was going to launch a Chromecast-like dongle codenamed “Hobart”. The Hobart stick would have been priced at $99, capable of running Universal Windows Platform applications, and streaming Xbox One games over WiFi. Microsoft was even ready to order 300,000 units for manufacture. But for some reason, they bailed out of the project entirely.
And now thanks to xCloud, Microsoft seems keen to retrace its footsteps. It partnered with Samsung earlier this year, bundling Galaxy Note 20 with Game Pass subscription and mobile controllers. It won’t be a big surprise if xCloud shows up in Samsung TVs later in the future. xCloud integration with Facebook Gaming is also coming next year. Today with the first public mention of an Xbox TV streaming stick concept, it could imply that the hardware is going to be unveiled soon; maybe even ready to release in 2021. Combined with the release of Amazon’s Luna late this year, 2021 is definitely going to be an interesting year for cloud-based gaming.