The news came in a pre-E3 2021 presentation by Microsoft’s key gaming executives, who were keen to stress that, while Microsoft is making great strides in cloud gaming, physical hardware is very much a part of Xbox’s future.
"Cloud is key to our hardware and Game Pass roadmaps, but no one should think we're slowing down on our core console engineering,” said Liz Hamren, CVP of Gaming Experiences & Platforms.
“In fact, we're accelerating it. We're already hard at work on new hardware and platforms, some of which won't come to light for years. But even as we build for the future, we're focused on extending the Xbox experience to more devices today so we can reach more people.”
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What could the new Xbox hardware be?
Now, just because Microsoft is working on new Xbox console hardware, that doesn’t necessarily mean a new console is in the works. Hamren’s statement could relate to many things, from a new Xbox Elite Controller Series 3, to new Adaptive Controllers or Xbox Wireless Headset form factors – in-ear, for instance.
There’s also still the looming promise of Xbox Series X VR compatibility to consider – once teased, now seemingly forgotten. Microsoft has experience where with Windows Mixed Reality headsets, and more broadly with HoloLens AR devices. We’d love to see this idea resurrected.
And of course, there is the potential for an actual new Xbox console. The Xbox One went through a series of redesigns during its lifecycle, culminating in the mid-gen Xbox One X refresh. With the new consoles meeting the 4K / HDR / 60fps standards that gamers now aspire to, however, it is unclear what a new console could bring to the table aside perhaps from a reduced-footprint form factor – that Xbox Series X, for instance, is a big boi.
Xbox Game Pass everywhere
Whatever form Microsoft’s new hardware takes, Hamren was keen to point out that it won’t all be made in house. Specifically, Hamren discussed the potential of display tech housing key Xbox platform services, including cloud gaming.
“Many of those devices won't be built by us. For example, we're working with global TV manufacturers to embed the Game Pass experience directly into internet-connected TVs so all you'll need to play is a controller. Beyond that, 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.”
With the promise of a new first-party Xbox game release every quarter, Microsoft’s gaming division is now looking in rude health as the Xbox Series X and S approach their first birthdays. Smart studio buyouts and continued investment in bringing in a wider array of gamers through cloud streaming are all starting to pay off – and any new hardware that appears will be sure to please those in the Xbox ecosystem’s orbit.