Worried that physical games consoles don't have much of a future, with cloud gaming and streaming services on the horizon?
Well, the next-gen Xbox Series X may have more life in it than the naysayers predict – at least according to Xbox boss Phil Spencer, who says to expect another decade if not more of Xbox consoles sitting under our televisions.
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“I think that getting to a world where you don’t have to own one device to play specific games helps the industry,” said Spencer. “That doesn’t mean owning a device isn’t part of my gameplay experience. I think I’m going to have a game console plugged into my television for the next decade-plus.”
He added that downloading and playing locally was still “going to be the best way to play on my television”, but that gaming through the cloud would fill in the gaps: ”Sometimes I’m not in front of my television. Sometimes I’m not in front of a device that has the native ability to play. So that’s our bet on cloud.”
Spencer also argued that the rise of digital distribution could actually increase demand for hardware able to play that content, as we’ve seen in the music streaming market.
“Streaming services have liberated that content to all the media devices around me,” says Spencer. “I now have way more devices than ever to watch TV. It hasn’t lessened the number of devices – it actually increased it. I have Spotify in my ear. I have Spotify in my pocket. I have the ability to go connect to my music services across many devices.”
Is there life in the Xbox yet?
While Spencer didn’t spell out specific plans for upgraded consoles after the Xbox Series X launch, we do expect to see more hardware put out by Microsoft in the coming years to keep the Xbox line going – as we saw with the PS4 Slim and Xbox One S, and then the enhanced PS4 Pro and Xbox One X – even if it won’t warrant a whole other generation of consoles.
We’ve heard rumors around a disc-less, or streaming-only Xbox console for a while now, though it doesn’t seem like it will be launching alongside the primary Series X console. We expect to see something like an Xbox Series S console (‘S’ for ‘Streaming’) that ditches the disc drive to drive down costs, and relies more heavily on Xbox Game Pass and Project xCloud subscription services rather than one-off video game purchases.
The “decade-plus” is an interesting statement, though, given the Xbox Series X and PS5 are expected by some to be the last generation of dedicated consoles.
Back in 2018, Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot made such a prediction, saying that “I think streaming will become more accessible to many players and make it not necessary to have big hardware at home. There will be one more console generation and then after that, we will be streaming, all of us.”
While Guillemot seems well placed to judged the movements and plans of the big players in the console market, we’ve heard that prediction before. In 2012, Nvidia’s Phil Eisler speculated that the successors to the PS3 and Xbox 360 (eventually revealed as the PS4 and Xbox One) would be the last generation of consoles: “The thing about consoles… They say this is the last console, and I am certainly a believer in that.”
How much life does the Xbox Series X have in it? The original Xbox One was released only 6-7 years ago, while the latest iterations won’t die out immediately, even if a high-powered successor hits the market. Getting a decade out of the Xbox Series X price (and its refinements) seems possible, especially since games consoles' death knell has been rung (incorrectly) many times before.
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Henry is a freelance technology journalist, and former News & Features Editor for TechRadar, where he specialized in home entertainment gadgets such as TVs, projectors, soundbars, and smart speakers. Other bylines include Edge, T3, iMore, GamesRadar, NBC News, Healthline, and The Times.