Microsoft wants to offer Xbox gaming on TVs without the console

REDMOND (BLOOMBERG, AFP) – No console? No problem.

Microsoft said on Thursday (June 10) its Xbox gaming unit is working on new hardware and deals with television makers that will let people play games and experience the Xbox without needing to buy a gaming machine.

The news came as Microsoft and other video game industry heavyweights prepare to show off coming titles at an annual Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) being held virtually beginning Saturday due to the pandemic.

“As a company, Microsoft is all-in on gaming,” chief executive Satya Nadella said in introducing the plan.

The idea would be to embed the Xbox experience directly into an Internet-connected TV with nothing else needed except for a video game controller, Microsoft said.

Microsoft has been playing on the strength of its Xbox unit as it vies with Amazon’s Luna and Google’s Stadia cloud gaming services.

The United States-based technology giant also announced it is building devices that will plug into any television screen or computer monitor to stream Xbox game play without any consoles.

Microsoft’s latest Xbox consoles, released last fall, remain in short supply amid a chip shortage that is constraining industries from tech to autos and Microsoft has said it expects to continue to feel the squeeze in the coming months.

Microsoft declined to provide more details on the hardware or the planned partnerships.

As the company tries to smooth and boost revenue flow by getting more customers on to video-game subscriptions that offer access to hundreds of titles and cloud gaming, Microsoft said subscribers to these services are buying even more content besides their monthly fee.

In August, Xbox Vice President Sarah Bond said subscribers to Xbox’s Game Pass service spend 20 per cent more on extra games and downloadable content.

Now, that number is up to 50 per cent, Microsoft said in a briefing and blog posts shared with reporters ahead of E3.

In an interview, Ms Bond said the increase is probably due to improved quality of the offering and customers getting more familiar with it.

“If you look at the evolution of the catalogue over time, the quality of the games, the sophistication of the games, the percentage of games that have a really well-built, in-game monetisation mechanic, people’s understanding of the catalogue and the benefit that comes with Game Pass, I think all that’s been advancing and contributes,” she said.

In coming weeks, cloud gaming with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscriptions will be possible through Internet browsers Chrome, Edge and Safari, according to Microsoft.

“There’s still a place for consoles and PCs and frankly, there always will be, but through the cloud, we will be able to deliver a robust gaming experience to anyone connected to the internet,” said Xbox unit head Phil Spencer.

“And with the cloud, gaming players can participate fully in the same Xbox experience as people on local hardware.”

Xbox Game Pass had some 18 million subscribers worldwide at the end of last year, according to figures released by Mr Nadella.

Video game play has surged during the pandemic, as people turned more than ever to the Internet for entertainment.

Overall consumer spending on video gaming in the United States totalled just shy of US$15 billion (S$19.8 billion) in the first quarter of this year, up 30 per cent from the same period in 2020, according to industry tracker NPD Group.

Microsoft will stream an Xbox and Bethesda Games Showcase on Sunday, featuring games from its studios around the world.

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