Xbox chief Phil Spencer said Microsoft is looking at game streaming

Microsoft's Xbox chief Phil Spencer.

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Microsoft’s Xbox chief Phil Spencer.
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Xbox/YouTube

    Microsoft has sold about half the number of PlayStation 4s with its Xbox One console. This trend has changed over the past few months, and the just-launched Xbox One X will likely help to boost sales further. However, Microsoft seems to be shifting away from focusing on the console’s hardware, to put the focus on a new game streaming service which should be ready within three years.

Sony’s PlayStation has been crushing the Xbox with a staggering 2-to-1 sales ratio. However, Microsoft is now releasing its new Xbox One X console around the world – and the head of its gaming division hinted at a future streaming service.

Microsoft gaming division chief Phil Spencer said that the particular metric – the number of consoles sold – will not be of primary importance for the company anymore, as it plans to shift its focus to software and services instead.

In a recent interview with Bloomberg, Spencer reportedly alluded to some sort of game streaming service, which would help Microsoft capitalise on the existing user base rather than focus on expanding it by selling more consoles.

Bloomberg reported that Spencer said that Microsoft will debut a game streaming service that doesn’t require a console in the next three years.

Microsoft already has “Xbox Play Anywhere,” a feature that allows cross-compatibility of certain titles between Xbox and Windows 10 PCs.

However, letting users stream their entire game catalogue from machines other than an Xbox would be something different for the platform, and more similar to a glorified, universally accessible Xbox Game Pass.

More fleshed-out game streaming services like the Xbox Game Pass and Sony’s PlayStation Now (and, previously, OnLive) allow gamers to play games simply by streaming them off of their internet connection, without the need for an actual CD, in a similar way to how users listen to music on Spotify or watch TV content and movies on Netflix.

Gamers pay for a fixed, monthly (or yearly) subscription fee, and get access to the entirety of a select catalogue (Xbox Game Pass and PlayStation Now don’t offer all games of their respective platforms), which is refreshed every now and then as new games come up.

The business model worked wonders in the music and TV businesses, but PlayStation’s own service hasn’t been particularly successful. Microsoft has made this kind of cloud-based service a pillar of its core business, with flagship products like the Office 365 suite escaping the boundaries of Windows to reach more users.

It’s the company’s so-called “platform agnosticism”: a way of saying that Microsoft doesn’t care what hardware people use – be it a Surface device, an iPad, or an Android phone – so long as they are using the company’s service suites.

And now gaming, too, is apparently folding into that vision, with the Xbox hardware taking the back seat.

“Now, players are playing the games across every device and we’re connecting those players across all of those devices,” Spencer told Bloomberg. “Obviously, for us, the console is an important part there; but connecting to gamers wherever they are is the vision of Microsoft around what we’re doing in gaming.”