What Microsoft’s Push for Cloud Gaming Means for You

Hardware is slowly becoming a thing of the past

  • Microsoft is launching a smart TV app for Xbox Game Pass that will let users play games through the cloud.
  • The company has previously used cloud gaming to give players access to its Game Pass catalog on smartphones.
  • Microsoft’s recent collaborations with developers, and continued investment in cloud technologies, mean gaming could become more approachable than ever before.
The Samsung Gaming Hub on a TV showing the Xbox app.


Microsoft's continued investment in cloud-based systems could make gaming more affordable than ever over the next few years.

Cloud gaming has always been a part of Microsoft's business strategy. Portions of the Xbox Game Pass catalog were made available on smartphones via cloud gaming in 2020, and the next few years will see it rolling out to even more devices. Products in Samsung's 2022 smart TV lineup will be the first to see an Xbox Game Pass app pop up on their dashboard, although Microsoft has plans to continue the roll-out to other screens. This would allow customers to access the popular Xbox Game Pass app without an Xbox console—and it could eventually make gaming more affordable than ever.

"I think Microsoft has the right business model for streaming to work by packaging a large library of titles into a subscription package," Craig Chapple, mobile insights strategist at SensorTower, told Lifewire in an email. "It makes gaming much more cost-effective, particularly if one of the aims is to target consumers that can't get access to hardware."

Subscription Services vs Hardware Sales

Impressive hardware sales figures have long been a major goal of gaming companies, but things seem to be changing with this generation of consoles. It has also been exacerbated by the ongoing semiconductor shortage, making it difficult for customers to get their hands on both PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X. Microsoft isn't necessary abandoning hardware altogether, but it's clear that Xbox Game Pass subscriptions play a large role in the company's financial plans.

"If you [can't] spend hundreds of dollars on a game console, potentially thousands of dollars on a high-end PC, you simply [can't] participate in the global gaming community in a significant way," said Phil Spencer, CEO of Microsoft Gaming said in a news release. "The cloud will allow us to completely remove these barriers to play worldwide. Of course, 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, even on the least powerful, least expensive devices, devices people already own."

Overcoming the Challenges of Cloud Gaming

The idea of gaming through the cloud isn't new—in fact, several other companies have tried (or are currently trying) to leverage the technology. Google Stadia, for example, lets you purchase games from its catalog and access them remotely across various devices. Nvidia GeForce Now offers a similar framework, although its catalog is much larger and doesn't restrict you to one storefront.

But despite these attempts to bring cloud gaming to the masses, there are a few reasons it still lags behind traditional consoles in terms of market adoption.

"Technical challenges still need to be smoothed over, such as responsiveness, particularly when it comes to titles such as those in the strategy and shooter genres," said Chapple. "There are also rules on some marketplaces like the App Store that provide restrictions for streaming apps such as Xbox Game Pass."

However, as internet speeds improve and companies develop faster frameworks, cloud gaming becomes more appealing to players. Developers are jumping on board too, which should only accelerate its growth. The latest notable collaboration is between Microsoft and Hideo Kojima–the brains behind the Metal Gear series and Death Stranding–as the latter is creating a new game that relies on Microsoft's cloud technology.

It might not be the game that propels cloud gaming above consoles, but it's certainly a small step in that direction. Hardware has long reigned supreme in the world of gaming, and breaking its hold on the market will take time. But if Microsoft continues to invest as it has the past few years, one day, we may not see a new generation of consoles. Instead, we'll have monthly subscriptions to a Netflix-like service that eliminates the need for regular hardware upgrades.

With new consoles starting at $500, the dream of cloud gaming is enticing. The ability to game on any supported screen would radically reduce the cost of entry and make gaming more approachable than ever. It's unclear how long it'll take to get there, but Microsoft's continued efforts mean we could see big changes to the gaming landscape over the next few years.

"We're heading into a cross-platform future where you can play your games on any device, so making Game Pass available on Smart TVs without the need for other hardware makes sense," said Chapple. "A move like this is a further step in the direction of making cloud gaming mainstream."

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