There have been rumors of Microsoft releasing its own hardware for cloud gaming through its Xbox Cloud Gaming (xCloud) service for many years but now it’s actually happening. The company announced that it is building a standalone streaming device that can be plugged into a TV for xCloud gaming. It also announced that TV apps for xCloud, which currently only supports mobile devices, are coming soon.
Microsoft hasn’t provided any details about the standalone hardware they are developing, nor a release date. They’ve simply stated that “Xbox is building its own streaming devices for cloud gaming to reach gamers on any TV or monitor without the need for a console at all.” It is presumed that the hardware will be a relatively low-powered device to keep costs down, since all the computing power needed to run the games will be in cloud servers.
Microsoft’s head of Xbox, Phil Spencer, said last year that “you could imagine us even having something that we just included in the Game Pass subscription” when speaking about the possibility of releasing xCloud streaming hardware. Given that comment, the upcoming xCloud streaming device might come free with a paid subscription.
Microsoft also says they will be releasing TV apps for xCloud, but, unfortunately, only stated this in regards to “TV manufacturers” and not streaming platforms like Fire TV, Android TV, or Apple TV. Xbox says it “is working with global TV manufacturers to embed the Xbox experience directly into internet-connected televisions with no extra hardware required except a controller.” This could mean that smart TV-only platforms, like those from Samsung and LG, will be the only ones receiving the aforementioned xCloud apps. Hopefully, the wording isn’t literal and that the app release goes beyond TVs to include streaming devices as well.
I will say that the current Xbox and Xbox Game pass apps are NOT capable of being sideloaded onto the current Fire 4k or standard sticks. I have tried sideloading them and I get constant stutters and slowdowns due to buffering that it never become playable in any fashion. This is both for cloud streaming and in home console streaming.
The time is right for STEAM to make an “official” Fire TV app. Sideloading works fine but better to capture all the additional Amazon OS eyeballs now before this cloud gaming space gets even more crowded!
While I’m at it…dare I say maybe EPIC should too (there, I said it!)