Xbox is changing the shape of console gaming

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Xbox is dead, long live Xbox

2020 is finally here and it’s disappointingly less sci-fi than 80s films let on. Regardless, the welcoming of the new year means big things for gamers. We’re finally getting our hands on the next generation of consoles and if that wasn’t enough, World War III will allow us to experience the most immersive Call of Duty to date.

The new consoles will soon be here and as such we’ve been drip-fed content over the last few months. Sony has been fairly tight-lipped when it comes to the PS5 but we finally got to see the official PS5 logo during CES earlier this month and we’ve got a rough idea on the consoles spec, at a basic level. Outside of official announcements we’ve seen the development kit and DualShock 5 but nothing concrete on the hardware. Microsoft has been a little more open showing off the actual console, the new controller and the broad spec of the machine. Leaked data hints that the new Xbox Series X will be slightly more powerful than the PS5, boasting an extra 2.8 teraflops but this isn’t the only thing separating the two. Xbox is looking to buck the trend somewhat with its next console. Generations are now dead for them which is pretty annoying for a site called Next Gen Base.

Xbox is steadfast in pushing its “Play Anywhere” mantra which surmises to playing a large catalogue of games on a large number of devices. Xbox will no longer be just a console. It’s instead becoming more akin to an ecosystem. This new stance is completely alien to gamers, particularly console gamers, but Xbox from here on will be seen as a platform rather than a specific piece of hardware.

The benefit from Microsoft’s point of view is accessibility. More ways to play means fewer barriers for new customers and ultimately more cash. The benefits for the customer are a longer lifespan of console hardware and the use of other pieces of tech, that they may already own, to play games.

Messaging surrounding this new approach, whilst fairly direct, has led to a lot of confusion surrounding the new Xbox Series X console. It’s been said that for at least two years there won’t be any exclusive games for Microsoft’s new Series X console. It’s easy to understand why this confused but all this means in Xbox’s new age is that new games are coming to Series X alongside the Xbox One S and X. After all, Xbox is Xbox is Xbox from here on in. Owners of the new Series X console will play these games at their best, with owners of the older consoles playing them at presumably lower resolutions and lesser level of detail. It’s essentially how PCs have worked since the dawn of time.

But it’s not just hardware-specific changes coming to Xbox. We’ve already seen a shifting landscape with Game Pass and the in-beta xCloud. Combined, these two services will allow users to play a library of games on their consoles, PC and mobile phones. Game Pass is essentially the Netflix of gaming, allowing subscribers to access all first-party Xbox titles alongside an impressive lineup of third-party games that keep them company. Releasing first-party titles on Game Pass is something that will continue long into the future so any new Series X enhanced games will be part of this parcel.

xCloud, on the other hand, is Xbox’s toe-dip into the world of media streaming. Currently in beta, it allows gamers to stream a selection of games to their Android-powered device. Once fully released, it’s excepted to be available for iOS devices and presumably unannounced devices alike. The endgame is to bring Game Pass to xCloud, essentially unlocking a literal mobile library which can be played anywhere.

Pair these systems with the already featured cross-save functionality between Xbox and PC (across first-party titles) and you’ve got your very own Xbox ecosystem. The ability to play across all or any of these devices is an incredibly exciting prospect especially if you can carry your saves with you. All of these systems combined would make the “Play Anywhere” mantra quite literal.

Xbox is looking to take the year by the balls — multiple hardware options, game streaming, backwards compatibility across 3 generations, a Netflix-like library of games and 15 first-party developers behind them isn’t something to be shied from. Add on top of that the wanting for success after the failure of the Xbox One and the future for Xbox is looking decidedly pleasant. But the future for gamers is looking even better. For the first time we’ll be able to play our games almost anywhere. We’ll no longer be tethered to our TVs, forced to use one device to play our games. We’ll have plentiful options for the ways we buy and play our games. And irrespective of Xbox’s success moving forward, one thing is for certain — console gaming won’t be the same again.

Dad. Designer. Web Developer.

@KieranMcClung

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