No one is suggesting that Microsoft stop making video game hardware. What we’ve been pondering, here in the dark and twisted Engadget Slack channels, is whether Microsoft should continue to make generational consoles in the traditional hardware cycle. Basically, does the Xbox need a box? Microsoft has been busy building the foundation for a platform-agnostic, cloud-centric future for video games, and has consistently fallen behind both Sony and Nintendo in the console race. So why are executives trying to get us excited about a super-powered 10th-gen Xbox?

Perhaps Microsoft is hesitant to unveil a drastic change to the ecosystem after the chaos surrounding the Xbox One and its always-on DRM features in 2013. After an outpouring of negative reviews for the idea of ​​an always-online console, Xbox had to quickly reverse its launch plans, while Sony took the PlayStation 4 on an early victory lap. That mistake set the stage for the next decade of console sales, and it’s a lesson that will stick with any studio — especially one trying to make streaming and cloud gaming the norm.

That’s understandable, but it doesn’t change the fact that affordable, affordable (and possibly portable) hardware makes a lot of sense for Microsoft’s current vision and investments. At least more than an expensive console.

This week’s stories

Delicious Elden Ring appetizer

Elden RingThe Shadow of the Erdtree expansion is coming to PlayStation, Xbox, and PC on June 21st. It’s been a long time coming: FromSoftware announced the DLC in February 2023, leaving plenty of time for players to super tune in for more masochism. new, three minute trailer for Shadow of the Erdtree features sprawling locations and epic bosses inspired by chaotic combinations of animals, insects, and elements. The expansion costs $40 and pre-orders are now live.

Borderlands by Cate Blanchett

I’m just going to come out and say it: I think Cate Blanchett is a great Lilith. The first trailer for this summer Borderlands movie is out and it seems crazy Max answers the guardians of the galaxy — which is Borderlands in a nutshell anyway. The film stars Blanchett, Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Hart, Jack Black and Ariana Greenblatt, is directed by Eli Roth and is set to hit theaters on August 9.

Xbox should get out of the console business

Last Thursday, Xbox executives made it clear that they have no intention of abandoning the traditional hardware market, and they teased a next-gen console that will represent “the biggest technical leap you’ve ever seen.” That’s great, but given Microsoft’s position in the industry, it doesn’t seem like Xbox should be making consoles anymore.

After acquiring half of the industry, Microsoft is now a mega-game publisher with over 30 in-house studios. Many of these development teams are world-renowned, with a rich multi-platform history. It is also the operator of one of the largest gaming subscription services in the world, Game Pass.

Game Pass has grown tremendously during the pandemic, but subscriptions have stagnated. in court documents as of April 2022, Microsoft revealed that it had 21.9 million Game Pass subscribers and 11.7 million Xbox Live Gold members on its consoles, for a total user base of 33.6 million. Last week, Microsoft revealed that Game Pass has 34 million subscribers, which includes PC Game Pass and Game Pass Core, the new name for Xbox Live Gold. Even if we assume that PC Game Pass had zero subscribers in 2022, that means Game Pass subscriptions have only grown by 1% over the last 22 months. The more likely scenario is that total subscriptions have actually shrunk over that period – although it’s possible that at least more people are paying for the service at full price than before.

Microsoft’s plan for this generation of consoles was clear to all: Sell hardware and offer a subscription service filled with its own games. Turns out it’s hard to sell Game Pass to someone without an Xbox, and not enough people are buying Xboxes. Microsoft stopped reporting hardware numbers during the Xbox One era, but analysts peg total sales of Xbox Series consoles at around 25 million. Meanwhile, Sony has sold more than 50 million PS5s and Nintendo has sold around 140 million Switches. This gap seems to be growing every day and is much more pronounced in Japan and Europe than in the United States. If Microsoft wants to grow Game Pass, it looks like it will have to be on platforms outside of Xbox.

This week, Xbox confirmed plans to bring four formerly exclusive games to PlayStation and Nintendo consoles, and for years executives have envisioned an ecosystem where Xbox — and Game Pass — can be played on anything with a screen. Microsoft has a powerful cloud network that even Sony uses for game streaming, plus it owns more than 30 studios. In the long run, Microsoft is positioning Xbox as a platform-agnostic software publishing powerhouse with the most stable streaming network behind it.

In this landscape, it’s surprising to hear Xbox talk about building an overpowered console for the next generation. I’m not advocating for Microsoft to abandon the hardware market – it makes sense for the company to focus on portable devices and affordable streaming boxes that support Game Pass and cloud play. Xbox is working toward a future where its games and Game Pass are available everywhere, which raises an obvious question about its current plans: Why bring an expensive next-gen console into a war that’s really about software, subscriptions, and streaming?

Bonus content

  • Sony president Hiroki Totoki told investors last week that the company will be more aggressive in bringing its PlayStation titles to PC.

  • Xbox has confirmed which of its games are coming to other consoles: Grounded and Pentiment will come to PlayStation and Switch while A sea of ​​thieves and Hi-Fi Rush will only arrive on PS5. Both A sea of ​​thieves and Grounded will support cross-play across all platforms.

  • Now for a completely different port: The Pokémon Company has scheduled an anniversary stream for next Tuesday at 9am ET. It might be a little early to reveal Gen 10, but a Switch remake black and white seems like a safe bet.

It’s playing now

If you’re a Switch or PlayStation player and you’re curious about all those Xbox games coming to your consoles, I have one simple and straightforward recommendation: play Pentiment. Obsidian’s tapestry-like narrative game is a surprise and a delight, and I had a lot of fun playing it on Game Pass recently. It’s out now for PS4, PS5 and Switch and I’m sure it’s just as great on those platforms.

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