Enabling everyone to enjoy gaming has become an increased focus for Xbox in recent years – whether that’s through delivering groundbreaking accessibility devices and features to help those with limited mobility, a cheaper console with next-gen performance, new finance options like All Access, or the flexibility to play anywhere with cloud streaming.
Phil Spencer, Head of Xbox, said:
“We believe that games, that interactive entertainment, aren’t really about hardware and software. It’s not about pixels. It’s about people. Games bring people together.
Games build bridges and forge bonds, generating mutual empathy among people all over the world. Joy and community – that’s why we’re here.”
The headline improvements are coming to Xbox’s cloud streaming service, which is currently called Project xCloud.
Project xCloud has been in a limited beta but will be available to all Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscribers in the next few weeks. Notably, that will include all Safari users for the first time on any supported Apple device.
Due to Apple’s tight platform restrictions, Microsoft was unable to release its cloud gaming service as a dedicated app on iOS as it has on Android. Apple wanted Microsoft to submit each game for review separately.
On the subject, Microsoft issued the following statement last year:
“Apple stands alone as the only general-purpose platform to deny consumers from cloud gaming and game subscription services like Xbox Game Pass. And it consistently treats gaming apps differently, applying more lenient rules to non-gaming apps even when they include interactive content.
All games available in the Xbox Game Pass catalog are rated for content by independent industry ratings bodies such as the ESRB and regional equivalents.”
Following limited testing on iOS and iPad devices, Microsoft will soon enable all Apple device users – including Macs – to access its cloud gaming service through the Safari browser. For PC users, cloud gaming will be integrated directly into the Xbox app.
The company also says that it’s working with global TV manufacturers to bring Xbox cloud streaming directly to customers, with only a controller required. For non-compatible TVs and monitors, Microsoft is “building its own streaming devices” for cloud gaming.
Microsoft took the opportunity to boast of some statistics around its revolutionary Game Pass service which is often considered as the ‘Netflix for gaming’. The company says Game Pass members play 40 percent more games and experience 30 percent more genres.
Game Pass has enabled creators to get their work in front of more people. 90 percent of subscribers said they have played a game they wouldn’t have without Game Pass and, on average, Microsoft claims its partners see engagement go up by more than 8x when they enter Game Pass.
Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, commented:
“As a company, Microsoft is all-in on gaming. Gaming is the most dynamic category in the entertainment industry. Three billion consumers look to gaming for entertainment, community, creation, as well as a real sense of achievement, and our ambition is to empower each of them, wherever they play.
We believe that Microsoft can play a leading role in democratising gaming and defining the future of interactive entertainment.
There are really three key areas where we believe we have an incredible competitive advantage: First, our leadership in cloud computing. Second, the resources we have to build our subscription service, Xbox Game Pass. And third, our overall focus on empowering creators.”
Xbox’s cloud service has been held back in performance compared to rivals such as Stadia due to using the equivalent of One S hardware (emphasis on ‘One S’ not ‘Series S’). That performance gap won’t be around for much longer.
“We’re in the final stages of updating our Microsoft datacenters around the world with our latest generation of hardware, the Xbox Series X,” the company claims.
Microsoft’s indie gaming developer initiative ID@Xbox has earned developers over $2B dollars and helped over 2000 titles to launch. That program has since expanded to ID@Azure to help independent developers build cloud-based experiences.
“With Azure cloud, game creators can build, scale, and operate their game on the global, secure, and reliable Azure cloud,” the company said. “Developers can quickly scale up and down when their needs change, only pay for the resources they use, and let Microsoft manage infrastructure.”