Whenlaunched its Xbox video game console in 2001, the only place you could play games like its popular space war epic was on an Xbox. Today, you can still buy the company’s latest devices, the . But you can also play on a PC. And if you pay Microsoft $15 per month, for its subscription, you can .
But in the future, Microsoft thinks you’ll want to play in even more places. Like a hotel room TV. Or a small streaming set-top box you can plug into a TV or monitor at a friend’s house.
“Of course, there’s still a place for consoles and PCs. And frankly, there always will be,” Microsoft’s Xbox head, said during a this week ahead of his presentation during the . “But through the cloud, we will be able to deliver robust gaming experiences to anyone connected to the internet, even on the least powerful, least expensive devices — even on devices people already own.”
The game industry’s biggest players like Microsoft, as well as, , and , tend to talk big about their products being designed to entertain people around the world, wherever they are. And it’s largely true — billions of people around the world play games on , consoles, or computers at home or in arcades and cafes. Military service members even play in submarines.
But Microsoft has had dreams of going further for years. For more than a decade, it’s experimented with new forms of interactive TV shows, like a. And it’s researched and .
Now, Microsoft is planning to bring its Xbox software and games to those types of devices. Without providing further details, Microsoft said it’s working with internet-connected TV makers “” into them, with no extra hardware required other than a controller. Microsoft also said it’s building its own “streaming devices” for and monitors. At the same time, Microsoft is investing further in its Xbox Games Pass subscription service, too.
“As a company, Microsoft’s all in on gaming. Gaming has been key to Microsoft from our earliest days,” said, Microsoft’s CEO. “We are truly redefining how games are distributed, played and shared.”
Microsoft isn’t just talking a big game when it comes to the Xbox. Over the past couple years, it’s invested heavily in its devices and lineup of games. In 2014,, already one of the most popular games ever made. Last year, it followed that up with the $7.5 billion all-cash purchase of ZeniMax Media, a company that owns industry heavyweights like the fast-paced , the fantasy epic series and the post-apocalyptic .
The company’s also struck deals with companies including FIFA football game maker Electronic Arts and Fortnite developer Epic Games to bring their hits to its subscription service.
“We’re trying to reach the 3 billion people on the planet who in some sort of way play an electronic game,” Spencer said. But, he added, Microsoft realized that only 250 million people are actually interested in buying consoles. “We need to meet players where they are, which is mobile, and on other screens and devices,” he said.
Whether Microsoft can pull off such large feats is unclear. Microsoft and Sony don’t report comparable console unit sales data, but UK-based Ampere Analysis said Sony’s PlayStation 5 and Nintendo’s Switch consoles, though all three companies are .
Still, Microsoft said it plans “unparalleled investment” in cloud gaming, new titles and its community. The company will discuss more of its plans during E3 on Sunday, starting at 10 a.m. PT/1 p.m. ET. Though the event will be streamed, CNET and our sister site GameSpot , as we always have, with , insights and analysis you can only find here.