business news Xbox Everywhere: Up to 3 billion players for Microsoft?
On May 5, 2022, Microsoft officially launched Fortnite on xCloud in partnership with Epic Games. The Redmond company took advantage of this surprise announcement to publish a press release highlighting “Xbox Everywhere”, a strategy aimed at letting players have fun with the titles they want, with whom they want, on the devices they want. possess. It’s not the first time that the software juggernaut has repeated this mantra, but one month from the Xbox & Bethesda Showcase 2022, Phil Spencer and his teams are preparing to step up a gear. The goal? Simply reach 3 billion players.
A stagnant hardware, a rising cloud
Moreover, Microsoft’s desire is not new. This need to no longer be burdened with hardware to run an Xbox game surely dates back to 2013, when experiments were carried out on Halo 4 with the goal of making it playable on smartphones thanks to “the power of the cloud“. In 2018, Phil Spencer, vice president of gaming at Xbox, revealed during E3 that a streaming game service was in the works, and that it would provide access “to console-quality titles on any device”. A teaser that went unnoticed due to the announcement of the acquisition of Ninja Theory which occurred a few minutes earlier. Two years later, he specified that his competitors were no longer Sony or Nintendo, but Google and Amazon, cloud specialists. Remarks which had obviously triggered a controversy but which nevertheless displayed Microsoft’s new policy with the Xbox: that of relying on the most promising segments of the group in order to win the lucrative war of services.. At Microsoft, that meant betting on Azure, the cloud platform that can boast of being the engine of the company’s annual results.
“There are only 200 or 250 million households in the world that are interested in video games on consoles. This remains less than 10% of the three billion players. We must search for users where they are, i.e. on mobile and on other screens or devices” said Phil Spencer last year ahead of the 2021 Showcase. Tim Stuart, the brand’s financial director, explained that efforts were going to be made on the PC and on the mobile. He specified that financially, “the growing importance of income (…) from services“made gaming”less dependent (…) on consoles”. For decades, we’ve gauged a manufacturer’s success on a single metric, that of console sales in stores around the world. This should no longer be a sufficient indicator in the next few years.. In addition, Flight Simulator is the perfect example of what gives a successful partnership between the different divisions of Microsoft, in this case Azure and Bing. Asobo’s creation also became the most played work in the cloud on mobile devices, PC and consoles in March 2022.
Xbox everywhere, competition nowhere?
By hitting hard and fast, first with Game Pass, then with xCloud (long reserved for Ultimate customers), Microsoft now has 25 million subscribers (+ 39% in one year). Among them, more than 10 million users have tried game streaming through Game Pass Ultimate. This figure, Microsoft wants to see it climb quickly in order to leave the least chance possible to the competition. This is why the group led by Satya Nadella finalized the acquisition of Bethesda last year and plans to acquire Activision Blizzard. The software specialist wants to deliver to Game Pass as regularly as possible titles expected by players. With the prospect of extending the influence of its services. As a reminder, the best-selling game on PlayStation in 2021 is none other than Call of Duty: Vanguard. Although Sony is patching up its PlayStation Plus offer, no industry giant today offers a “video game netflix” better built than that of Microsoft. According to Ampere Analysis, the Game Pass would hold 60% market share of video game subscription services in Europe and North America, against 7% for PlayStation Now.
Xbox wants to grow quickly in a sector where the brand has all the cards in hand thanks to the cloud expertise of its parent company. The levers for maximizing growth are content, of course, but also the number of territories giving access to services.. On March 29, 2022, the Redmond firm was throwing Game Pass PC (in preview) in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. Recently, Phil Spencer’s teams opened up cloud gaming to Mexican, Japanese and Brazilian gamers, driving up the number of territories connected to xCloud to 26. For its part, Sony has announced that around 30 countries will soon have access to game streaming via the cloud thanks to the addition of Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Hungary, Malta, Poland, Republic of Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. As a reminder, the Japanese manufacturer only offers the game in streaming on consoles (PS4, PS5) and PC. However, PS5 games are not playable in the cloud, unlike Xbox Series X|S apps with Microsoft offers.
Think out of the (X)box
Until now, game streaming within the Xbox ecosystem was only offered to Game Pass Ultimate subscribers, on a selection of games that are part of the catalog. On May 5, 2022, Microsoft made a non-service title playable with Fortnite for the very first time. This means that anyone who has an iOS device, Android mobile device, or Windows PC, without an Xbox Live Gold subscription or Game Pass, can play Fortnite through the cloud. In addition, this process allows owners of Apple devices to have fun with Epic Games software. Saving 30% of “the apple tax” is passed on to users via a price reduction that applies to all purchases made on the xCloud, regardless of the platform used to access it. After showing us that it was possible to have fun with Xbox games on other machines/devices than Xbox consoles, the Redmond company proves to us that a Game Pass subscription is no longer mandatory to take advantage of the cloud.. It wouldn’t be surprising to see other free-to-play players take advantage of this cloud boost with Rocket League, Call of Duty: Warzone, Phantasy Star Online: New Genesis and, logically, Halo Infinite.
In its official press release, Microsoft recalls that in less than two years, more than 125 developers have worked to make more than 350 Xbox Game Pass games compatible in the cloud. These versions designed to be played on mobile devices frequently have touch controls. The American giant recognizes that 20% of xCloud users do not use any particular accessory to play, and that it is therefore important to democratize the touch interface. Since September 2021, when the xCloud made its debut in beta, the Redmond firm has undoubtedly gained experience. Little by little, the Xbox brand moved elsewhere than in living rooms. It arrives in offices with PCs, in pockets with iOS or Android devices, in backpacks with the Steam Deck… and soon in connected televisions. Hallway noises even evoke the arrival of an HDMI key to plug into your TV in order to enjoy Xbox cloud gaming without a real Xbox being connected to the screen.
After Xbox Play Anywhere, now comes the time of Xbox Everywhere. Voted best publisher of the year 2021 by Metacritic, the American giant knows that it has an army of studios capable of releasing games in various genres capable of interesting players with different profiles. If Microsoft succeeds in finalizing the acquisition of Activision Blizzar, the number of Game Pass subscribers could experience significant growth. Of course, this bright future which is announced for the teams of Phil Spencer will intervene only if the technology and the contents follow. When an Xbox Live outage has rendered the cloud inaccessible to millions of subscribers, it’s best to keep a cool head.
By CarnbeeJournalist jeuxvideo.com