It’s finally happening; Xbox Cloud Gaming is coming to smart TVs. Staring in late June, anyone with a Game Pass membership and a compatible TV can stream AAA games without additional hardware. This is Microsoft’s most significant step toward the future of gaming, and for better or worse, it’s the beginning of the end for the console era.
Cloud gaming allows you to stream AAA titles on any device, even the crappiest phone or Chromebook. And while dedicated consoles still provide the best (and most consistent) gaming experience, streaming titles from the cloud comes with undeniable benefits—you don’t need to buy an Xbox or PlayStation every seven years, your games are available on any device, and technically speaking, cloud-based titles can exceed the graphics capabilities of current-gen consoles.
Now, most people who try cloud gaming today will have a disappointing experience. This stuff requires a decent internet connection, and video quality is limited to 1080p 60FPS (unless you use NVIDIA GeForce). Plus, if you’re with a provider like Xfinity, cloud gaming will catapult you toward your monthly data cap.
But Microsoft is slowly closing the gap between cloud gaming and console gaming. In a few years, the majority of gamers will have no real reason to buy a console. Handhelds may become more popular (because playing Assassin’s Creed on a phone sucks), and virtual reality obviously requires dedicated hardware, but the era of noisy VCR-sized consoles is coming to a close.
As always, Microsoft is gradually expanding its cloud gaming service. The Xbox TV app will roll out to Samsung smart TVs (starting with the 2022 TV lineup) before it reaches Roku, Android TV, and other platforms. This is a bit disappointing, but Microsoft followed the same strategy during the Xbox Cloud Gaming smartphone and tablet rollout—it’s not much of a surprise.
While I don’t have time to cover all of today’s Xbox news, I should note that Microsoft is working on a ton of new stuff. It’s rolling out a dedicated Xbox Cloud Gaming tab for the Edge browser, integrating users’ purchases with Game Pass (so you can stream games that aren’t in the Game Pass library), and allowing non-Game Pass customers to stream Fortnite for free.
We expect the Xbox TV app to be a bit janky at first, mainly because smart TVs use slow, unreliable, garbage hardware. But the experience should be smooth on newer streaming sticks. Also, Microsoft is working on a dedicated Xbox TV dongle, which should (in theory) run Xbox Cloud Gaming better than most third-party products.