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Microsoft: Xbox game streaming console is ‘years away’

Microsoft: Xbox game streaming console is ‘years away’


Microsoft originally announced an Xbox streaming device last year but now says it’s years away from becoming a reality. A prototype Keystone Xbox streaming console appeared on a shelf recently.

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Illustration of Xbox and play logos
Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer has revealed that the company’s Xbox game streaming console is now “years away.” Speaking at The Wall Street Journal’s Tech Live conference yesterday, Spencer discussed the Xbox game streaming device, Keystone, that we saw appear on his shelf recently.

“Keystone was the codename of something we were incubating internally, which was ... a streaming console, so there’s no local gameplay, low-cost, plug it into a TV, and you’d be able to stream Xbox games,” said Spencer. “In the late spring, we pivoted to working with Samsung. We put an app on Samsung TVs that let you play Xbox games, and I still have the prototype; it sits on the shelf behind my computer.”

A prototype Xbox streaming device sitting on a shelf
Keystone on top of Phil Spencer’s shelf.
Image: Phil Spencer (Twitter)

While Keystone was a prototype, Microsoft did originally announce last year that it was planning to launch this Xbox streaming device. But it’s no longer coming anytime soon. “Will we do a streaming device at some point? I suspect we will, but I think it’s years away,” says Spencer.

It’s not clear exactly why Microsoft has pivoted away from a dedicated Xbox streaming console, but it could be related to the size. Keystone looks like an even smaller version of the Xbox Series S, but consumers are now used to devices like the Chromecast that are essentially dongles that hang out of an HDMI port. Microsoft was always careful to describe Keystone as a “streaming device” rather than a stick, but many were still expecting a dedicated streaming stick instead.

Microsoft still has some work to do on Xbox Cloud Gaming itself before it’s fully ready for TVs, too. While the company has managed to launch an Xbox TV app on Samsung TVs, it only supports streaming games at 1080p at up to 60fps. Rival services like Google Stadia (RIP) and Nvidia’s GeForce Now both offer 4K streaming to TVs.

Any Xbox game streaming console that arrives in the future will be designed to complement Xbox Game Pass. Spencer also revealed that Microsoft’s game subscription service is profitable, despite some growth slowdown on the console side.