Microsoft laid out some of its big plans for gaming ahead of Sunday’s Xbox and Bethesda showcase, and those plans include a steady stream of more big exclusives, expanded Game Pass perks, and bringing video game cloud streaming directly to smart TVs. Most of the plans are forward-looking, but Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer and others in Xbox leadership have given themselves roughly a year to deliver on the promises as the company tries to build on last year’s momentum.
“Last fiscal [year] we launched 5 new games across console, PC, and cloud. We are on track to meet or exceed that amount in the next fiscal [year],” Microsoft said in a briefing to press (the company’s next fiscal year ends June 30, 2023). Head of Xbox Studios, Matt Booty, pointed to the release of games like Halo: Infinite, Forza Horizon 5, Age of Empires 4, and the console version of Flight Simulator, and said the next year of Xbox will be based on that “same regular cadence” of hit games. That might come as a shock to many, considering Microsoft still hasn’t confirmed any first-party exclusives for launch in 2022 after Starfield and Redfall were delayed until early 2023. New exclusives are one of the main draws for Game Pass, and they’re beginning to dry up.
The company also previewed its plans to double-down on Xbox Cloud Streaming and Game Pass, beginning with the service coming to smart TVs on June 30, but specifically only 2022 Samsung models. An app will let players launch games through the Game Pass subscription directly on their TVs without any console or dongle necessary. They’ll even be able to use a PS5 DualSense to play them. Meanwhile Fortnite, since it’s free-to-play, will be available to anyone without a subscription as well. Microsoft says its “intent” is to “explore other TV partnerships” going forward. Last month, it confirmed that a universal dongle attachement called “Keystone” that could plug into any TV still isn’t ready.
Here are some of the other highlights:
In the next year, subscribers will be allowed to start streaming games they already own in addition to the rest of the Game Pass catalog.
Updates to Windows 11 to add a new HDR calibration tool, PC gaming optimizations, and a controller bar to access games and streaming without a mouse and keyboard.
Updates to the Microsoft Edge browser to add a gaming homepage, better graphics while streaming games, and better browser efficiency while games are running.
New demos locked behind the Game Pass membership with an eye toward showcasing independent creators.
That last bit is especially interesting. While in the past demos were usually free ways to try out games, Microsoft appears to be following in Sony’s footsteps by making it a monetized perk as part of paid Game Pass subscriptions. The PlayStation maker is doing the same with PS Plus starting June 13, but there is one major difference. While Sony’s initial messaging to developers said timed trials for games would be mandatory, Microsoft says its demo program will be optional and allow developers to “be compensated” for sharing their games with the Game Pass audience.
Like most of the rest of the company’s plans right now, however, there are few specifics and no clear timeline for when these new features will go live. Hopefully we’ll get clearer details during Microsoft’s showcase on June 12.