The Future Of The Xbox Brand

What business model shift(s) do you see MS doing within the next 5-6 years (select all that apply)?

  • Phasing out XBL Gold

    Votes: 68 62.4%
  • Reducing number of Day 1 1P releases into GamePass

    Votes: 22 20.2%
  • Project Keystone releases

    Votes: 34 31.2%
  • GamePass loopholes ($1 conversions, free deals, MS Rewards) removed

    Votes: 60 55.0%
  • Native ports of all 1P games to Sony & Nintendo platforms Day 1

    Votes: 9 8.3%
  • Xbox rebranded/reclassified as a computer device instead of a games console

    Votes: 6 5.5%
  • Full native Windows support on Xbox devices

    Votes: 15 13.8%
  • Xbox devices priced higher (similar to OEM PCs)

    Votes: 6 5.5%
  • Curated versions of GP for Sony, Nintendo, Valve, Epic, Google, Apple etc. platforms

    Votes: 34 31.2%

  • Total voters
    109
  • Poll closed .
WARNING: This is a long read, but broken into segments so it can be read in pieces.
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So, the first couple of years of this new console generation have been a pretty wild ride, particularly for Microsoft. At first it looked like they were going to have a gentle ride into the generation while perhaps getting more or less completely overlooked by Sony and the PlayStation 5, and if you look back at search trends, social media engagement, preorders etc. between the two platforms that idea bears out. It's not that Microsoft's promised games to fold into the new gen looked unappealing (to me, anyway); it's just that no matter what they did, it would always have to contend with what Sony was doing at *that* moment, and if there's one thing Sony has shown, it's that they do not stand still. They continue to build momentum for the PlayStation brand and consistently put out high-quality content for their customers, it's how they became the dominant player in the console industry to begin with.

But then, Microsoft decided to throw their hat in on a gamble. Two gambles, in fact. Personally I can't say if they were "inspired" by the acts of Embracer Group & Tencent or not, but the September before the launch of their Series X and S consoles, Microsoft announced they would be acquiring Zenimax, Bethesda's parent company. Then, just 16 months later, they announced the big(gest) one: they would be entering an acquisition phase for Activision-Blizzard-King, or ABK for shorthand. The legalities surrounding this particular acquisition are still ongoing, but (thankfully) I'm not interested in spending yet more time obsessed over a transaction that does nothing for my own bank account nor my wallet, unlike certain other individuals online.

Rather, there are a few developments which I've observed with Microsoft and the Xbox brand over the past two years that have led me to consider a most probable future for Xbox as a brand, where Microsoft will most likely take it, and the steps they'll take to get there. The key developments I've noticed which have led to my conclusions are as follow:

1: Development of the GDK​
2: The "strategic partnership" between Sega/Atlus and Microsoft Azure to make the former a "specialized" client of the latter's services​
3: The expressed interest from Satya Nadella viewing the benefits of Xbox brand around developer-centric cloud-powered development & programming models​
4: The existance of Valve's Steam Deck (and its evident commercial success)​
5: The involvement of Microsoft's Surface team in the development of Series X and S consoles​
6: The expressed interest from Microsoft to have GamePass on as many devices as possible, including rival consoles from Sony & Nintendo​
7: The (probable) underperformance of Series S in most retail markets (theory on my part, based on circumstantial evidence and coincidences)​
8: The initiative to build Xbox and PC versions of all 1P games for Day 1 (has been in effect for some years now)​
9: The expressed desire for increased games revenue and profit driven mainly through acquisitions of money-making IP to fold into Xbox division​
10: Expressed belief from Phil Spencer that they expect GamePass to "only" account for 10 - 15% of total games revenue going into the future​

Now, I've listed those points in no particular order, but the reason I listed them is because they all feed into what I believe Microsoft will do with the Xbox brand going into the future. The following things I expect to either begin happening or be in full effect of happening by 2025, and certainly by the time the 10th-generation of consoles would begin (assuming 2028 on my end). I will reference back to the 10 points listed above as needed while building out these ideas, but this might be a somewhat long read, if you can't tell already. So just break it up if you feel it's too daunting.

[1: MICROSOFT WILL PHASE OUT XBOX LIVE GOLD]

This one is probably a little more than obvious, not just because several "insiders" have suggested as such for over a year, but because Microsoft's (absolutely failed) attempt to double the price of XBL Gold last year (to drive attention to GamePass as a better value) more or less showed their long-term intent with regards this service.

While Sony handled rolling PS+, Extra, and Premium/Deluxe into a shared service better than Microsoft keeping GamePass & Xbox Live two distinctly different (and conflicting) services IMO, it doesn't change the fact that Microsoft eventually need to rid of XBL Gold and ensure that there is a GamePass tier priced similarly and providing similar benefits.

However, I think this also presents the opportunity for not just a Family Plan (which has also been speculated), but also a means of compartmentalizing GamePass content among different tiers of access. So for example, whatever the XBL Gold equivalent tier is formed for GamePass, would limit the selection of the library to say just a curated list of 100 games, that may cycle in and out every so often, but this tier now costs $4.99/month. It may still get new smaller-scale releases Day 1, but bigger releases perhaps not, or people on that tier would have to wait.

[2: MICROSOFT WILL CEASE BRINGING *ALL* 1P GAMES TO GAMEPASS DAY 1 BY 2025]

Continuing from the above, I think that as Microsoft will want to push GamePass out onto more devices, yet simultaneously bring more of their games to more devices Day 1 (I'll touch on that later), some changes will probably be made to this aspect of GamePass as a service. They know that other platform holders value software revenue from direct sales highly, and feel that certain content being in a service Day 1 will negatively impacts software sales, i.e the main revenue stream of platform holders off software sales.

Microsoft themselves probably do not want to cut too much into potential sales revenue of key 1P titles, either, and they already have a taste of what money 1P games can bring in on their own (outside of GamePass) i.e the early access release of Forza Horizon 5 in November 2021. If/when they acquire ABK, and upon seeing the sheer amount of money Modern Warfare generated on its own at launch, Microsoft would be absolutely moronic to damage that model (and risk losing out on a big chunk of that revenue) by throwing releases like MW2 into GamePass Day 1. It simply is not going to happen.

That's why I'm of the belief that certain key, big games will in fact skip GamePass Day 1 altogether, and enter the service when their traditional sales model has been maximized. So games like COD, TES VI, DOOM, Quake (assuming it's a traditional type of experience and not a F2P MP hero shooter) etc. won't have Day 1 GamePass releases going forward, but could see drops into the service (among the higher-priced tiers) within say 3-6 months of sale traditionally. Meanwhile, games like Pentiment or Grounded will most likely continue to see Day 1 availability in GamePass as well as individual sale outside of the service.

Even though games like COD will likely not be in GamePass Day 1, I can see people with GamePass subscriptions getting a slight discount on their purchase of games like COD, TES VI etc. redeemable at a specific future date (so they buy at full price, but get a rebate a bit later). Or, if you have a GamePass subscription, you get certain free weapons & items, early access to certain maps or DLC quests, or reward points redeemable towards in-game items.

And, since I'm of the belief that Microsoft will eventually work out a deal for some curated form of GamePass on other platforms (more on that later), then these benefits will end up in fact hardware-agnostic, i.e if you have a GamePass sub in general, you get the perks, regardless if you have the game on an Xbox, PC, PlayStation, or even Switch!! Now, I think Microsoft will have to establish some type of revenue sharing model with other platform holders to possibly do some of this, but that would be included in whatever curated form of GamePass they can get onto other platforms.

[3: PROJECT KEYSTONE WILL BE RELEASED BETWEEN 2023 AND 2025]

Companies investing tons of R&D into consoles that never see the light of day is nothing new. Sega became infamous for this with things like Neptune, Jupiter, and the 3DFX-based version of Dreamcast. 3DO/Panasonic had a similar situation with the M2 (which only saw release as an arcade board exclusively supported by Konami, and got like five games), and Atari had some big R&D sunk into the Jaguar 2 before that was cancelled.

However, IMO Microsoft's "Project Keystone" is different. It is meant to be a streaming device for GamePass content via the cloud; the purported reason it has been shelved is down to costs, but it could also be an issue of timing. Not simply in terms of costs, but in terms of ensuring enough flow of content by the time the device releases, or ensuring that xCloud is developed enough to a satisfactory point before releasing it (as Project Keystone would be relying on that).

Project Keystone, in all honesty, probably should have released in lieu of the Series S. It would not act as a hard tech floor towards Xbox Series software development since, unlike the S, it would not run native versions of games locally. It would have been even cheaper to manufacture and sell, and could more easily have been marketed as both a game streaming device and a multimedia box, similar to an Apple TV, and bundled it with a game-like remote (you turn it to the side similar to the Wiimote could be used, but have thumbpads on it for analog controls, side buttons that could replace triggers etc while still looking much like a remote when vertically orientated and those other features being usable for multimedia playback & navigation).

As something targeting the wider market, I feel it'd of been performing better sales-wise than the Series S is, and leave more budget for Series X systems to be manufactured in greater numbers. From my estimates, Series S and X are likely between 13.3 million to 15.5 million sold-through as of this time, leaning much more to the higher end of that figure (considering what time has passed). While I think that number would not be significantly higher if Project Keystone replaced Series S, you'd at least have a decent bit more Series Xs comprising that sold-through number, lower production costs for Keystone, and rid of the stigma among some devs that Series S is "holding them back" (as well as the existence of the Series S acting as a hard floor to Series software development, in a technical sense).

Plus, Microsoft would still have things like the All-Access program available, so that program itself along with Project Keystone could act as the cost-conscious entry points. Either get a Project Keystone for $149, or a Series X through All-Access in installments if buying a Series X at $499 is too much for you. Series S is redundant, limiting, and controversial in that scenario (in my personal opinion).

[4: MICROSOFT WILL RID OF MOST "SHORTCUTS" RELATED TO GAMEPASS BY 2025]

It's no secret that, if someone is interested in a GamePass subscription, there are a myriad of ways they can have it "pay for itself" without actually providing much in the way of their own money. There's the renowned $1 conversion, which actually just lets you convert up to three years of XBL Gold to three years of GamePass. There is the existence of MS Rewards points, which can be accrued in order to pay off months of GamePass, depending on how many points you get, and these points can be earned through things as simple as Bing searches. There are the regular free trail offers, which apparently don't keep a database record reference for the same people using multiples of them, meaning you can technically stack multiple months of GP for free with such a method. There are also the free month offers you can get by buying things like Doritos bags (I've gotten multiples of them from the big bags of Doritos purchased over the past two months).

All of these things may be great in terms of driving subscribers to the service, but in light of Phil's own words that GamePass on console is slowing down in growth, and these initiatives mainly being used by users on the console side of things, it also isn't rocket science to figure that these various methods for "free" GamePass hurt the ARPU (Average Revenue Per User) of the service. Which, ultimately, is what Microsoft are interested in: they want to generate as much money as possible through the service and that isn't going to happen if these free offers and shortcuts continue to exist.

Which is why I'm of the belief that virtually ALL of them will disappear by 2025. The only "shortcut" means for GamePass from that point on, will probably be tied to the All-Access program, which in itself will mean being tied to new Xbox peripherals, devices, or (potentially) partner company devices that can also access GamePass or Microsoft games content. Outside of that, expect heavily reduced shortcuts in the form of the other things; not that they will go away, just that MS Reward points, for example, will have significantly less value to them making it much harder to pay off months of GamePass through simply farming for them.

[5: MICROSOFT WILL START RELEASING NATIVE PORTS OF *ALL* 1P GAMES TO PLAYSTATION & NINTENDO PLATFORMS DAY 1 BY 2025]

This one is probably going to be a bit controversial for some of you, considering the idea that it would also symbolize them "giving up" in the space as a platform holder. After all, if you bring all your games to competitor platforms, especially Day 1, you're technically a 3P publisher at that point, no?

Well, yes and no. Yes, because that's the way it'll seem looking at it from the traditional console model. No, in that it won't mean Microsoft stops manufacturing Xbox consoles. However, they will refer to them more as Xbox "devices" rather than "consoles" (more on that later), and in a way they have already been maintaining some degree of 1P software support on rival platforms via Minecraft, Minecraft spin-offs, the Ori games, Cuphead, Deathloop, Ghostwire Tokyo, Elder Scrolls Online, and if/when ABK are acquired, COD. In fact, MS are even documented at least in passing suggesting they'd consider bringing COD to Switch platforms in the future, likely with native versions or combo native/cloud versions.

So, the pieces are already there and already set up to some degree, but I think around 2025 is when Microsoft will fully pull that lever. And, in what else some may consider controversial, I think it begins with them porting games like Starfield, RedFall and Forza Motorsport to PS5 consoles. Games like Pentiment and Grounded will get native ports to Nintendo's Switch 2 by or around that point, as well. And, yes, future 1P games like TES VI (despite the current rhetoric and public statements) will see native Day 1 ports for PS5 and maybe even Switch 2 alongside Series X, Series S, and PC.

Why? Because, again, I feel that Microsoft will transition Xbox as a brand away from a "console" (in the traditional business model sense), and more into a "device", a computing device that happens to be gaming-centric in design but otherwise not adhering to the typical console-orientated business model. Which will include eschewing any sense of platform exclusivity, and providing Day 1 access of their content on any device allowing. But this also will mean Xbox as a hardware device changing significantly in its own ways, which I'll touch on later.

[6: MICROSOFT WILL LEVERAGE THEIR GAMING POSITION TO NET MORE BIG 3P DEVS AS AZURE CLIENTS]

Let's go back to a bit earlier in the year, where Microsoft and Sega announced a strategic partnership for Sega studios to utilize Azure cloud resources. This was paired with Sega's "Super Game" announcement, which we're still waiting to see details and game footage of (although we know it involves the Crazy Taxi and Jet Set Radio IPs). Now, when this partnership was first announced, I *personally* thought it was going to lead to something analogous to the exclusive content Sega created for the OG Xbox. Stuff similar to Panzer Dragoon Orta, Outrun 2, GunValkyrie, Jet Set Radio Future, etc.

When it became quickly evident that was not the case, I actually was quite disappointed, especially when that was paired with the early word that they were in not seeking any type of exclusivity for Xbox from the ABK acquisition that was announced back in January. However, this was also a time in which I viewed Xbox as a brand much differently than I do today, and having been removed from that mentality for a while now, I can understand the implications of something like the MS & Sega Azure partnership for an indication of where that could lead.

See, Microsoft is in need of a growth market for Azure, as they have either saturated or are very close to saturating their traditional outlets. Gaming presents a "blue ocean" for the Azure space, so to speak, but Azure itself has very little traction with the game development community, especially among console-orientated developers and AAA devs in general. It's evident Microsoft would like to change that, so using the connections that Xbox and GamePass departments have with those same developers, can be useful in enticing those developers & publishers to become Azure clients, which would represent a lot of growth for their cloud division.

And as we've also seen with the Sega deal, these things can have trickle-down benefits for GamePass and Xbox platforms as well. It's a somewhat clever way to get more content for the customer-facing gaming initiatives of the brand while growing in the space that actually drives the larger pillars of the company forward.

[7: THE XBOX BRAND OF CONSOLES WIL BE REPOSITIONED AS GAMING-CENTRIC COMPUTER DEVICES]

This is maybe going to be the most controversial, but in my honest opinion, Xbox as a traditional gaming platform will cease to exist by 2025. They have spent going on four generations now either struggling to keep Xbox as a division above water, or repairing damage from self-inflicted wounds. Xbox has never led the industry in any generation when it comes to console sales, has never led in game division revenue, and arguably has never led in terms of industry-defining gaming experiences outside of maybe the original Halo trilogy and the early years of Xbox Live, as well as helping standardize UMA (Unified Memory Architecture) into an acceptable standard (older systems like the N64 had UMA as well but had severe bottlenecks in implementing it).

And that doesn't even begin to go into the relatively little profit Xbox as a division has generated over the years. Even with the current generation, while they track slightly ahead of XBO and 360 for life-to-date sold-through, they are very far removed from matching Sony's numbers for PlayStation 5, and will probably fall behind Nintendo's Switch 2 within two years, assuming the Switch 2 releases in 2023. Given the amount of financial investments MS have made for Xbox over the generations and especially with the roughly $80 billion they've spent in the past four years between acquiring independent devs, Zenimax and soon ABK, MS will likely accelerate their hardware-agnostic model for gaming to a new logical conclusion.

Many, if not all, of the pressures and scrutiny Microsoft continuously takes as a platform holder judged on the traditional console business model, would fold away if they were to brand and focus Xbox as a gaming computer device rather than as a games *console*. This also would actually benefit them WRT future gaming acquisitions; a LOT of the current pushback Microsoft are seeing from the ABK deal is in part due to the fact they are also a platform holder in the console space who adheres to the traditional console business model. The fact they do such in ANY capacity is part of what's creating so many headaches and threatens to unravel the ABK acquisition altogether. By transitioning away from this traditional console business model in its entirety, they suddenly face much less scrutiny from other platform holders, gamers, and even regulators.

However, doing that requires a few other radical changes, which I feel they will do either by 2025, or be in the process of doing by that time, as I reference below.

[8: MICROSOFT WILL ENABLE FULL-ON WINDOWS 10/WINDOWS 11 FUNCTIONALITY ON XBOX DEVICES (NOW XBOX COMPUTER DEVICES)]

One of those important changes on Microsoft's end, will be in providing full functionality of Windows on Xbox devices. This means you'll be able to use all the applications you can use on a Dell XPS or Asus desktop, for example, on an Xbox device. The only differentiating factor would be if the Xbox device has the hardware headroom to run a particular application at a particular setting.

To do this, however, also means Microsoft will HAVE to allow Steam, GOG, EGS and other game storefronts to run, access, and install normally on Xbox devices the same way they do on other Windows devices. It will also mean Microsoft has to decouple the Xbox storefront from Xbox consoles in one way or another; either build it in as a rebranding of the Windows Store (for games) accessible much the way you can access the Windows Store in Windows 10 and 11 (meaning the Xbox store would also need to be natively accessible in that same manner on ALL devices with Windows 10 or 11 installed), or freely allow Valve, Epic, CDPR etc. to make storefront launchers downloadable and accessible on Xbox devices with the same or similar level of embeddedness as the Xbox storefront, at costs in line with whatever the typical software developer license for Windows is.

As I already also alluded to, it also means they have to get rid of Xbox Live, or make it so that Xbox Live is not a requirement for online gaming on Xbox devices, and the same goes for GamePass. Microsoft simply cannot gate online MP behind a service if they do not do so on Windows. They may even just phase out the Xbox OS over time, with future Xbox devices, but for the meantime perhaps allow Series X and S units to dual-boot the normal Xbox OS or Windows 11.

[9: XBOX DEVICES WILL BE SOLD AT FOR-PROFIT MSRPs SIMILAR TO SURFACE DEVICES AND OEM NUCs]

And, since Xbox devices would now technically be classified as computers, it would allow Microsoft to increase the price MSRP on them to sell for profit directly on the device hardware itself. The trick is in making sure they are priced so that they can serve a low, low-mid, or mid-low end of PC gaming that GPU makers like AMD and Nvidia either don't prioritize or price their cards out of the market of. Keep in mind, Microsoft still would have the advantage of a box that has all the hardware needed to game as long as you have a monitor and a controller, whereas people building a PC still need to source their own GPU, CPU, cooler, fan, SSD, Blu-Ray drive, case, cables, motherboard, keyboard, mouse, controller, and monitor.

There's also the advantage of the console-like form factor which is simply not as easy to replicate with SFF PC boxes, for reasons such as limited R&D. I can see a world where a $699 or $799 Series X, for example, still does reasonably well if it dual-boots to Windows 11 with no compromises (although it would need to facilitate other things like upgradable RAM, eGPU support, and maybe upgradable CPU configs which leads into the next point). In such an environment you get clearly more performance than NUCs pricing closer to $1K (or even higher), and the same Windows functionality while being better gaming devices.

[10: 10TH-GEN XBOX DEVICES WILL BE INSPIRED BY STEAM MACHINES AND STEAM DECK]

If you ask me, Steam Machines were a smart idea from Valve, they just executed it very poorly. They made at least as many, if not more mistakes, as Panasonic & The 3DO Company made with the 3DO system back in 1993. Thankfully, they took time to step back, reassess their errors, and came out with a winner in the Steam Deck, which will grow into a very viable portable PC platform in the years to come.

Microsoft, unlike Valve, have firsthand experience in the console market as a platform holder, so they could use that to succeed with a take of the Steam Machines idea that actually works. I somewhat feel the Series in itself is a prototype of this, given the wildly different specifications of the Series S and Series X, but for their 10th-generation of console devices, I can see Microsoft going a lot further in terms of user expandability options, integrated Windows support & functionality, and even in terms of build accents/touches for a more premium touch, inspired by their Surface line of devices.

In simple terms, I can see Microsoft doing a two-device approach for 10th-generation as well. However, one will focus on a seamless console-like/laptop style of device developed with a slim profile and 2-in-1 detachable laptop form factor mobility in mind (think something like the Surface 2-in-1 detachable line of devices for an idea), possibly with specs targeting a Series X Pro (if Pro consoles for 9th gen are even a thing). For RAM, they can go with Dell's CAMM design, provided it gains standardization support from JEDEC, but it's the bandwidth advantages that brings (along with I'm assuming lower power consumption & Z-height space) which make it so suitable. Either that, or some future HBM-based memory will be affordable to utilize (if we're talking about production numbers maybe notably north of Surface devices but not to the scale of actual mass-market Xbox consoles of past generations, the costs of HBM may be worth it for the performance), although a mix of HBM & CAMM-based DDR would work best (since the latter can be upgraded in its capacity). Otherwise they could offer different configs, similar to Surface devices, with different CPU & GPU specs (CPU versions with different clocks, for example), different li-on batteries and power profile settings, and port I/O.

That lower-end device would be paired with another Xbox device taking the form of a SFF PC or just somewhat larger than that. I can see it using DDR6-based RAM for the CPU (which would be upgradable; at this point support for 64 GB or even 128 GB of RAM expandability may be expected), meanwhile the internal GPU could be a quite more powerful variant of whatever the smaller devices' GPU is, and utilize embedded HBM-based memory. In any case, it would need to be comparable in performance to whatever the PlayStation 6 ends up providing, however for this particular Xbox device the GPU would be upgradable. This gets a bit complicated because if they want a console-like form factor, that would technically limit what size of GPUs it could support unless either there are special enclosures for fuller-sized GPU cards to slot out the default GPU, or external GPUs would have to connect via eGPU (but the laptop variant would be able to do this as well, albeit with more limited external GPU support, if using a lower-performing CPU). Any GPU usable on a Windows PC would be usable on these devices as well, theoretically speaking. Additionally, in the case of this SFF-sized console Xbox device, the CPU should be socketed and upgradable, and even things like the Wifi module should be upgradable as well, plus the power supply (will be necessary if the internal CPU is upgradable).

With this type of design philosophy, I could see these next-gen Xbox devices maintaining good sales performance, provided there's the right balance of price. They would obviously be more expensive than actual consoles (remember, Microsoft would have a completely different business model for these devices by this point compared to how the Series S & X launched), but I couldn't picture a stock SFF-sized next-gen Xbox device costing $1,999 for example...well maybe unless it has built-in set-top-box hardware in it x3. Could also be an good excuse to reintroduce HDMI-IN functionality to Xbox devices in this case.

[con't below...]
 
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[11: MICROSOFT WILL CURATE VERSIONS OF GAMEPASS FOR APPROVAL ON SONY, NINTENDO, VALVE, EPIC, GOOGLE & APPLE SERVICES]

This is one of the other big things Microsoft will likely seek to do, but it comes with the condition of them transitioning the Xbox brand into a more general gaming-ready computing device, rather than pushing it as a "gaming console" in direct contention with companies like Sony and Nintendo. It also requires them to either decouple the Xbox storefront from Xbox devices exclusively, or allow companies like Valve & Epic to freely put their own storefronts on Xbox devices with all the same rules they abide with doing such on Windows operating systems.

By doing such, however, Microsoft should be able to provide curated versions of GamePass for Sony & Nintendo systems that just keep the 1P content in them, and this is an idea I've seen others float around for a while now in various discussions, so the idea itself is nothing new. Perhaps more interesting would be what a curated form of GamePass looks like for Steam, GOG, and Epic Game Store.

I do feel any curated version would probably scale back on what particular games can be Day 1 through it, but Microsoft will end up doing this themselves as they will want to maximize the traditional revenue model streams for the biggest of their releases, relegating Day 1 GamePass to smaller releases like the Pentiments and Groundeds of the world.

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And with that, I conclude my (pseudo) analysis on the Xbox brand, and where I firmly believe Microsoft will take the brand over the course of the next three to six years. It becomes clear to me that they want to prioritize Xbox more as a means of securing developer clients to leverage Azure for games creation, and that creating natural benefits for platforms like Xbox and services like GamePass. It is very clear that Microsoft as a company want to provide content for other hardware & software platforms as a third-party, and the best means of doing that would be in shifting the identity and branding of their own games console, and its business model, into something that does not actually compete with those other platforms whatsoever.

It becomes clear that Microsoft as a company value game revenue and profit through the traditional sales pipeline very much after all, as if recent performance of Modern Warfare 2 at retail is not proof enough of this. However, they also have enough data to show that a service like GamePass is useful for smaller games, so the company will shift to a model where the bigger games come to GamePass later on, and smaller games can still be released Day 1, the value proposition of GamePass shifting to the pricing discounts & extra content (including exclusive content) it can provide for subscribers. By coming to an agreement to make curated versions of GamePass for non-Microsoft platforms, these benefits become hardware and service-agnostic; they meet the player where they are as long as they have a GamePass subscription. And, in pushing a more fully hardware-agnostic model while leaving the traditional console business model behind, Microsoft will prioritize Day 1 native releases of 1P games onto Sony PlayStation, Nintendo Switch and mobile platforms alongside PC and Xbox, as long as the hardware can support the game (i.e maybe don't expect TES VI on Switch 2 Day 1 (unless it's somewhat near Series S spec), but it should easily be on PS5 Day 1 assuming it targets Series S & X specifications).

This is the future of the Xbox brand, of GamePass, and of Microsoft as a games maker in this industry. I fundamentally feel most if not all of the things speculated here will manifest into reality within the given time frames, because to me, given what I've observed and analyzed of the brand over especially the past two years, it simply makes the most business sense. And at the end of the day, Microsoft is a business; if maximizing their games revenue means completely dropping pretenses and eschewing the traditional business model for Xbox, turning it into a PC or "Surface gaming" style of gaming-tuned computing devices running Windows (and priced similarly to OEM computer devices as a result), they will do it! If that means readjusting the "all 1P games Day 1 in GamePass" commitment, they will do it. If that means opening up Xbox devices to be usable as Windows devices for competing gaming storefront and services providers, in order to aid in the curation of specific GamePass models integrated into 3P services, they will do it. If it means removing themselves from the traditional console business model and bringing all their content to PlayStation, Nintendo and mobile platforms with native Day 1 releases (hardware capabilities permitting), they will do it. And if all of that also enables a path to having some form of GamePass accepted on Sony and Nintendo devices...they will do it.

Like I said before, this will probably piss off "certain" console loyalists of the brand, who still feel the best path for Microsoft is to attempt "destroying" Sony and pushing Xbox with the same business model and branding they did during the OG Xbox & 360 eras, and tried doing with XBO. However, I don't think those individuals are actually paying attention to the subtexts of what people like Phil Spencer and Satya Nadella are saying or alluding to, especially over the course of this year. Much of Microsoft's ambitions for larger gaming growth lie in appealing to ecosystems other than their own, and finding ways to integrate into those ecosystems with as little friction as possible. So adhering to playing by the traditional console business model, and strong-arming their services to that model, is simply counter-intuitive to those growth ambitions. It doesn't mean Microsoft will completely abandon everything related to the usual console model (for example, they will still release new Xbox devices in time for 10th-gen that are notably more capable than the current ones or any "Pro" model refresh, and the top-end model being at least comparable to a PlayStation 6 in performance capability and with a lot of the usual R&D somewhere a mix of consoles from the past and what their Surface teams do for those products); however it is best to view it as they will step away from aspects of it which puts them in direct comparison to Sony and Nintendo, and this is probably the best move for all three companies.

I decided to write this to put out my own thoughts in observing the Xbox brand and Microsoft's gaming-related moves over the years, and my interpretation of them. So again, I cannot say with 100% certainty this speculation is going to turn out correct, but I feel roughly 90% sure that the vast majority of it will, as I am looking at things with how to adhere to Microsoft's own stated and projected goals within gaming going forward. And out of the three platform holders, it's Microsoft who I feel will undergo the most radical of transformations of their staple gaming brand(s), as they ultimately attempt to, in their own way, realize something Sega themselves dipped their feet in during the days of Master System, Genesis/MegaDrive and Saturn: acting as a 3P selectively for other platforms and still providing 1P content for their own platforms.

Except Microsoft has a chance to succeed (given their much stronger intent) where Sega failed in that type of strategy; it's just going to require a few massive shifts, including decoupling Xbox from the traditional console business model and brand identity marketing. Which, I feel, they have already gradually began doing.

But what do the rest of you think? Do you agree with my speculation (or at least some of it)? Disagree? What are your reasons as to why? I'm looking forward to seeing what's on your mind.
 
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I think the big one will be the shift to fluid Apple style generations, starting with new versions of Series S and X in 2024/2025, probably at the same price points.

If they can get the streaming box at the price they want I’m sure they will release it. Or maybe they will repurpose the Series S as a streaming box.
 

Bernkastel

Ask me about my fanboy energy!
Also, Keystone has been cancelled because they couldn't get it to 99-129 USD with a controller.
Keystone.
Keystone. It was more expensive than we wanted it to be when we actually built it out with the hardware that we had inside. We decided to focus that team’s effort on delivering the smart TV streaming app. It was really just a direction, “Okay, we’re going to focus our effort on our partnership with Samsung and where that app might continue to show up in different places over time.” With Keystone, we’re still focused on it and watching when we can get the right cost.
When you have Series S at $299 — and during the holidays you might see some price promotions — and you obviously have Series X higher, I think in order for a streaming-only box to make sense, the price delta to S has to be pretty significant. I want to be able to include a controller in it when we go do that. It was really just about whether we could build the right product at the right price, or if we couldn’t, how could we focus the team’s effort? We decided to go do the TV app with Samsung, and we’re really happy with the results there.
What’s the right price?
I don’t want to announce pricing specifically, but I think you have to be somewhere around $129, $99 for that to make sense in my view. We just weren’t there with a controller. I love the effort. The reason it’s on my shelf is because the team rolled up their sleeves and in nine months they built that thing. A bunch of us took it home and it worked. It worked really, really well.
When you are building new products, it’s always about, do you have the right design? Do you have the right user interface? Do you have the right customer proposition? That customer proposition includes the price, and I think all of us knew that we were a little out of position on price.
Was the price too high because of the processor or the controller inside? You keep mentioning Samsung TVs. They are not processing powerhouses. Everyone who’s ever used a smart TV knows these things are underpowered out the gate and they feel even more underpowered over time.
This is why we will get there. It’s different when you have your own power source. Not to go into the hardware design, but if this thing is standalone, it’s not living on the power source and the integrated circuits that are already in the TV. You have to do everything bespoke. We made some decisions to make it easy. When it is turned on, it looks like an Xbox with the user interface and everything works. Some of the silicon choices we were making at the time of designing just didn’t let us hit the price point that we wanted.
I love when teams go off; it was kind of like our back-compat team back in the day. I applaud when teams go off and take a crazy mission of, “We’re going to build a streaming console and all try it at home, and the experience will be really good.” I love when teams take risks and deliver. I think it’s fantastic.
 

T4keD0wN

Member
Project keystone, gamepass loopholes (highly doubt that one) and 11. are the only ones that sound realistic.
Although 11. is true already as it is on google play services already. GP on steam could also happen since they allowed ea play there and possibly even on Sony TVs (android ones)

Rest sounds completely unrealistic, but this is a bizzare timeline.
 

feynoob

Member
Verdict:
Thumps Down Red Wolves GIF by Arkansas State University

[2: MICROSOFT WILL CEASE BRINGING *ALL* 1P GAMES TO GAMEPASS DAY 1 BY 2025]
Wont happen
[4: MICROSOFT WILL RID OF MOST "SHORTCUTS" RELATED TO GAMEPASS BY 2025]
Wont happen. Companies still do promotional free month.
[5: MICROSOFT WILL START RELEASING NATIVE PORTS OF *ALL* 1P GAMES TO PLAYSTATION & NINTENDO PLATFORMS DAY 1 BY 2025]
This has to be a satire. Anyone who thinks this, needs to touch grass. PS will only get some of activision games. Same with nintendo. But not all.
[6: MICROSOFT WILL LEVERAGE THEIR GAMING POSITION TO NET MORE BIG 3P DEVS AS AZURE CLIENTS]
They are already doing that.
[7: THE XBOX BRAND OF CONSOLES WIL BE REPOSITIONED AS GAMING-CENTRIC COMPUTER DEVICES]
wont happen
[8: MICROSOFT WILL ENABLE FULL-ON WINDOWS 10/WINDOWS 11 FUNCTIONALITY ON XBOX DEVICES (NOW XBOX COMPUTER DEVICES)]
MS is dumb. They have no brain for that.
[9: XBOX DEVICES WILL BE SOLD AT FOR-PROFIT MSRPs SIMILAR TO SURFACE DEVICES AND OEM NUCs]
Again, MS is dumb. They want power, and stupid shit.
[10: 10TH-GEN XBOX DEVICES WILL BE INSPIRED BY STEAM MACHINES AND STEAM DECK]
And I believe in santa,
[11: MICROSOFT WILL CURATE VERSIONS OF GAMEPASS FOR APPROVAL ON SONY, NINTENDO, VALVE, EPIC, GOOGLE & APPLE SERVICES]


Confused Steve Brule GIF by MOODMAN
 

Dick Jones

Gold Member
The Day 1 First Party on Gamepass isn't necessarily true. Pre-ordering the game (based off the Forza model) appears to grant early access (a few days) so MS get a decent chunk of revenue off those who can't wait for it to hit Gamepass. Admittedly, a smart move by whoever came up with it, considering the question marks of just releasing games on Day 1 Gamepass curbing Day 1 sales.

I expect Starfield to release early access a week before to maximise pre-order sales for those who can't wait.
 
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feynoob

Member
Still surprised that Bing makes 5 billion annual revenue even with all those rewards.
Its actually higher than that.
Fiscal year (ends on June 30)Search advertising revenue
2016$5.43 billion
2017$6.22 billion
2018$7.01 billion
2019$7.63 billion
2020$7.74 billion
2021$8.53 billion
 

Three

Member
Wont happen
There is a quote somewhere that says it will. A long time ago they said it might not be that way forever.

I personally think they will just cheat the system like they did for FH. Ask you to pay £20-30 or something for "early access" meaning they aren't really doing day one releases but just calling the gamepass release 'day one'. People will buy it too.
 
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feynoob

Member
There is a quote somewhere that says it will. A long time ago they said it might not be that way forever.

I personally think they will just cheat the system like they did for FH. Ask you to pay £20-30 or something for "early access" meaning they aren't really doing day one releases but just calling the gamepass realease 'day one'. People will buy it too.
FH tactic makes sense for them. Earlyy release for buyers, and gamepass day1 later. They cant remove day1 option though.

Entire business model of gamepass was day1 xbox 1st party games. If they dont do that, that is a massive PR error.
 

Three

Member
FH tactic makes sense for them. Earlyy release for buyers, and gamepass day1 later. They cant remove day1 option though.

Entire business model of gamepass was day1 xbox 1st party games. If they dont do that, that is a massive PR error.
Exactly, the definition of "Day one" was changed. I even see people saying day one on gamepass for games that came out 6yrs ago. That's the way I think they will approach it. Market Day one as day one on gamepass but it's not really day one.
 
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poppabk

Member
FH tactic makes sense for them. Earlyy release for buyers, and gamepass day1 later. They cant remove day1 option though.

Entire business model of gamepass was day1 xbox 1st party games. If they dont do that, that is a massive PR error.
Yeah this is the way they will go, but like FH it will be tied to a premium upgrade rather than buying the game. I bought the upgrade for FH5 because I knew I would likely buy the add-ons anyway so may as well get it a week early as well.
 
The Day 1 First Party on Gamepass isn't necessarily true. Pre-ordering the game (based off the Forza model) appears to grant early access (a few days) so MS get a decent chunk of revenue off those who can't wait for it to hit Gamepass. Admittedly, a smart move by whoever came up with it, considering the question marks of just releasing games on Day 1 Gamepass curbing Day 1 sales.

I expect Starfield to release early access a week before to maximise pre-order sales for those who can't wait.
Do we define things by the exception or the rule. First off Forza was one game that did the early access and as stated it was only for a few days. Even in that case there is no one else offering their titles that early on a subscription service. It's safe to say MS is offering their first party titles day one on Game pass. Even an early access doesn't change that.
 

Dick Jones

Gold Member
Do we define things by the exception or the rule. First off Forza was one game that did the early access and as stated it was only for a few days. Even in that case there is no one else offering their titles that early on a subscription service. It's safe to say MS is offering their first party titles day one on Game pass. Even an early access doesn't change that.
I imagine since Xbox did it for Forza, it would be brainless to not continue early access scheme to maximise profit/minimise lost sales on future first party games. MS would get more real sales with Starfield coming out a week before for those who pre-ordered as the fear of missing out will play a huge factor in sales.

Still you'd agree it's Day 1 with a huge qualifier considering the large digital sales % v physical sales on Xbox platforms.
 

ZehDon

Gold Member
This thread is the written equivalent of a Nicolas Cage performance: some parts are clearly quite insane, some parts actually have sparks of brilliance, and at the end, though I'm not sure if it's an inspired work of art or the manifestations of an unhinged psyche, I'm undeniably both entertained and curious for more.
 
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