This is a topic that has turned, moved, and returned to the spotlight: the death of video game consoles. And again, at the center of the discussion is Microsoft, its games division through Xbox.
The first step in this direction was the launch of Xbox Cloud Gaming in September 2021. Popularly known as xCloud, this service allows you to use devices like mobile phones, tablets and even Xbox consoles to play games over the stream.
But don’t confuse it with services like Xbox Game Pass, the new PlayStation Plus, and Nintendo Switch Online. Subscribing to them each month gives you the right to download any title that you want to play in a video game or on a computer from a predefined library. Nothing is uploaded to xCloud. The game runs on remote servers and the player’s device is only responsible for displaying the game on the screen and giving commands.
It refuses to use the console, but Microsoft plans to go further. Their latest prototype is a device called a Keystone that connects to a TV and communicates directly with xCloud. It would be something like this Chromecast, Google or Amazon Fire TV Stick – but for games, not movies and TV series.
Thus, it may be very close to the experience gained when using the console, but there is no need to purchase a device or use wires and connections.
Keystone was an old rumor, but a secret source confirmed it when site Windows Central. “Our goal is to allow people to play any game, on any device, anywhere,” he said. He did not say the release date.
While this may seem like a revolutionary step, Keystone is an example of a trend observed in recent years: the idea of looking at games as a service rather than a “property”. For many years, games like World of Warcraft have adopted a “pay for subscription, not a game” business model.
The Xbox Game Pass goes in the same direction. Since 2020, it has become even more courageous, including several games since its official launch – one of the main distinguishing features of individual games. The consumer is faced with a tempting question: will he pay R $ 299 per game for his debut, or will he pay R $ 29.99 per month to access multiple games, including the news he wants?
Of course, the Xbox Game Pass hasn’t stopped selling games on its own. Although there are many different libraries, there are those who can’t find their favorite books. And login is not “forever”: if you cancel your subscription or Microsoft decides to remove it from the directory, you will lose it. (Generally, they are available for a year.)
However, the service has had a huge impact on the industry, creating such an indisputable trend that rival PlayStation has been forced to adapt. Its PS Plus subscription plan has adopted the same format as its competitor. In Brazil, this update comes on June 13th.
In countries like Brazil, where buying a new game costs almost the cost of a one-year subscription, this type of subscription also helps to democratize access and strengthen independent production.
Goodbye video games?
Is it possible to go beyond the Xbox Game Pass effect of the Microsoft Keystone release? In other words, should there be a trend and, yes, a revolution that broke the cycle started 50 years ago by Odyssey, the first home video game console?
Although it comes at a much better price than the console and is widely accepted, the consoles are unlikely to stop. And for several reasons.
One is that a good portion of consumers are still looking for a traditional experience that includes owning video games and games. They explain why the network has been selling digital games for years, but has never stopped releasing physical versions.
In addition, streaming still cannot reproduce the same experience as a console or computer. Among other problems, for example, there is a delay between the time a player gives an order to the controller and the character in the game responds to that command. This is something that is not seen in most games, but it can be a nuisance for players who need it, especially in titles that require precision, such as shooting, racing, rhythm, and fighting games.
Trying to connect video games to other devices is not a new idea, but in different ways – and, of course, limited by the technology of the time.
In 1983, the Japanese Sharp released the Sharp Nintendo TV, which combined a 14- or 19-inch TV with the Famicom (NES, here known as Nintendinho). In 1990, it introduced the Super Famicom Naizou TV SF1, which has a 14- or 21-inch screen and is fitted with a Super Famicom (Japanese version of Super Nintendo).
Both produced better video quality than conventional cable-based video games. Then, of course, they saved space and destroyed the wires. However, they have never been popular.
Sony also tested it in 2003 with the PSX (or PlayStation X). It was a kind of multimedia center with several functions such as DVD recording, TV signal adjustment and storage of media files. And it was also the PlayStation 2, one of the most popular consoles of all time. Just connect the two PS2 controllers and insert the game disc.
But in practice, the PSX was limited and short-lived by Japan. It was discontinued in 2005.
Finally, there is a key issue: since this is a Microsoft business, Keystone should be limited to being the only interface for xCloud.
Sony and Nintendo may release their own versions in the future, but until that happens (if that happens), fans of very popular franchises like God of War and Mario will still have to turn to the console (or computer) of these manufacturers. some Sony games).
But this does not mean that Keystone will fail, on the contrary. The idea of democratization, lowering it and, above all, making it easier to access games, is Microsoft’s best move, uniting it as a company that represents the direction of the sector.
If confirmed, it has everything to be an innovative step in the Keystone industry, but it is too early to say whether it represents a revolution capable of completely transforming an industry with a half-century history.