With Microsoft starting to focus on their game services like Project xCloud and implementing Xbox Live on new platforms, a lot of people were starting to worry that the days of an Xbox console were numbered. In an interview with Giant Bomb, Head of Xbox Phil Spencer confirmed that Project Scarlett will not be Microsoft's last console. He also reiterated that Project xCloud is not a replacement for console gaming.
Project xCloud is intended to provide another option for console gamers to access their games. As Spencer explains:
I'm not trying to tell people to stop playing console games, or stop playing PC games, or even to buy a second copy of the game so you can play it somewhere else. What I'm saying is I like playing on Xbox Live and when I'm away from my console or my PC, I want to continue to play my games. This is a convenience feature, a choice feature for you.The result is that Microsoft is "not planning" for Project Scarlett to be their last console, and they're continuing to invest in the hardware team. When the next console will come it's far too early to say, but what Spencer did say is that they won't create a new console until they've reached the "next inflection point of experience that would actually be meaningful". For example, they thought that 4K would be meaningful when they created the Xbox One X, but there were other options for gamers who didn't want that. Project Scarlett is coming at a time where the team feels the technology has improved significantly enough to hit a "balance between CPU and GPU that we've just never really hit on a console before", meaning improvements in the feel of games, their frame rate, and their refresh rate.
I think cloud technology has the capability over years to create a really compelling experience in the home on a large screen. The best way for you to go play Cyberpunk, for you to go play any of the games that were shown here for years is going to be dedicated hardware in your home with local storage of those things.
While streaming is predicted to play a major part in gaming years down the line, until it does, Microsoft will continue to produce consoles, especially as streaming does not seem to have a significant impact on the amount of devices players own:
I don't think in that timeline that I'm going to be playing games that feel like my Scarlett games that are streamed on a screen that's 60 inches. I could be wrong, but we're going to continue with our xCloud work and we're going to continue with the magic that's been put in there, but we look at it as me running local hardware. The analogy I use is that I'm a Spotify subscriber, I'm a Netflix subscriber. It's not like that streaming has led to fewer devices around me. If anything I have more devices around me. The price window of a console is not for everybody but it's not $1000. The idea that I would have a dedicated machine in my house that plays games really well doesn't seem foreign to me even if I'm streaming games a lot of the time.
So how will Project xCloud work for now? Most, if not all of the games, will use a controller. At the show, the team were wiring controllers into the devices, although it is possible to use a wireless bluetooth connection. The thing is that controller input will be quicker through a short USB lead than it will ever be through bluetooth, so bear this in mind.
Also, if you're using your own console as an xCloud server, there will be no charge for the service. However, if you're using one of Microsoft's datacenters, there will be a cost although they're yet to figure out what that will be. If players want to use Microsoft datacenters to play a game they already own, the team will "push really hard to make that invisible to you", but the long-term vision over the years is to make the technology available to players who will not be buying their own console.
Spencer also had a more distant scenario that the team is thinking about implementing a few years down the line:
I love this idea that I might actually be able to offer up my local Xbox when I'm not using it for people who are walking around, for them to run from my local console and somehow, me in my house, I'm able to actually get value for... it's like the gig economy of game streaming, if my console's just sitting there and it's silent and I'm not getting charged for upload out of house bandwidth.Project xCloud in its current form will launch in preview this October. Meanwhile, Project Scarlett will be released for the holiday 2020 season, and we'll prepare for more consoles to follow it later on down the road.