In an interview with Yahoo Finance, Xbox head Phil Spencer states that Microsoft intends to continue producing console hardware in the future.
“In terms of future hardware, absolutely I think we’re going to see more console hardware down the road,” Spencer says. “Just like in video, just like in music, it’s not that streaming has cut off device innovation. I think we’ll continue to see that, and that’s absolutely what we’re planning for.”
Spencer’s comments come in response to concerns that Microsoft’s aggressive growth of the Game Pass subscription service and xCloud gaming platform would seem to suggest that they could slowly be pivoting away from the console hardware business. While members of the Xbox team have previously insisted that is not the case, Spencer’s statements come in time to remind everyone that the team is standing by their intentions to continue to produce gaming hardware beyond the upcoming Xbox releases.
Still, this comment doesn’t exactly address all the questions that remain regarding the Xbox team’s future plans. For instance, Spencer mentions video and music as evidence that streaming hasn’t “cut off device innovation” but you could certainly make the argument that’s really not true. Digital music and music streaming quickly brought about the end of CD and MP3 players, while the rise of video streaming services has turned Blu-Ray players into largely niche devices favored by those who wish to own copies of shows and films in the highest possible quality.
It’s here that you could argue that innovation in those fields has largely come through devices that deliver more media formats in one package (such as smart peripherals). That is certainly true, but even those arguments point to the idea that hardware innovation in an increasingly digital age tends to focus less on hardware dedicated to serve a specific purpose.
So what does that mean for the future of the Xbox brand and Xbox consoles? Only the teams at Microsoft could tell you for sure (and nobody may know the long-term answer to that question just yet), but we wouldn’t be surprised if future Xbox platforms model the Xbox Series X/S approach. That is to say that Microsoft could continue to offer a console designed to appeal to hardware purists and a console that is generally thought of as more of a delivery device for advancing digital services. That suggestion supports the idea that Microsoft will remain in the console business, but it remains to be seen exactly what that business looks like at the start of the next generation.