Phil Spencer, Microsoft's Head of Xbox, has sent heads spinning by posting a tweet with a previously unseen prototype in the background. This is not quite a Tom Holland Avengers-level spoiler but Spencer’s tweet has given us lots to consider.
While Spencer hasn’t commented on the photo, an Xbox representative has confirmed “The device on Phil’s shelf was an old prototype of Keystone,” referencing the name of Microsoft's streaming project.
Even if this is just an old prototype this is not the direction we expected Microsoft to take. The device in Spencer’s tweet doesn’t just belong on his carefully curated shelf, it looks like a miniature Xbox that attaches to a monitor or TV. This would work perfectly in tandem with the excellent Xbox Game Pass streaming service and offer some of the best Xbox Series X games without the need for a chunky console.
Vault Boy left the shelter and stopped by my office to celebrate the #Fallout25 Anniversary. Congratulations to the @Fallout @Bethesda teams on this major milestone for an iconic franchise. pic.twitter.com/hGoN1sAQRKOctober 10, 2022
Xbox fans should not get too attached to this particular prototype, however, with it unlikely to hit the market. The same representative who confirmed the prototype's existence has explained: “Earlier this year, we announced that we made the decision to pivot away from the current iteration of Keystone and are taking our learnings to refocus our efforts on a new approach that will allow us to deliver Xbox Cloud Gaming to more players around the world in the future."
This is consistent with confirmation Microsoft gave to Windows Central in May 2022 that the team was having a rethink. Indeed, most (including us) assumed the Xbox streaming device would take instead take the form of a stick plugged directly into a TV, like an Amazon Fire TV Stick. Perhaps this is where the project is now heading.
Microsoft has plenty of experience now in the streaming sector with the Xbox TV app launching on select Samsung TVs and monitors this year and a device like the Keystone (that won't be the final name) would enable this functionality across all the best smart TVs.
Expectations are that the Xbox streaming device will also include apps for some of the best streaming services, making it essentially an all-in-one TV and gaming device that could be moved from room to room (or house to house) — a tantalizing prospect.
The future of streaming games is somewhat uncertain with the recent news of Google Stadia shutting down. Latency issues are often offputting for many gamers and Stadia’s catalog of titles was lackluster. With the strength of the Xbox name, Microsoft will not have such a problem but it will still take a big pitch to draw players away from their PCs and consoles.
We've also weighed in on what the Xbox streaming device could mean for the future of console gaming.