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Xbox head: xCloud aims to compliment video game hardware, not replace it

“It’s really about choice and convenience. It’s not about replacing what you do today.”

– Xbox head Phil Spencer shares how xCloud fits into both its current and future plans.

While Stadia has led with the idea that cloud-based game platforms represent a “box-free” future for the game industry, Xbox leadership envisions cloud-based tech co-existing alongside physical hardware in a way that makes existing platforms more convenient.

Xbox head Phil Spencer spoke about how xCloud fits into the company’s plans alongside several other topics in a chat with The Verge following Xbox’s E3 press conference this week. In short, Spencer says he’s more interested in working with Xbox’s playerbase to create something that works for players’ needs “and not saying, ‘We know what you want, and here it is.'”

As detailed at E3, xCloud’s data-center driven tech is similar at first brush to Google’s Stadia service. But while Google has said several times that Stadia offers a peek at a console-free video game future, Spencer sees xCloud as technology that currently compliments physical game hardware and adds an extra level of convenience to existing offerings.

“I will also say, others out there might be trying to tell you that streaming is the solution to all gaming ills today. We look at xCloud as a long-term solution,” Spencer tells the Verge. “Today, it’s really going to be: when you’re not in front of your console or Windows PC and you want to play those games, it gives you the ability and freedom to play games when you’re away. It’s really about choice and convenience. It’s not about replacing what you do today. I don’t need to create more hype around what it is.”

While Xbox is keeping the wants and needs of its current players in mind with xCloud, Spencer says he’s still very much of the mind that cloud-based game services will be an important technology moving forward. But, as he tells the Verge, “that’s years of investment on our part to enable the infrastructure to get there.”

As unveiled at E3, xCloud will allow players to turn their own Xbox One systems into a personal datacenter to use for xCloud streaming when they’re on the go. So while the xCloud of today compliments existing hardware like Xbox One consoles and PCs, Spencer says the next-generation Project Scarlett is being built with the rise of cloud-based technology like that in mind.

“As we look to define Project Scarlett, we said we know that cloud usage is going to grow,” says Spencer. “So let’s define the core architecture and plan for this platform knowing that it’s going to be a hybrid gaming/cloud scenario where there will be millions of consoles in homes and millions of motherboards sitting in the cloud. Let’s make sure the common architecture is really built for that.”

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