Microsoft’s Xbox One unveil and initial positioning were, to put it simply, a disaster. The company’s vision of an all-in-one media center box that served as a sort of hub for home entertainment, streaming services, and gaming at a higher price point ultimately didn’t survive contact with Sony’s simpler, more focused, and less expensive approach. But one aspect of the original Xbox One’s unveil that has survived — and slowly grown — was the idea that Microsoft could levy its expertise in the PC world to draw the Xbox closer to its native ecosystem.
For years, Microsoft has allowed gamers to stream Xbox titles to a PC. Now the company is allowing the reverse to also function, streaming local PC games to an Xbox One via Miracast. The Xbox One controller can be used to control the remote PC (remote support for mouse and keyboard is not active on the Xbox One currently). Hopefully, this support will be added in the near future.
We’ve written a fair bit about game streaming over the years and the efforts of various companies to build services that could replace console gaming altogether with various streaming services. I’ve always felt as though such products face fundamental obstacles, not because there’s anything wrong with the concept, but because there’s no way to know in advance whether you’ll get acceptable service in your own home. But streaming within the home network is a far more manageable proposition. A new router is a good deal less expensive than a new fiber pull.
Beyond that, it’s always made sense to treat the Xbox more like a PC. The Xbox One functionally is a PC. It’s built on an x86 CPU with a PC GPU. It uses a PC-compatible wireless controller. It runs a PC operating system. The grand irony of the console-versus-PC debate, with all its vitriolic denunciation of “console peasants” and declarations of grand PC superiority, is that the dichotomy’s most frantic defenders don’t even seem to realize they’ve already won the fight. This was not always so. The farther back in time you go, the more PC and console hardware diverges.
Will these additional use cases sell a lot of Xboxes for Microsoft? I doubt it. But I don’t think that’s the company’s ultimate long-term objective, either. The advantage of tying the Windows and Xbox ecosystems together is that you can create game services that apply and appeal to both, offering cross-play and game-sharing. The advantage of being able to stream to either platform is that you can either move an Xbox game from the living room to the bedroom (if someone else wants to watch a movie), or take a PC game from the bedroom to the living room without hauling a chassis around if you want to play something from a big screen. It’s a level of convenience and flexibility that Sony doesn’t really match with an equivalent. It’s a selling point. And while it may not be enough to help Microsoft catch Sony in this generation of the console wars, this generation of consoles is coming to an end. Next year, both companies hit reset. If Microsoft continues to build on the efforts it’s already put in place for Xbone, it could reap the benefits next cycle.