Xbox head Phil Spencer spoke about the future of the Xbox One in ways that resemble that of a unified PC/Xbox platform in a press event last week.
Some say, “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.” Phil Spencer doesn’t share this mentality, instead opting for the, “If you can’t beat ’em, evolve beyond what they are even doing.” So goes the thought process behind growing the Xbox brand beyond the current platform, as was revealed in a Microsoft press event held in San Francisco last week. The Guardian reports the Xbox One will become a de-facto PC with an ever-growing backwards compatibility and hardware upgrades coming in the future.
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It will center around the Universal Windows Platform, which currently lets apps run across PC, Xbox, tablets and smartphones. Universal Windows Applications should run across PC and console in the future on any Windows Universal Platform device, including hardware-updated Xbox One devices.
“We believe we will see more hardware innovation in the console space than we’ve ever seen,” said Spencer. “We’ll see us come out with new hardware capability during a generation and allow the same games to run backwards and forward compatible because we have UWAs running on top of UWP. It allows us to focus on hardware innovation without invalidating the games that run on that platform.
“We can effectively feel a little bit more like what we see on PC where I can still go back and run my old Quake and Doom games, but then I can also see the best 4K games coming out. Hardware innovation continues and software takes advantage. I don’t have to jump generation and lose everything I played before.”
While this will make early adaptors a little on edge without announcing plans for accommodating a possible update in the future, this will certainly be a game-changer for what future consoles will entail. Microsoft is in a unique position due to their ownership of the Windows platform, meaning Xbox games should effectively play on both PC and increasingly powerful Xbox One devices. Not only will it impact their future and the future of Xbox games development at a 1st and 3rd-party level, but it should also change how the competition reacts.
Sony and Nintendo aren’t in such a position to do this as easily going forward, meaning that they will likely need to pivot what it means to have a static console going forward. It could mean shorter console lifespans and larger devkit leadups; it could also mean a focus on growing platform exclusives over 3rd-party titles. It’s anybody’s guess right now, as a world where Microsoft evolves their console and owns the idea of a neverending games library for the TV game space should be quite special.