Despite calls from analysts and shareholders to spin or sell off the division over the last several years, Microsoft leadership has always insisted that its Xbox video game console is a core part of its business.
Now, it seems like Microsoft is gearing up to make its little plastic box a big part of its Windows 10 strategy.
“I think Windows itself will be a critical component to the success I think we can realise of Xbox itself — and gaming will be a critical component of the success of Windows. I really believe that,” Microsoft Xbox boss Phil Spencer told gaming site Polygon in an interview.
The Xbox One console already has a bunch of Microsoft apps like OneDrive cloud storage and Skype. In November, Microsoft is going to take it a step further with a software update that installs a full-fledged version of the new Windows 10 operating system on the gaming console.
With Windows 10, Microsoft has shifted its strategy away from using the operating system itself as a high-revenue sales driver, instead using it as the bait to get you to spend more money with on Microsoft subscription services and apps.
“As Windows 10 has moved to free upgrade, and us focusing more on service and store, the importance of entertainment and games to the Windows ecosystem has become really prevalent to the company,” Spencer told Polygon.
The Xbox One, as Microsoft’s game-playing, media-consuming powerhouse of a TV set-top box, stands to drive a lot of that shift — people like to play games, and the more games there are for Xbox and Windows 10, the better-positioned the company is to take advantage.
Indeed, the Xbox One and Windows 10 are designed to play nicely together: You can stream games from an Xbox One console to a Windows 10 PC over your local network, via the new Xbox app. A bunch of Windows 10 games, like the Solitaire collection, integrate with your Xbox friends list.
It blurs the boundaries between the PC and the Xbox, and makes it more appealing to stay in Microsoft’s carefullycultivated Windows 10 playground, since everything integrates with everything else. Microsoft’s Minecraft is even coming to the HoloLens futuristic holographic computer, which is itself part of the Windows 10 gameplan.
That Windows 10 update even has the potential to let you run apps like Microsoft Office on the Xbox One, giving the games console a whole second life as a low-cost productivity machine (though Microsoft hasn’t yet announced anything).
“When you look at the device ecosystems out there, you realise if any of these devices are going to work, games are one of the primary forms of applications people are going to play,” Spencer says. “It’s nice. It’s all coming together in a nice way.”