Microsoft is entering new territory for its Xbox Game Pass subscription platform: smart TVs, no Xbox required.
On Thursday, the company announced a partnership with Samsung to bring a dedicated Xbox app to the electronics giant’s newest line of TVs, so subscribers to Game Pass can stream games straight to the display. You won’t need an Xbox, PC or any other separate hardware save a game controller to link with the Samsung display. You will, however, need a good internet connection to stream Xbox games from the cloud. The app will be distributed to compatible Samsung sets starting June 30.
The news marks a pivotal moment for Microsoft’s gaming division and an initiative it’s now calling “Xbox Everywhere.” The vision is to make its library of Xbox games available on virtually any screen, using cloud gaming in the absence of dedicated Xbox or PC hardware. The company is starting with Samsung, but it says it wants to work with other TV makers in the future, too.
Microsoft’s partnership with Samsung has been rumored for weeks now, and the company said a year ago that it had ambitions to make Game Pass available on smart TVs and through dedicated set-top box hardware. The company is in the process of building its own streaming device, said to be similar to a Roku puck, but it’s still in the development stage, according to a report from Windows Central last month. Microsoft isn’t sharing any new details about the device, codenamed “Keystone.”
That way, the company can sign up new Game Pass subscribers and grow its audience, even if those customers don’t own pricey consoles or gaming computers, and especially if they might be new to the hobby and hesitant to drop hundreds of dollars on hardware and software to get started.
Microsoft took the first steps toward this vision with the launch of its cloud gaming platform in 2020. Since then, the company has expanded access from PCs and Android phones to iOS devices and Xbox consoles, the latter allowing players to quickly try games without downloading them and to stream more graphically intensive titles on older Xbox hardware.
Going forward, one of the primary goals of Microsoft’s Xbox strategy is to expand its customer base well beyond the console audience, which includes a few hundred million customers worldwide but pales in comparison to the world’s billions of smartphone owners. “As we look to make gaming more accessible to even more people, and reach the three billion players globally, we’ve invested heavily in the cloud,” Xbox Cloud Gaming chief Catherine Gluckstein wrote in a blog post last month detailing the Xbox Everywhere initiative.
Gluckstein’s boss, Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer, has said similar versions of this countless times over the past few years. “At some point in our future, more people are going to be part of the Xbox community on mobile than they are on any other device, just by the nature of how many mobile phones there are,” Spencer told Axios last year.
Microsoft is planning a number of updates to Xbox Game Pass in the coming months. The company is expanding the subscription service to Argentina and New Zealand, and later this year it will let subscribers to Game Pass’ pricier Ultimate tier stream purchase games from the cloud, even if those titles are not part of its subscription platform. (Right now, Microsoft’s cloud gaming platform only supports Game Pass games.)
It’s also working on launching something it’s calling Project Moorcroft, a specialized game demo program just for Game Pass subscribers that sounds similar to Sony’s planned game demo program for its competing PlayStation Plus platform.