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Microsoft expanding their gaming business beyond consoles

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Today Microsoft told press that they plan to expand their gaming business to attract an estimated 2 billion gamers by 2020, meaning they’re working to go beyond the Xbox.

Microsoft doesn’t intend on selling 2 billion Xbox consoles over the next two years, rather they plan on redefining what an Xbox customer is. An Xbox customer currently includes everyone who owns a copy of and plays Minecraft, including those who play it on Playstation 4, which is about 144 million people.

By extension everyone who buys a copy of Sea of Thieves for Xbox of Windows 10 is also an Xbox customer, as well as anyone who watches PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS streams on Mixer, though this is where the definition starts to dilute. Microsoft also play a part in the mobile game Idle Miner Tycoon, since the developer, Fluffy Fairy, is an Xbox customer who use Microsoft’s PlayFab platform for their game. While in this case the end consumer can’t really count as an Xbox customer, Microsoft is still doing its part to reach these gamers.

Kevin Gammill, GM of Gaming Cloud at Microsoft said that Phil Spencer was asked how to grow gaming across Microsoft when he was promoted to Executive Vice President. His response was that Microsoft need to grow beyond consoles in order to achieve growth throughout the company. While this doesn’t mean abandoning the Xbox One, as Microsoft plan on providing the premium home console experience in the Xbox One X for many years to come, it does mean that some parts of the company need to move forward.

At a pre-GDC briefing Microsoft revealed their new cloud gaming division. This division includes all of the products Microsoft currently offers to developers, but it also expands the company’s reach to more and more players. The services offered work across all platforms, Windows, iOS, and mobile platforms, and is the reason that so many games are releasing for Xbox One and PC simultaneously. These products are also the reason Microsoft are so open to cross-platform gaming, such as the functionality between Nintendo Switch and Xbox One in Rocket League.

Microsoft say that this is the beginning of a transition the company have been working towards for a number of years. The idea is, in a similar way to how Microsoft Office changed, to introduce the same services developers are used to but offer them via a cloud service that doesn’t restrict them to one device. Products such as PlayFab, Visual Studios, Simplygon, AppCentre, and Azure will all be more freely available to game creators.

The focus on gaming is nothing new, so Microsoft say, it’s more of an acknowledgement that game developers are another key segment of the 2 billion gamers they intend to reach by 2020.

What Microsoft were keen to say is that while their intention is to eventually provide the fables Netflix equivalent of home console gaming, that level of quality is a long way off on any cloud based gaming services right now. Their intention is to work to reach gamers, those who watch streams of video games, and game developers, bringing the entire community under their umbrella of services, providing the box One X of games streaming one day.

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