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Can't afford an Xbox Series X? You won't need one when the Xbox Streaming Stick launches

Microsoft plans to release its Xbox Streaming Stick sometime in the next 12 months, which will allow you to stream Xbox Game Pass titles to your TV without having to buy a console.

That’s according to VentureBeat’s Jeff Grubb and The Verge’s Tom Warren, who claim Microsoft is gearing up to release the Xbox Streaming Stick in the next year as part of its Xbox Everywhere project. The initiative is intended to expand the reach of Microsoft's gaming portfolio, and extend its Xbox Cloud Gaming platform to new devices.

Grubb says the streaming stick, which may actually look closer to the circular Roku puck, will let you stream movies, TV shows, and the catalog of games included in Xbox Game Pass. Grubb also reports that Samsung TV owners will be able to skip the streaming stick entirely, as Microsoft has partnered with Samsung to develop a bespoke Xbox Cloud Gaming app for the TV manufacturer.

The Xbox Streaming Stick was first revealed during E3 2021. Microsoft said it was developing a native Xbox Game Pass app for smart TVs that would allow you to stream Xbox games directly through the cloud without needing to buy an expensive Xbox Series X or the cheaper Xbox Series S.

At the same time, corporate vice president Liz Hamren said Microsoft was “also developing standalone streaming devices that you can plug into a TV or monitor, so if you have a strong internet connection, you can stream your Xbox experience.”

We haven’t had any more details about the rumored product since, but Warren thinks we’ll be hearing plenty more about Xbox Everywhere, and all the new hardware it entails, in the coming months.

It’s worth remaining cautious, however. Phil Spencer previously mentioned the Xbox TV app way back in November 2020 and said he expected it to appear within 12 months. That clearly didn’t happen, so it might be best to reign in your expectations. This time, however, the mention of the Xbox Everywhere project suggests Microsoft is gearing up for a full reveal. 

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(Image credit: Microsoft)

A game changer

It’s hard to overstate just how radical an Xbox Streaming Stick could be. An affordable dongle that lets you stream Xbox Game Pass titles directly to your TV, it would give you a whole new way of accessing games, and one that doesn’t require you to splash out on an expensive console. Buy the stick, find an available HDMI port in your TV, take out an Xbox Game Pass subscription, and you’re good to go. That’s a significantly lower barrier of entry than the current console-focused process.

There’s plenty of reason to be optimistic, too. Equivalent devices for TV streaming services – like the Google Chromecast or Amazon Fire Stick – are sold fairly cheaply. Manufacturers try to lock in consumers with a low up-front cost, and make their money back through subscription fees. 

While existing Xbox owners might not be thrilled at the idea of a streaming stick that offers them nothing new, Microsoft will be looking to push the device to those consumers who are interested in playing Xbox games but justify purchasing an expensive Xbox Series X, or the more affordable Series S. Of course, that doesn’t preclude the need to buy additional hardware peripherals, such as an Xbox controller, to actually play the games.

That Microsoft is looking to release the Xbox Streaming Stick in the next 12 months is surprising, though. The tech giant will want to maximize sales of its Xbox consoles, which only released in 2020, before it gives consumers a cheaper alternative. But as Phil Spencer made clear during the stick's initial announcement, Microsoft doesn't think cloud gaming and traditional console hardware are at odds.

“There’s still a place for consoles and PCs and frankly, there always will be,” Spencer said. “But through the cloud, we will be able to deliver a robust gaming experience to anyone connected to the Internet, even on the least powerful, least expensive devices, devices people already own. 

“And with the cloud, gaming players can participate fully in the same Xbox experience as people on local hardware.”

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