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Xbox head Phil Spencer says Xbox app could come to TVs next year

Streaming games, straight from your smart TV

close-up of the Xbox power button on an Xbox Series X video game console photographed on a dark gray background Photo: Henry Hargreaves for Polygon
Michael McWhertor is a journalist with more than 17 years of experience covering video games, technology, movies, TV, and entertainment.

Playing Xbox games on your TV may not require an Xbox at all soon. Xbox head Phil Spencer tells The Verge that we may see a dedicated Xbox app for smart TVs by next year, one that could stream console games directly to screens using Microsoft’s Project xCloud service.

Speaking with The Verge, Spencer said, “I think you’re going to see [an Xbox app for smart TVs] in the next 12 months. I don’t think anything is going to stop us from doing that. ... What we used to call a TV was a CRT that’s just throwing an image on the back of a piece of glass that I’m looking at. Now, as you said, a TV is really more of a game console stuffed behind a screen that has an app platform and a Bluetooth stack and a streaming capability. Is it really a TV anymore, or is it just the form and function of the devices that we used to have around our TV, consolidated into the one big screen that I’m looking at?”

Spencer added that “the amount of compute capability in my home has increased with the number of streaming signals that have come in, not decreased,” concluding, “I think gaming will be one of those things as well.”

Microsoft’s Project xCloud service streams select Xbox games to mobile phones and tablets. Currently, the game-streaming service is restricted to Google’s Android platform, but a web-based version of xCloud streaming for iOS devices is also in the works. Project xCloud was recently added to the Ultimate tier of Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass subscription service.

As The Verge points out, Spencer also recently hinted at another hardware option for game streaming on TVs: “streaming sticks,” in the vein of Amazon’s Fire TV Stick. “You could imagine us even having something that we just included in the Game Pass subscription that gave you an ability to stream xCloud games to your television and buying the controller,” Spencer told Stratechery in an interview in late October.

For more, read (or listen to) The Verge’s interview with Phil Spencer for its Decoder podcast.