It’s no secret that Microsoft has spent much of this generation playing catch-up. Though it dominated the gaming scene from the mid-2000’s up until about 2013, things spiraled out of control when it was announced that the Xbox One, Microsoft's flagship games machine for the eighth generation, was intended to meet a variety of differing media consumption needs rather than focus solely on gaming. Public reception was initially pretty sour, but, as the years wore on, Microsoft’s bulky VHS look-alike won its way into the hearts of consumers.
Now, in another move intended to pique gamers’ interests, Microsoft Studios announced in yesterday’s Inside Xbox conference that it would be changing its name to the slightly less corporate-sounding Xbox Game Studios. It’s a change that doesn’t seem to be all that important on the surface, but it may serve as a hint at where the brand is headed and what Microsoft plans to do to regain control in the ninth console generation.
Corporate vice president Matt Booty announced that the change was intended as a nod to the roots of Microsoft’s gaming division. Despite a few memorable missteps, they’ve used the past two decades to construct a gaming empire, and, though they spent the earlier half of this decade seemingly trying to shy away from games, it’s pretty tough to think of anything other than gaming when someone brings up the word “Xbox.”
More importantly, the studio’s re-branding is meant to signify Microsoft’s increased interest in expanding its horizons beyond its own proprietary gaming platform. While the Xbox 360 was a totally solitary system, multi-platform crossplay and cloud streaming seem to be the way of the future, and Microsoft clearly wants to jump aboard this burgeoning trend.
We know that Microsoft has plans to bring the Xbox platform to PC (where it currently exists in something of an inchoate state), Android, iOS, and even the Nintendo Switch. What’s more, with Microsoft’s xCloud slated for a beta release at some point in 2019, the company could be on the verge of a gaming revolution.
With that in mind, it makes sense that Microsoft would want to unchain its brand from its own little corner of the gaming market and introduce the Xbox platform to a broad array of new users on all sorts of devices. If things keep trending in this direction, the word “Xbox” may be more synonymous with a service like Steam rather than one specific console manufacturer.