Xbox controller

OPINION: An Xbox Streaming Stick would send out a strong message – console gaming is for everyone, and you don’t need a £450 console to enjoy the very latest games.

As a kid, I was a bit of a late comer to the consoles. They were past their best when I got hold of them. I had a Commodore 64 when they’d already gone way out of style, a SEGA Master System when the Mega Drive was flourishing, and got a Nintendo Game Boy long after its heyday.

It wasn’t a hardship, far from it. I was beside myself with happiness and grateful to my parents when I got those consoles. I enjoyed my time with them so much, especially the Master System!

However, I was a step behind some of my mates with wealthy parents who always had the latest and greatest consoles and gaming kit (many of them never amounted to anything though!).

So re-emerging reports that Microsoft is going to launch an Xbox Streaming Stick within a year got me thinking about what that would mean for today’s kids, not to mention the parents who’re often burdened with buying consoles. 

Levelling the playing field

Effectively, Microsoft’s Xbox Everywhere initiative would level the playing field for the haves and have nots. With Game Pass and Xbox Cloud Gaming, Microsoft has the chance to take console gaming, well, post-console.

In this case, what ‘Everywhere’ really means is ‘Everyone’. It wouldn’t matter if parents couldn’t afford the full whack for an Xbox Series X or Series S. A much smaller investment for a Streaming Stick – heck, even a widely available smart TV app – and a compatible controller would be enough for kids to team up with their mates on Halo Infinite, race against each other on Forza Horizon 5 and even pit their FIFA Ultimate Teams against each other online. 

If Microsoft can bundle this up for, say, about £80, with a month of Game Pass Ultimate included, it would be a wonderful alternate option. When doubled up with the web apps already available for iPhone and iPad and the Xbox app for Android, the proposition just gets better.

You’d still need an £11 a month Game Pass subscription (within the realms of pocket money) and, of course, not every game is available. However, with Activision and Bethesda games on board soon, EA Play part of the proposition and rumours Ubisoft Plus will be next, the number of games missing won’t be as big of a deal as time goes on. As of last week, we know Fortnite is going to be on there too!

Day one access to all and every Xbox Games Studios’ first-party title would reduce the pressure on parents to keep kids topped up with new games, and the range of titles being added to Game Pass every month keeps things fresh.

As a kid who wasn’t yet old enough for his £8.50 a week paper round, this is undoubtedly the option I’d have been bargaining with my parents to get for me for Christmas, conscious that the top dollar consoles were out of their price range, hoping that this wasn’t pushing it. 

Given the energy crisis currently gripping the UK, a streaming stick powered by cloud infrastructure would also be a fantastic alternative for parents, who’re being a little more conscious of unplugging household items when they’re not in use. 

As a kid, I often got the dreaded yell up the stairs: “Will you turn that off, the electric bill’s gonna be bloody sky high!” In 2022, parents must wrestle with the balance of allowing kids to enjoy their hobby, hang out where their friends are hanging out, and the knowledge running these machines are costing a fortune to run with the energy price cap increase.

Do the kids care though?

Maybe this won’t have as big an effect as I believe? Maybe today’s kids are already post-console? All my ten-year-old nephew cares about is playing mobile games on Roblox. I didn’t even know what that was until he told me!

Microsoft knows this too, and this might be a way to get console gaming back on the minds of kids whose parents grew up on the NES, Mega Drive and the first PlayStation.

Maybe the days of them having a stationary games machine in their bedroom or, when allowed, hooked up to the living room TV is already an ancient concept? Maybe I’m just a 40-year-old man pining for something that the current generation of new gamers just isn’t?

However, I can’t help but be enamoured by the romanticism of the very best console gaming experiences being available to everyone, regardless of whether the hardware itself is affordable. A Streaming Stick or Smart TV would make the best Xbox games available to so many more people, and that can only be a positive thing. 10-year-old me would have loved it.

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