Details of Microsoft’s scrapped patent for a cloud-based Xbox console emerge

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A few years back, Microsoft had ambitious plans to release a dedicated Xbox cloud console called Keystone. This console aimed to provide gamers with access to Xbox games through the Xbox Cloud Gaming service. While the project was eventually canceled, a recently-discovered patent gives us a glimpse of what the Keystone console would have looked like.

The patent, which was filed in 2022 and assigned to Chris Kujawski, a principal designer at Microsoft, reveals some interesting details about the console’s design. The Keystone console would have resembled a miniature version of the Xbox Series S, sporting a small white box design. It would have featured an HDMI port, ethernet connectivity, and a power connector for easy setup and connectivity. The front of the console would have housed an Xbox button, a controller pairing button, and a USB-A port for additional connectivity options.

Interestingly, the console was also designed with a circular “Hello from Seattle” plate at the bottom, reminiscent of the design language used in the larger Xbox Series X console. This attention to detail suggests that Microsoft wanted to maintain a cohesive design language across its gaming hardware lineup.

So why was the Keystone console ultimately canceled? According to Xbox chief Phil Spencer, the main reason behind the cancellation was the cost. In an interview, Spencer explained that the console’s hardware ended up being pricier than anticipated, making it difficult for Microsoft to achieve its goal of offering the device at an affordable price point, potentially around $100. As a result, the company decided to shift its focus to developing a smart TV streaming app instead.

In line with this decision, Microsoft launched an Xbox TV app for select Samsung TVs and monitors. The app allows users to access Xbox Cloud Gaming and stream games at 1080p resolution and up to 60 frames per second. While the app doesn’t offer the same level of functionality as a dedicated console, it provides a more accessible and affordable option for gamers who don’t want to invest in additional hardware.

The patent and the story behind the Keystone console shed light on Microsoft’s commitment to expanding its gaming ecosystem beyond traditional consoles. With the rise of cloud gaming and the increasing popularity of streaming services, the company recognized the need to diversify its offerings and provide gamers with more choice in how they access and enjoy their favorite Xbox titles.

It’s worth noting that this is not the first time Microsoft has explored the idea of a dedicated streaming device. Back in 2016, the company released the Xbox One S All-Digital Edition, a disc-less version of the Xbox One S that relied solely on digital downloads and streaming services for game content. While the All-Digital Edition didn’t receive as much traction as Microsoft had hoped for, it served as a stepping stone towards the development of a cloud-focused gaming experience.

Looking ahead, it’s clear that Microsoft remains committed to cloud gaming and expanding its presence in the streaming space. The company has recently made significant investments in building out its Azure cloud infrastructure to support its gaming services, and it has been actively acquiring game development studios to bolster its first-party game lineup. In addition to its existing Xbox consoles, Microsoft is also heavily promoting its Xbox Game Pass subscription service, which offers access to a library of games that can be streamed to various devices, including PCs, smartphones, and tablets.

The cancellation of the Keystone console may have been a setback for Microsoft, but it’s part of the iterative nature of product development. Sometimes, ideas don’t pan out as expected, and adjustments need to be made. Nevertheless, the company’s continued investment in cloud gaming and streaming services demonstrates its commitment to providing gamers with innovative ways to play and enjoy their favorite titles.

In conclusion, while the Keystone console may have never made it to store shelves, the recently-discovered patent gives us a fascinating glimpse into Microsoft’s vision for cloud gaming. The console’s design, features, and eventual cancellation offer valuable insights into the challenges and considerations involved in bringing new gaming hardware to market. As cloud gaming continues to evolve, it will be interesting to see how Microsoft, and other industry players, adapt and innovate to meet the changing needs and expectations of gamers worldwide.

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