Spencer thinks streaming could be the key to reaching places where consoles aren’t commonplace.
As gaming becomes more mainstream and breaks into more social aspects of life, it can often be easy to forget that there’s still huge sections of the world in which traditional consoles have almost no real presence. Some of the key examples would be Africa and India. Despite being some of the most populated areas on the planet, traditional consoles have almost no marketshare there. That’s where Xbox Head Phil Spencer sees xCloud, Microsoft’s upcoming streaming service, having a huge value.
Speaking with GamesIndustry, Spencer outlined how he sees xCloud as a way for Microsoft to break into those markets. While traditional consoles and gaming PCs aren’t common, he talks about his recent trips through the African continent and seeing what they very much have in common with other markets: smartphones.
“We know that the first customers for xCloud are going to be people who own an Xbox,” said Spencer. “It’s going to be, ‘Oh, I want to play my Xbox when I’m away.’ Last month, Catherine [Gluckstein, chief of staff/strategy for Xbox] and I were in Africa. Not a lot of Xboxes in Africa. Not a lot of game consoles. 1.2 billion people on the continent of Africa. Average age is 19 on the continent. They know Fortnite, they know Halo, they know Gears of War. They just don’t have a device.
“There are gamers there, but the device they have is an Android phone. So today they are kind-of locked out of what an E3 is — outside of watching — because of the capability they have.
“When I think about the two billion [gamers worldwide], which is a number that has tripled over the last two decades, I really think about how we service the two billion who play today with as much content and services as we can offer, but also go to places like Africa. I was looking at some of the PUBG mobile numbers in India and they’re crazy — they’ve had 100 million downloads or something. You see these markets where gaming can grow to the next two billion or even more…. There are seven billion people on the planet. For me, I think they should all play video games.”
On paper, streaming has a big potential for markets like these, but there are still challenges, primarily with internet infrastructure. That is something that every market will have to deal with in some way, but especially those with less developed internet will make for an even bigger challenge. Regardless, it’s going to be a big part of the future of the industry, so it’ll be interesting to see if it breaks into some unexpected areas.