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Microsoft just announced huge news for the gaming industry: they just confirmed that the Xbox One will become some sort of console/PC hybrid, complete with cross-platform compatible games and upgradeable hardware.
Microsoft is planning to unify its PC and Xbox One gaming platforms into one ecosystem.
That ecosystem will run Universal Windows Applications, or UWAs.
The news was announced this past week by the head of the company’s Xbox division, Phil Spencer. Spencer was speaking during a press event in San Francisco.
Although it wasn’t officially announced, it also looks like the Xbox One will gain other PC-like features, including backwards-compatible hardware upgrades in the future.
When asked about Microsoft’s future gaming strategy, Spencer said that Microsoft was investing hugely into the Universal Windows Platform, which is a common development platform that allows apps to run the same way across all Microsoft PCs, Xbox Ones, tablets, and smartphones.
Spencer said that the platform is “our focus going forward” and that they plan on “building out a complete gaming ecosystem for Universal Windows Applications.”
Xbox Apps Now Available on PC
We’ve been seeing hints about this change for several months now.
In January 2015, Microsoft announced that it was introducing an Xbox app onto Windows 10 PCs. That app allowed for cross-platform play and had full friend support – so you could simultaneously play with your Xbox One friends and your PC friends at the same time.
Later in 2015, in November, the Xbox One was updated to support Windows 10. That update introduced a new Windows 10-like interface and Windows 10-like features to the console.
So clearly, platform unification is something that Microsoft has been looking at for quite some time.
Microsoft’s Upgradeable Xbox One Could Win the Console Wars
Microsoft’s plans to allow Xbox One upgrading have been widely praised. Some even say that the change will help the company win the console war.
For decades, the console industry has been based off the idea that hardware will stay mostly unchanged throughout the lifetime of the console.
Microsoft may be flipping that idea on its head by making the Xbox One more like the PC.
In a statement, here’s what Phil Spencer had to say:
“We believe we will see more hardware innovation in the console space than we’ve ever seen. We’ll see us come out with new hardware capability during a generation and allow the same games to run backwards and forward compatible because we have UWAs running on top of UWP. It allows us to focus on hardware innovation without invalidating the games that run on that platform.”
Reading between the lines, Phil is saying that the Xbox One would be similar to the PC in that there’s nothing stopping us from playing old Doom and Quake games on the same PCs where you play the latest 4K games.
In any case, PC gamers and Xbox One gamers have reason to get excited: neither platform is losing anything. But both the PC and Xbox One have a lot to gain.