Xbox’s steady march towards a non-console-centric future continues unabated, with the company today confirming the June 30, 2022 release of an Xbox app for Samsung TVs that provides users with a big-screen Xbox experience while taking away the need for a console altogether.
The app–which will be available for all 2022 model Samsung smart TVs–utilizes Xbox’s cloud streaming infrastructure and requires an Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription to access. There are currently more than 100 cloud-enabled games on Game Pass Ultimate, including all Xbox first-party titles (as well as upcoming ones like Starfield moving forward). And while Samsung is the launch partner for the TV app, an Xbox spokesperson said that the company was exploring other TV partnerships to further expand the app’s availability in the future.
This isn’t, of course, the first move Xbox has made to separate its console hardware from the Game Pass service. Access to Game Pass has been available on mobiles and PC browsers for months now, and you’ve even been able to stream cloud-enabled games using your Xbox console (without having to download said games). But taking away the need for a console entirely while still playing on a big screen in your lounge room feels like a consequential next big step, and further underlines Xbox’s attitude shift away from moving boxes and into selling subscriptions.
That shift looks like it has the potential of happening pretty seamlessly based on a recent demo I had of the Xbox app running on one of those new Samsung TVs. The app itself launches just like any other app on a smart TV (on the new Samsung models, it will be part of Samsung’s Gaming Hub, which is a new section on the TV’s home screen that gathers all game-related content and functionality), and if you’ve played cloud games via Game Pass on a browser or a phone, then the TV app interface will look pretty familiar.
The experience itself played very smoothly, with the caveat of course that the demo was quite brief and took place under ideal conditions where bandwidth likely wasn’t an issue. I played a few minutes each of both Forza Horizon 5 and Halo Infinite, and both games felt so responsive it was difficult to tell the game was being delivered via cloud directly to a TV without a console sitting next to it. All of the functionality Xbox’s other cloud services have–such as online multiplayer, cloud saves, and console-like fast loading times–are all featured as part of the TV app, although resolution does top out at 1080p 60fps. But as with all cloud gaming, a lot of the success of applications like this comes down to how decent your internet connectivity is; with Xbox cloud gaming, 20mbps is the recommended speed to get that 1080p 60fps topline.
As for peripheral connectivity, the Xbox TV app supports a wide range of Bluetooth controllers and headsets (even PlayStation ones). For my demo, the Samsung Gaming Hub featured dedicated options to connect Bluetooth devices at the home screen level, and it was a pretty frictionless way to get into the Xbox app.
The app certainly shows promise and is another indicator pointing toward a future where cloud gaming transforms the way we play. But if one of the promises of cloud gaming was to allow you to take your gaming everywhere, who then is this sit-down, big-screen experience for? Xbox product manager Harrison Hoffman told GameSpot that new apps like this are not only targeted at new Xbox consumers, but at the existing audience as well.
“We know there are a bunch of people out there who are interested in Xbox gaming, but won’t buy a console for a variety of reasons. Maybe they’re not as hardcore, maybe they don’t have the money upfront to spend on a console, or maybe they’re totally new to gaming, and this becomes a good way for them to dip their toe into the water,” he said.
“For current gamers, this is about flexibility and choice. If you already have a console hooked up to your big TV in the living room, maybe you have another TV in the den or bedroom, and this becomes a nice way to extend your gaming experience.”
The Xbox TV app launches on 2022 model Samsung TVs on June 30, 2022, in a select number of 27 countries.