Last week, rumors swirled regarding leaked details about Microsoft’s next generation of consoles. Brad Sams of Thurrott published a report regarding not one, but two consoles currently in development. The first, a traditional, locally-powered console much like Xbox’s current line of hardware. The second, however, presents a more intriguing option: a cloud-based streaming console.
The hardware itself presents an interesting question about the future of gaming. Is the world ready to stream their games like it does movies, tv shows, and music? Can the Xbox Scarlett Cloud provide a realistic and cheaper entry point for people interested in console gaming? Has Microsoft learned enough from its own poor messaging in 2013 and the errors in Sony’s development of PlayStation now to position this streaming device for success?
All of those would make for interesting articles, but there’s a simpler, yet still alluring question:hat will Xbox call these new devices? Microsoft has had a history of having awesome codenames for their consoles that inevitably get replaced by lackluster final names. Xenon became Xbox 360. Durango was the codename for Xbox One. Scorpio,a name many felt Microsoft may launch that hardware with,turned into the Xbox One X. So what name will replace Xbox Scarlett and Xbox Scarlett Cloud?
The Xbox One completely altered the naming conventions of the Xbox – not that they ever fell under the umbrella of “standard.” From Xbox to Xbox 360 to Xbox One, the proverbial word soup Microsoft played with to come up with the console nomenclature has always been a bit strange. But with the Xbox One, the gaming community at large had to start referring to Microsoft’s debut console as “the original Xbox.”
Given this new norm for referencing the Xbox family of consoles, it could be time to simply go back to basics. The name Xbox carries a legacy, and simply calling the new home console “Xbox” could signal the company’s refined focus heading into the next generation. The Xbox division has made it a point in the back half of this generation to position themselves as a gamers-first console with initiatives like backwards compatibility, Xbox Game Pass, and the launch of the new Xbox Adaptive Controller. The name Xbox harkens back to a time when the console wasn’t vying for position as a streaming box and media center. With nostalgia driving many business initiatives across the entertainment world, this could be an excellent opportunity for Microsoft from a strategy position.
The biggest challenge facing Xbox with the launch of this new hardware will definitely be messaging. Distinguishing between the two products in both function and advantages. If we are seeking the Occam’s razor solution, Xbox Cloud certainly qualifies. An exclusive cloud streaming device for gaming is novel, and ensuring that as many people as possible understand what they are getting into is important. Ten years ago, the word “cloud” would have caused confusion, but now with the proliferation of cloud-based platforms like Google Drive and iCloud, the term has become far more recognizable. Simply tacking that word onto the end of the already simplified moniker, Xbox, could provide a lot of product clarity without the need for much supplemental information.
Xbox Home/Xbox Azure
While a return to simplicity may excite some fans, brand confusion may be a concern for Microsoft. With numbers out of the question for the next console, we have to turn to functional differentiators. Home and Azure would serve to individuate the two pieces of hardware by where their power is derived from.
Xbox has always wanted to be the living room set-top box, the centerpiece of the entertainment center. Though the Xbox One’s original vision failed to launch — partly due to poor messaging, partly due to a rapid acceleration of cord cutting — it’s still clear through their robust film, television, and app offerings that Microsoft still wants to keep you in their ecosystem regardless of your entertainment medium of choice.
Xbox Home communicates a couple different ideas. First, that all of the power of the console sits right in your house. Not in the cloud. Not over wifi. Locally, in your own living room. The concept of a cloud-based console will no doubt be foreign to most, and unwelcome by many. Xbox Home reassures users that this console option rests right in their wheelhouse, not straying too far from the proven formula.
Xbox Azure couples the steadfast brand-recognition of Microsoft’s home console with the cloud computing service that will undergird Xbox Scarlett Cloud. While a novel concept in the world of gaming, cloud-based computing is nothing new in development at large. Microsoft Azure launched in 2010 and has been used across a bevy of applications. The name holds mystery for those unfamiliar, but also provides a steadfast familiarity to those either aware of the overall tech scene or willing to research the name’s origin.
Xbox Elite/Xbox Elite Cloud
Microsoft has used the word Elite in the past. In 2015, the company launched the Elite controller which featured trigger lengths, different stick length options, back paddles, and fully customizable button mapping. Despite its high price tag and a self-proclaimed limited market for the premium hardware, the controller sold out after its launch. The controller was also packaged in with the Xbox One Elite bundle, a premium console which featured a 1TB hybrid drive that allowed the console to boot 20% faster.
Xbox has mastered the messaging when it comes to making consumers feel like they are getting a premium product for their money. With the Xbox One X, the company honed in on the message of creating “the world’s most powerful console.” Upon its launch, Xbox had driven home the idea that X was the premier place to play games in native 4k quality. The name Elite carries with it a number of positive connotations, the likes of which Xbox has seen the impact of. Launching its baseline console with such a premium tone may move the needle in terms of anticipation for Microsoft’s new hardware and communicate the quality of the product to consumers.
We are likely still a couple years out from the launch of this family of consoles, but lead-up to its announcement will contain plenty of talking points. The door is wide open as far as what Xbox will call this hardware, but one thing is for certain: Xbox One Two is not out of the question.