It could just be me, but it feels like the Xbox One only launched yesterday. The Xbox One X? Five minutes ago. To be talking about the next Xbox console already seems a little pre-emptive, and yet the internet is currently ablaze with rumours and wild speculation as to what Microsoft could be planning for the future.

Actually, I’m not sure if you could call it “wild speculation” – much of the discussion comes from a report by Thurott, who apparently have a good reputation when it comes to leaks. According to their findings, the next Xbox iteration is already underway, with a proposed launch date of 2020. It will be part of a family of devices, with one super-charged piece of hardware that’s probably powered by a collapsing black hole, and another which is a lot more basic in its components. However, the intriguing aspect of the latter is that it is rumoured to be a streaming device only.

Mysteriously titled Xbox Project Scarlett Cloud, this simplified device will be considerably cheaper and, whilst it will contain some hardware, it will act as a facilitator only, using cloud technology to deliver next generation gaming experiences.

Such a proposal sounds likely, given Microsoft’s previous allusions to wanting to develop the “Netflix of gaming.” Here’s a quotation from the Xbox Chief Phil Spencer:

“We’re in a golden age of television right now. The storytelling ability in TV today is really high, and I think it’s because of the business model. I hope as an industry we can think about the same.”

And of course he’s right. There’s probably never been a better time to be a television consumer, given the variety of content that’s available, unfettered by restrictive transmission windows. The idea that video games could one day be as accessible as Netflix is certainly an exciting prospect. Imagine if you could easily pick up and play any game you’ve ever loved, without having to dig an old console out of the loft? Sign me up.

However, every time a company talks about the internet in such a way, I get chest pains. It’s often assumed that maintaining a stable connection is akin to opening your curtains and letting the daylight pour in. It isn’t. Very rarely do I consume something without encountering the dreaded buffering spiral at some point. I also live with three other people, and we all connect to the internet via several devices, so we’re frequently stopped in our tracks as IP address conflicts take hold and the dreaded red crosses start to appear. The internet may be more widely available in 2018, but in terms of user experience, I have seen little improvement in the last 10 years.

Perhaps this is why there was such a backlash during the infamous Xbox One launch, when Microsoft confidently announced that their consoles would need to connect to the internet once every 24 hours in order to let people play their games. In such moments, every awful experience that anyone has ever had with an internet service provider must have come flooding back.

So is game streaming a good idea for the next Xbox console? Yes, the idea’s good, but the world’s internet just isn’t ready. The Romans built great roads, but there’s no way they could have taken the heavy pounding of the autobahn in the first century AD. Even in Britain, where our internet infrastructure is generally pretty good compared to, say, South America, it’s far from consistent, or fast. Or even consistently fast.

Interestingly, according to this report in the Telegraph, the top country for a fast internet connection is South Korea, followed by Ireland, and then Hong Kong. I suggest we draw straws and bid our families goodbye.

How do you feel about a potential ‘streaming’ future for Xbox? Would you rather have a dedicated, offline device? Or are you living in South Korea and are quite happily streaming 4K media on a regular basis? Leave a comment below.

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