Earlier this year, it seemed like Microsoft would reveal its Xbox Game Pass streaming device, codenamed Keystone, at any moment. Fans even thought the company was teasing its release when it mysteriously appeared on a shelf last month. Instead, we got an app exclusive to Samsung smart TVs. And now the Xbox manufacturer has finally explained why: it couldn’t get the price point down to $100.
“When you’ve got Series S at $299, and like during the holidays you’ll see some price promotions, I think in order for a streaming only box to make sense, the price delta to S has to be pretty significant,” Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer said in an interview on The Verge’s Decoder podcast. “I don’t want to announce pricing specifically but I think you’ve got to be $129, $99, like somewhere in there for that to make sense.”
That pricing is about double what people currently pay for TV streaming boxes, and even for Valve’s Steam Link, which allowed in-home streaming for games running on a PC in another room. But it’s pretty much in line with Sony’s old $150 PlayStation TV boxes, which could play Vita games natively while streaming PS3 games via PS Now and PS4 games via remote play.
Once Microsoft actually built its Keystone prototype with the hardware it wanted to have inside, the company just couldn’t make the math work, especially since Spencer also wanted it to come with an Xbox controller pack-in, which typically costs $60 by itself. And as the executive previously revealed, Microsoft is already losing between $100 and $200 on average across every Xbox Series X/S it currently sells (which together were the second-bestselling consoles last month).
It’s unfortunate since the Keystone was already built and functional. Spencer said it took the team about nine months to complete the prototype units, which he and others tested. “A bunch of us took it home, and it worked. It worked really, really well,” he said.
The interface was apparently nearly indistinguishable from the current Xbox Series X/S look and feel too. The only difference was that it would be limited to playing games over the cloud and only the ones currently in the Game Pass library.
While streaming technology remains imperfect, especially in our potato internet country, it’s still decent enough at this point to enjoy a lot of new hits and recent classics. Microsoft isn’t counting the idea out entirely, but as Spencer has said before, it will likely be years before it revists the idea of a dedicated Game Pass streaming box.