What’s in a name? Sometimes not much, especially when a company offers the exact same product, just under a different brand. But when giants do some rebrand, it isn’t always just for the heck of it, especially when a simple name change will cost thousands of dollars. So when Microsoft rebrands Microsoft Studios into Xbox Game Studios, it’s doing more than just changing the name. Given the news in the past few days, it reflects the company’s expanding vision and ambition for its gaming and entertainment business.
Granted, Microsoft’s announcement isn’t coy about matters anyway. It isn’t that it is spinning off Microsoft Studios. It’s more about the Xbox brand outgrowing its console-specific roots. Console fans might vehemently disagree but, as far as Microsoft is concerned, “Xbox” now refers to its gaming brand across all devices, not just consoles.
That, of course, falls in nicely with the things the company has been not so subtly hinting at the past weeks. CEO Satya Nadella himself hinted at a subscription-based game streaming service by comparing its Project xCloud to Netflix. That service, according to an upcoming GDC 2019 session, will apparently also revolve around console games that will be made available for mobile devices with little to no extra work for developers. And, of course, there’s Xbox Live going cross-platform on almost all gaming platforms. Except Sony’s, that is.
At one point in time, both console and PC gamers feared that Microsoft was smashing the two platforms together, with all the benefits and compromises that would entail. It does seem to be heading towards that future but with a slightly different twist. It will probably be a while before people actually stop associating the name “Xbox” with consoles but that does give Microsoft some time to get Project xCloud ready.