When Microsoft announced the Xbox One, it also suggested the console would be ‘always on'. A number of missteps led gamers to believe they'd need a connection to play Xbox and would be unable to share games with others.
Since 2013, Xbox has been working diligently to win back the faith of its fans, going back on many of those design decisions. Now, at E3 2018, it seems to be pivoting back towards that vision, but with considerably more care.
As well as the revelation that Forza Horizon 4 will be an online-first experience, Microsoft announced a game streaming service. It's still in progress, but the idea is to unlock console gaming on PCs and phones.
FastPlay and a Marketing Shift
Xbox GamePass head Ashley Speicher also announced a new feature coming to Game Pass: FastStart. It will get games in user's hands two times faster by using machine learning to decide which files to download. For example, starting areas of the game may be downloaded first for you to play while the rest downloads in the background.
At E3 2018 it was made clear the console is starting to blur the lines between offline and online, but gamers are a lot more receptive this time around. Part of it is an acknowledgment of how the industry has shifted, and the rest is assurances from Microsoft.
Forza, for example, has been primarily offline. Moving it to 72-player online lobbies is a huge move for the franchise, but Microsoft emphasized that it will be a choice. While the game is ‘best experienced online', offline play will be entirely possible and still enjoyable.
Likewise, the game streaming service is being sold as a way to game on any device, not to completely replace Xbox's offline capabilities. With much of the world still struggling to gain access to fast internet, that's an important distinction and one that Microsoft may have to re-iterate down the line.