Xbox news: Microsoft to launch Xbox TV app on June 30; game demos for Game Pass; and more

Samsung’s newest line of smart TVs will ship with access to the Xbox streaming app, with no console required. (Microsoft Image)

Ahead of a joint press conference with Bethesda Softworks on Sunday, Microsoft provided an early look at some of its upcoming plans for its Xbox gaming division, including a newly-revealed “Project Moorcroft,” a program that’s planned to roll out on Xbox Game Pass over the course of the next year.

Aimed at independent game developers, Moorcroft is intended to let game makers place curated demos of their projects on the Xbox Game Pass service. Participants will “be able to see how their demos perform, and will be compensated,” although no more details were made available.

As described, it reminds me of the notoriously indie-friendly Xbox Live Arcade on the Xbox 360, which was responsible for some of the weirdest experiences I’ve ever had on a console. Using the Game Pass “discovery engine” as a way for indie creators to market themselves and at least break even on the deal is a potentially big deal, just as it was for the Arcade.

“It’s about creating the gaming platform for the next twenty years,” Phil Spencer, the CEO of Microsoft Gaming, said in an attached press release. “We want to make sure we have an amazing community of players who can find great games from very diverse creators.”

A Microsoft mock-up of how the Xbox app will look running on a smart TV. (Microsoft Image)

Microsoft also shared details about Xbox’s business performance, future expansions, and continued direct integration between Xbox and Windows 11. Here were the key takeaways from a pre-briefing we watched.

  • Starting June 30, the Xbox app will launch for Samsung’s 2022 lineup of smart TVs, letting people stream Xbox games without a console. This will include direct Bluetooth compatibility with headsets and gamepads, including the Series X controller, and access to Xbox Game Pass, and is planned to work like any other streaming app would.
  • Optimizations are currently being tested in the Windows Insider program that will deliver an “even better gaming experience” for games played on Windows 11 in windowed mode, including improvements to HDR and VRR.
  • A forthcoming Game Pass Widget in Windows 11 is planned, which will allow subscribers on PC to browse, discover, and jump back into the titles on the service.
  • A new feature, the controller bar, entered testing in Windows Insider in May and is currently available for preview. It opens automatically when you connect a compatible gamepad to a PC that’s running a compatible Windows 11 build, and offers quick one-button access to the Xbox Game Bar, as well as the last three games you played on the system.
  • Microsoft Edge has a number of new gaming-focused features “coming soon.”
  • Xbox Cloud Gaming has expanded into Argentina and New Zealand as of today. Anyone with a Microsoft account in either market can now log in to play Fortnite, and Game Pass subscribers on the Ultimate tier can play compatible games via the cloud.
  • The Xbox Design Lab, which lets users customize an Xbox controller to their individual tastes, is launching into 11 new countries: Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Korea, Singapore, the Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Norway, Slovakia, and Switzerland, with Taiwan planned for later in the summer.
  • The Design Lab is also adding a variety of new pastel colors and camouflage patterns, such as Soft Pink, Soft Orange, Arctic Camo, and Sandglow Camo.
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