No Xbox Series X? Microsoft’s Keystone dongle could replace physical console

Microsoft's xCloud gaming plans are changing, but the Xbox-maker is definitely doing a dongle

Xbox Cloud Gaming
(Image credit: Xbox)

If you're using our Xbox Series X tracker to get hold of Microsoft's best games console, the Xbox Series X, you'll know that like Sony with its PS5, Microsoft has been struggling to meet demand. But it's looking like that won't be a problem with the next-generation of Xbox gaming, because you might not need a console at all.

That doesn't mean there won't be another Xbox: we're expecting mid-life updates to both Microsoft's and Sony's consoles, most likely next year. But Microsoft is investing heavily in cloud gaming and that includes a dongle that'll turn any TV into an Xbox Series X, or something close to it.

According to Windows Central, Microsoft's dongle is codenamed Keystone and is "a modernized HDMI streaming device that runs Xbox Game Pass and its cloud gaming service." However, a Microsoft spokesperson told the site that while Keystone is very real and very much a priority for Microsoft, it needs a bit more time in the oven before it's ready to sell.

What will Microsoft's Xbox Keystone do?

According to Microsoft, the vision for cloud gaming is for people to be able to play the games they want when they want on whatever devices they want. And part of that is Keystone, which "could be connected to any TV or monitor without the need for a console." 

I've played a fair bit of Xbox cloud gaming and I'm very impressed by it; while it doesn't deliver the kind of performance and visuals the hardcore gamer would expect, it's still really good – and by the time Keystone comes out it, whenever that might be, the networks we connect it to will be better too.

The idea behind Keystone is solid, but it seems the hardware wasn't doing what Microsoft wanted; the firm has "made the decision to pivot away from the current iteration of the Keystone device" in favour of a new approach. That means it's highly unlikely we'll see it any time soon, let alone be able to buy it.

But given that Microsoft is still committed and may also be making smart TV apps for the Xbox service too, it's clear that gaming maestro wants to reach many more gamers than the Xbox Series S and Xbox Series X have reached so far. More gaming for more people with less expense sounds like a pretty good plan to me.

Writer, musician and broadcaster Carrie Marshall has been covering technology since 1998 and is particularly interested in how tech can help us live our best lives. Her CV is a who’s who of magazines, newspapers, websites and radio programmes ranging from T3, Techradar and MacFormat to the BBC, Sunday Post and People’s Friend. Carrie has written thirteen books, ghost-wrote two more and co-wrote another seven books and a Radio 2 documentary series. When she’s not scribbling, she’s the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR (havrmusic.com (opens in new tab)).