It was only 18 months ago that Microsoft launched its shiny new video game console.
It landed in two flavours and replaced the creaky old Xbox One that had been sitting in people's lounges since 2013, practically making it an antique in tech terms. There was the stylish and stripped-down entry model called the Series S, and the cutting-edge Series X, which reflected its brute power with a brutish, minimalist design seemingly inspired by the monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey.
They've been successful, which is why it was so surprising that Microsoft just killed them. The Xbox is dead! Long live the Xbox? Yes. But not as you know it.
For almost five decades if you wanted to play video games you needed either a specced up PC or you had to buy a video game system, put it next to your TV and plug it in. That's no longer the case as Microsoft has just launched Xbox Cloud Gaming, a service that lets you play the latest and greatest Xbox games without the need of an expensive Xbox console.
Heck, you don't even need a TV. You can now play Xbox games on your phone, tablet, laptop or desktop computer. To paraphrase The Beatles, all you need is Wi-Fi, a Bluetooth controller and a subscription to the top tier of their subscription service, Xbox Game Pass Ultimate.
I've long extolled Xbox's Game Pass service as being exceptional value. It's essentially Netflix for games, granting subscribers access to a rotating selection of hundreds of top games, from in-house and third-party studios, and includes new releases, recent favourites and classics from earlier Xbox generations.
At $12.95 the base sub was pretty much a no-brainer for those with an Xbox. Now that Xbox Cloud Gaming has been added to Game Pass Ultimate it's worth shelling out the extra few bucks for. Especially if you don't have an Xbox. Ultimate clocks in at $19.95 a month but I can't stress enough how much of a game-changer cloud gaming actually is.
If you own an Xbox you can access cloud gaming on your system - as well as everywhere else. I've found that being able to play games on the system without needing to download them first incredibly convenient. I'll quickly try games out and download them if I like them. It's pretty neat and has become my default way of doing things.
But if you don't own an Xbox, then Game Pass Ultimate means you never need to buy one. That's a concept that's totally bananas.
For the past week I've used the cloud exclusively and it's worked great. I've been playing the system's big hitters like Halo and Forza Horizon 5 and also acclaimed indies like Hades and Sable on my grossly outdated iMac and - purely in the name of this journalistic endeavour - my incredibly basic, work-provided Dell laptop.
Both of which, you'll note, are not Xbox consoles. My iPhone isn't either but that didn't stop me dishing out fatalities in Mortal Kombat 11 or saying "cowabunga dude" far too often as I button mashed my way through the new retro beat 'em up Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder's Revenge.
Getting set up on all three devices was as simple as logging into the Xbox site on the Chrome or Safari browser and connecting my controller via Bluetooth. Many controllers are supported, but for an extra layer of tech perversity, I opted to play these Microsoft Xbox games on my Apple iMac with a Sony Playstation 4 controller. It worked perfectly.
Of the three, the phone was the shakiest, with the odd bit of lag in the fighters. The more demanding driving simulator Forza struggled and was near unplayable. Over time I'm sure this will be smoothed out. So although it's neat you can run cloud gaming on your phone, I'm not really likely to.
Where the real value lies is in unshackling me from the TV and being able to play via any computer browser anywhere there's decent Wi-Fi. I no longer have to wait for my partner to finish watching the latest episode of Love Island before being able to get game time in.
Despite offering almost 400 games, the cloud selection differs slightly from those on console, the most notable exception being the absence of EA's wildly popular sports titles, Fifa and Madden on the cloud. These are available for Ultimate subscribers on the Xbox console, and as EA's Star Wars and Need for Speed games are on the cloud, here's hoping they're added soon.
Rivals Nintendo and PlayStation have subscription models but they're tied to their respective consoles meaning neither can compete with Xbox Cloud Gaming in Aotearoa. The simple fact that you no longer need a video game console to play some of the world's biggest video games has truly changed the game forever.