UPDATE 11/10/22: Xbox has confirmed that the device on Phil Spencer's shelf is an old prototype for Keystone.
"The device on Phil's shelf was an old prototype of Keystone. Earlier this year, we announced that we made the decision to pivot away from the current iteration of Keystone and are taking our learnings to refocus our efforts on a new approach that will allow us to deliver Xbox Cloud Gaming to more players around the world in the future. We have nothing more to share today," reads a statement to Eurogamer.
Keystone, as the device was codenamed, was a small gadget intended as a device capable of streaming Xbox Game Pass titles to any monitor or TV screen without extra hardware.
Back in May, Xbox confirmed it was pivoting away from the Xbox Game Pass streaming box. It seems that Spencer was just leaving a cheeky nod to the past on his shelf, then.
ORIGINAL STORY 10/10/22: Phil Spencer's shelf is at it again. Ever since it was discovered the Xbox boss had secreted an Xbox Series S in plain sight behind him during a video interview months before the console was announced, fans have been scouring his furnishings for teases of more future reveals - and speculation is now mounting that Spencer has just revealed Microsoft's long-in-the-works Xbox Game Pass streaming device on Twitter.
Spencer shared his latest shelf photo earlier today, writing, "Vault Boy left the shelter and stopped by my office to celebrate the Fallout 25th Anniversary." Conspicuously, though, the Vault Boy statue that's supposedly the focus of the tweet is far from the focus of the image. Instead, the photo continues several shelves upward, revealing a mysterious Xbox-branded box fans have so far struggled to identify - and which many are speculating might be the Xbox game-streaming box, codenamed Keystone, announced in 2021.
As described by Microsoft in an update on the project in May, the as-yet-unseen Keystone is intended to be a low-cost device enabling users to play Xbox Cloud Gaming titles through any TV or monitor without the need for a console. Reports on its exact nature have varied - some claimed it was a stick-like dongle, others a box - but whatever it was previously, Microsoft said it was 'pivoting away' from the then-current iteration to refocus on "a new approach".
Little has been heard from Keystone since, but the project has now returned to the spotlight thanks to the mysterious white Xbox-branded box now glimpsed in Spencer's latest photo. It's certainly small enough to be some sort of game-streaming box, being barely wider than the Xbox controller beside it, and it's clearly inspired by the Xbox Series S aesthetic - but frankly, without more to go on, it could be anything. And indeed, guesses have gone way beyond a streaming box, with some suggesting it could even be a version of the Xbox Series S external disc drive that popped up in a Microsoft patent earlier this year.
Of course, now would be perhaps be a shrewd time to begin promoting a subscription-based game streaming box, given the prominent discourse around the technology following Google's recent decision to shut down its ill-conceived Stadia service. But for Microsoft's part, the only follow-up it's provided on Spencer's tweet and the mystery shelf object so far came from the official Xbox Twitter account, which wrote, "Now what did we say about putting old prototypes on your shelf boss". So yes, whatever it is remains a mystery for now, but feel free to join in the speculation fun until Microsoft makes it otherwise!