This week, Microsoft representatives confirmed that background audio playback for Xbox One is still planned, but won’t be available before the summer.
Since Microsoft began selling its Xbox One entertainment console, users have asked the company to deliver a way for them to listen to their music and play their games at the same time. Despite revealing a slew of media related features, the company has yet to deliver the feature.
Microsoft launched its Xbox One entertainment console in 2013, giving it its name because it was intended to be the all-in-one solution for all kinds of media– gaming or otherwise. Since 2014, the company has added new features to the $349 console almost every month. Features that haven’t been added yet are voted on by the console’s fans. It’s those votes that are the best indication yet that Xbox One owners want background audio playback as soon as possible.
Responding to a member of the Xbox community on social networking website Twitter this week, Microsoft’s Phil Spencer confirmed that Xbox One wasn’t anywhere remotely close to getting background audio playback.
“Any news on background audio playback,” a fan asks Spencer in a message. Spencer responds quickly, saying, “Won’t be before summer.” The exchange is straight forward, but disappointing for 22,000 users who’ve voted for getting background audio playback on the Xbox One through Microsoft’s Xbox Feedback website.
@XboxP3 sorry for the million questions but any news on background music?
— ejderha_life (@TheEjderha83) January 14, 2016
To be clear, Spencer is in a better position than anyone at Microsoft to know where background audio playback stands in the company’s list of update priorities. He became permanent head of Xbox after Don Mattrick left the company to go work for social gaming giant Zynga.
Spencer doesn’t go into detail about why the feature is taking so long to implement. He also doesn’t guarantee that the feature is coming within the year at all, just that it certainly won’t happen by Summer 2016.
Frustrating users even more is how common the feature is on other platforms. Microsoft’s own Xbox 360 includes background audio playback and controls in its Guide interface so that users could change the song they’re listening to or stop playing music altogether without leaving their game. When users turned the feature on, music directly from the title stopped playing automatically. Sony’s PS4 also has background audio playback.
In contrast, Xbox One owners can play music on their console and game at the same time, but it costs them valuable screen real estate because the app has to stay snapped to the right edge of their screen the entire time. Worse, the New Xbox One Experience software update came with performance issues for apps that are snapped.
Microsoft’s own Groove Music streaming service sometimes barely functions when snapped alongside a video game. Xbox One has apps from iHeartRadio, TuneIn and Vevo too. All suffer from the same issue. The Xbox One doesn’t offer Spotify music streaming.
In the past, executives at the company have compared the lack of background audio playback on the Xbox One to providing customizable backgrounds. Microsoft maintains that it’d rather take longer to deliver often-requested software features to users than delivering them quickly and not have them be as good. Originally, the Xbox One didn’t have customizable backgrounds either. Custom images, achievement art and background coloring didn’t arrive until months after the console went on sale.
The Xbox One can’t play audio in the background, but there are some unofficial workarounds. Some have taken to placing a Skype call on their console to their computer and playing music from there. Xbox One does support background Skype calling.