While we’re heard rumors for a long time about Microsoft’s cloud gaming ambitions they’ve finally made them public. Project xCloud is Microsoft’s take on game streaming with the goal of having Xbox games playable on pretty much any screen with an internet connection.
The goal: One library of games playable from your dedicated Xbox console or PC. Those same games would also be available to stream via the cloud to your phone, Smart TV, tablet or any future device that can load up the app and connect to the internet. They literally want to make there be no where you can hide from your Xbox games.
Playable with an Xbox controller via Bluetooth or custom touch interfaces the streaming service will expand the Xbox umbrella in a way that will allow anyone to become an Xbox customer not just the console dinosaurs with four character Gamertags and hundreds of thousands of Gamerscore like your pal Cynn here. This will expand their reach even to countries with little infrastructure outside of the cell phones they carry in their pockets such as India and Brazil.
Cloud streaming isn’t an easy technology to master. Games unlike movies take split second button inputs to work. Latency is a killer today… But will it be tomorrow? Many speculate that 5G bandwidths could create seamless experiences with streaming games and most major carriers in the US have the service in test cities as you read this. Sony’s own game streaming service PlayStation Now fails more often that it succeeds in this respect.
That’s not the whole story though. Microsoft claims that it’s research division is making strides to achieve extremely low latency gaming on 4G connections. That’s the phone in your pocket. (unless you’re my weird uncle who thinks it’s cool to have a flip phone still)
Rumor is that Microsoft’s next generation plan for Xbox includes multiple consoles. A premiere device that’s powerful and expensive much like the Xbox One X and a small streaming console for those who’s connections can support it being sold at $99 out of the gate in addition to apps for phones and tablets that will provide the same functionality as the cost of only a single next generation Xbox controller… That my friends could be the edge MS needs to push the slower evolving Sony aside as the dominating market leader for gaming.
Below you will find the announcement video and a transcript with graphics:
The future of gaming is a world where you are empowered to play the games you want, with the people you want, whenever you want, wherever you are, and on any device of your choosing. Our vision for the evolution of gaming is similar to music and movies — entertainment should be available on demand and accessible from any screen. Today, I’m excited to share with you one of our key projects that will take us on an accelerated journey to that future world: Project xCloud.
Today, the games you play are very much dictated by the device you are using. Project xCloud’s state-of-the-art global game-streaming technology will offer you the freedom to play on the device you want without being locked to a particular device, empowering YOU, the gamers, to be at the center of your gaming experience.
Content and community
Ultimately, Project xCloud is about providing gamers — whether they prefer console or PC — new choices in when and where they play, while giving mobile-only players access to worlds, characters and immersive stories they haven’t been able to experience before.
To realize this vision, we know we must make it easy for developers to bring their content to Project xCloud. Developers of the more than 3,000 games available on Xbox One today, and those building the thousands that are coming in the future, will be able to deploy and dramatically scale access to their games across all devices on Project xCloud with no additional work.
About Project xCloud
Scaling and building out Project xCloud is a multi-year journey for us. We’ll begin public trials in 2019 so we can learn and scale with different volumes and locations. Our focus is on delivering an amazing added experience to existing Xbox players and on empowering developers to scale to hundreds of millions of new players across devices. Our goal with Project xCloud is to deliver a quality experience for all gamers on all devices that’s consistent with the speed and high-fidelity gamers experience and expect on their PCs and consoles.
We’ve enabled compatibility with existing and future Xbox games by building out custom hardware for our datacenters that leverages our years of console and platform experience. We’ve architected a new customizable blade that can host the component parts of multiple Xbox One consoles, as well as the associated infrastructure supporting it. We will scale those custom blades in datacenters across Azure regions over time.
We are testing Project xCloud today. The test runs on devices (mobile phones, tablets) paired with an Xbox Wireless Controller through Bluetooth, and it is also playable using touch input. The immersive nature of console and PC games often requires controls that are mapped to multiple keys, buttons, sticks and triggers. We are developing a new, game-specific touch input overlay that provides maximum response in a minimal footprint for players who choose to play without a controller.
Cloud game-streaming is a multi-faceted, complex challenge. Unlike other forms of digital entertainment, games are interactive experiences that dynamically change based on player input. Delivering a high-quality experience across a variety of devices must account for different obstacles, such as low-latency video streamed remotely, and support a large, multi-user network. In addition to solving latency, other important considerations are supporting the graphical fidelity and framerates that preserve the artist’s original intentions, and the type of input a player has available.
Microsoft — with our nearly 40 years of gaming experience starting with PC, as well as our breadth and depth of capabilities from software to hardware and deep experience of being a platform company — is well equipped to address the complex challenge of cloud game-streaming. With datacenters in 54 Azure regions and services available in 140 countries, Azure has the scale to deliver a great gaming experience for players worldwide, regardless of their location.
Developers and researchers at Microsoft Research are creating ways to combat latency through advances in networking topology, and video encoding and decoding. Project xCloud will have the capability to make game streaming possible on 4G networks and will dynamically scale to push against the outer limits of what’s possible on 5G networks as they roll out globally. Currently, the test experience is running at 10 megabits per second. Our goal is to deliver high-quality experiences at the lowest possible bitrate that work across the widest possible networks, taking into consideration the uniqueness of every device and network.
We are looking forward to learning with you during our public trials next year and sharing more details as we continue on this journey to the future of gaming with you at the center. Stay tuned!