Today, Microsoft has announced their plans for investing in the future of cloud gaming. While they recognize that this new service is unlikely to be any gamer’s main platform of choice for the foreseeable future, Project xCloud is more about working out the kinks and glitches to be prepared for when that day comes that cloud streaming video games are a viable option. Using their massive Azure server platform (which was also offered as a source of dedicated servers for Xbox ONE games), Microsoft will deliver cutting edge cloud gaming through Project xCloud to devices like PC and smartphones. Unlike other cloud gaming services, Microsoft’s xCloud has custom features and controls built for each game.
Here’s some of the games Microsoft is currently testing for xCloud:
- Forza Horizon 4
- Sea of Thieves
- Gears of War 4
- Halo 5: Guardians
Public trials for Project xCloud begin some time during 2019 with dev kits of the next-gen Xbox Project Scarlet already in the hands of some gaming producers with the ability to simulate various internet connections found across the world. It is expected that Microsoft will attempt a two-tier console release some time in 2020 or 2021 including a high-powered game console similar to traditional designs like PS4 or Xbox ONE, as well as a very low priced set top box capable of streaming video games using Project xCloud.
Some major features that set xCloud apart from other services:
- Controls and features specific to each game
- Microsoft Azure blade servers reprogrammed for xCloud
- Xbox first party games support
- Next-generation Xbox support
- Large and powerful data centers around the world
- Dev kits already being sent out, simulating real world speeds
Currently the plan for xCloud is to continue spreading Microsoft’s idea of Play Anywhere, Any Time which currently sees Xbox games accounts linked to PC Gaming through Windows 10. xCloud will also spread the action to powerful smartphones like Samsung Galaxy S8 (currently being used in xCloud demonstrations for press), but it will be interesting to see how Microsoft responds to Google’s interference given their anti-Microsoft behavior in recent times.
This endeavor also adds to Microsoft’s many innovations in reducing the entry cost to players including Xbox Game Pass and Xbox All Access (which includes Game Pass, Xbox Live Gold, and the rent-to-own purchase model for an Xbox One unit). Microsoft insists that 5G wireless and higher standards of Wifi paired with an expectation of increased ISP competition will eventually lead to cloud streaming being viable. Many gamers still believe that streaming video games is an inferior and dangerous proposition with fears of game libraries fading into nonexistence as licensing issues bog down distribution through the years.
Google’s Project Stream recently revealed 1080P streaming of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey at 60 frames per second in web browsers, but the reaction from gamers has been lukewarm with most folks uninterested. Major game company CEOs have been praising the efforts of Microsoft and Google while hoping to see cloud gaming become viable and expand, although many gamers remain cynical and skeptical of the motives behind this push.