At E3 2018, Xbox head Phil Spencer talked about what’s next for Xbox. “Our cloud engineers are building a game streaming network to unlock console-quality gaming on any device,” said Spencer. The promise of game streaming isn’t a new idea. Remember OnLive?
Today, Microsoft revealed Project xCloud. The service promises to bring Xbox One games to all your devices – PCs, phones, and tablets. Microsoft has the cloud hardware installed right now in one of its data centers in Washington. Soon, the hardware will be installed in its Azure data centers sprinkled across the world.
And that’s why Microsoft (along with Google’s push) feels different this time compared to OnLive’s days. Microsoft is uniquely positioned because it has a big presence in gaming as well as the cloud. If anyone can finally deliver on the promise of a game streaming service, it’s Microsoft.
In the video announcing the service, we see snippets of gameplay from some of Xbox’s biggest games – Gears, Forza, Halo, and Cuphead. We also see touch control gameplay in action.
I’m not a huge fan of touch controls, but piling up for a little more Forza before I go to sleep is compelling. Hell, it’s why I enjoy my Nintendo Switch so much. Sure, you can never replace a badass TV/sound setup – but being able to chill in a comfy chair or bed and still game is fantastic.
But what about the Xbox console? Will this streaming solution replace it? Xbox folks say the console isn’t going anywhere. “We love the device that we build, our Xbox console. We want those to be world class. The best place to play,” says Spencer.
“Consoles are still going to be a flagship experience,” says the company. “You’re gonna have that immersive, high fidelity experience with your amazing sound systems.”
But Microsoft wants to bring in the folks who might not buy a game console. Plus, I could see households using the streaming service over buying another Xbox for their kid to play on.
A blog post covering the announcement gives us an idea of where Microsoft is at right now, and what they want to deliver during public tests in 2019.
“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.”
A quality game streaming service will happen. It’s just a matter of who can finally deliver on the promise of high-end gaming on any device.