Xbox, After the X

Posted on April 23, 2018 by Brad Sams in Games with 35 Comments

When Microsoft announced the Xbox One X last year at E3, many began wondering aloud if this would be the last console we would see from Microsoft. Considering that console cycles span upwards of seven years, the idea that cloud-streaming gaming would become a reality before the next refresh cycle seemed like a viable plausibility.

But it does not look like that will be the case here, or if the company does move towards streaming games, there will still be a dedicated hardware component for the Xbox platform. Following my podcast last week, I have heard from three different sources stating that Microsoft is pushing forward with new hardware but that the release timeline is still several years away.

The company is looking to hire a specialist with GDDR6 expertise and they are also exploring how to deeply integrate game streaming into their next console.

While we might think of game streaming as meaning that the entire game is streamed in real-time from a cloud server, there are more realistic possibilities in the near-term while the latency challenge is overcome. For example, imagine a game where the environment is dynamically updated from the cloud as you explore the map so that it becomes never-ending or have a city that is updated dynamically with local weather and traffic so that you can experience traffic jams in the virtual world as they occur in real life…exciting.

But, these are the scenarios that are being explored as it will be unlikely that a switch is flipped to a fully-streaming service as there are still too many variables still in place and the ability for local gaming still needs to be a viable option for the long-term.

As for the timeline for the next console release, I’ve heard that within three years is a realistic possibility; the company is not currently in a rush to replace the Xbox One X as it has a significant horsepower advantage when compared to the current offering from Sony. And as you would expect, the console will be backward and forwards compatible, much like the Xbox One X; Paul is also hearing that Microsoft is building another iteration of the Xbox as well.

Even though Microsoft is pushing more towards the enterprise with its Windows and Office services, Xbox is one of the few brands inside of Microsoft that has managed to create a huge consumer-following and has a large upside ahead of it as gaming, and eSports, continue to grow. The company has also recently announced that it is expanding its E3 presence that further shows that Microsoft is not shying away from gaming.

While Nintendo has carved out a sizeable chunk of the casual gaming market with its Switch, the Xbox only has one primary competitor; Sony. Even though the PlayStation has the lead for this generation, Microsoft is making significant investments in hardware/content to close the gap with Sony and has the financial backing to go all-in on gaming to win the next generation.

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Comments (35)

35 responses to “Xbox, After the X”

  1. red.radar

    A neat vision but my only concern... what about those with slow internet? Broadband quality is very different. Depending on your locality.

    Perhaps this is is a good thing because instead of downloading a 60 gb image you can get started with a 1gb download and let the content stream in as needed...

  2. rafaelsolmaker

    Just to say to the less informed people here: "Gaming in cloud" doesn't exactly translate into streaming a game image while receiving keyboard/mouse/joypad input. We know it already exists and is some years (several in some places) into the future before being as good as local gaming. And I highly doubt it will be mainstream or really popular.

    Break into the words again. It could mean a lot of other things, like for example moving lots of stuff like simulation physics to the cloud or obtaining real-time data like weather or AI from, or rendering other complex background game elements that doesn't demand refresh every 16.67ms, offloading the local processor thus expanding the console power. It's just an example. Very large open world games or realistic simulations would have huge benefits.

    Just to open up the closed mentality of everyone here.

    • SupaPete

      In reply to rafaelsolmaker: I'm very convinced game streaming will be extremely popular to a very large amount of people once implemented in great way, on both the platform device/software side, but also aspects like it not costing a lot in connection and one having a good enough connection with no data cap etc, ther ebeing a fair model for using the content etc.
      Yes, it will take some years to get there, but the potential, the huge amount of advantages is just too many to ignore.
      Like being able to start/stop/switch between games pretty much instantly, no matter how big the game is.
      Like being able to run games on high end pc settings even on a small 50-100 bucks device with super limited processing power if one wanted to.
      So yes, of course it will be extremely popular.

      Regarding other use cases for cloud based gaming like some of those you mentioned, sure, those will become more and more a thing, too (many of them are already done in a good number of games today) but for many of those you have pretty much the same restrictions like for streaming games.
      To stream complex AI/physics sim etc in smooth feeling way, you need a quite solid connection and a powerful backend, too.

      • rafaelsolmaker

        In reply to SupaPete:

        Yup, you got the spirit, my man! While synchronization and connections problems will exist, for me the key is to put all the non-essential workload to the cloud and deal with it asynchronously. It would be like a helper instead doing all the job. Make things more precise and dynamic. Any calculation sent to the cloud will clear more resources for the local CPU/GPU to focus on what's important. At first it should not impact the graphics a lot (I could be wrong... Some global illumination cues and shadows like ray-tracing may benefit too, who knows, I'm just guessing) , but if the guys already managed to make programming parallel instead of linear I dare to say that we are just one methodology behind of developing great games that can use the cloud's power to its favor.

  3. scoob101

    Streaming is a bit player in the consoles overall design. Games which rely on streaming technology are then forever dependent on an internet connection and the back end cloud services to allow them to work. Streaming technology was supposed to be used from launch on this gen xbox and its never seen the light of day.

    It will take some time before all markets that XBox wants to be successful in will have that kind of infrastructure available to everyone.

    • SupaPete

      In reply to scoob101: Yes, it takes a while until most people in most places have a fast and reliable aenough and not too expensive internet connection.
      But regarding the point that it would be a downside to have streaming games because then they would require and internet connection, well, i see that as more and more a complete non argument, because when one looks at it realistically, more and more games are already moving towards that point anyway.
      A larger and growing percentage of games requires regular updates. A large percentage has online modes where a good chunk of the gameplay requires a constant internet connection.

  4. fbman

    A cloud based game streaming service seems like a nice idea, but the world is not ready for something like that. In developing markets like south africa, bandwidth is still quite expensive and majority of the people rely on very expensive mobile data with low data caps or pay as you go data. So here, physical game disks are still very popular and consoles are often not connected to the internet.

    OK, power users will be connected and most properly have fiber internet, but that is minority

    • ecumenical

      In reply to fbman:

      If they add it, it will just be a niche service like PlayStation already has for those who want it. Cloud gaming is going to be irrelevant overall to success in the next console generation.

      • SupaPete

        In reply to ecumenical: By the time the next console generation hits for MS, likely in 3 years if not longer, at least in most western countries a good bit higher percentage of players should have way faster and overall better internet connections.
        Sure they shouldn't get rid of retail games and fully up front downloadable games as alternative options right away then, but as additional option for those who have a fast enough internet connection, a subscription to play the whole library (or at least most of it) at a low fee with instant access and instantly being able to jump into any game, yeah, is appealing.

  5. Stooks

    Some thoughts.....

    * No streaming game solution so far has really been a hit. I think we are ways off from a great streaming solution (lag/bandwidth) I think the next generation will be all about 100% digital delivery no more discs.

    * People that play console games on the PS4/Xbox are not the same that play games on the Switch (for the most part). Just look at the multi-platorm titles that have and have not made it too the Switch.

    * I think Microsoft should sell the Xbox division and let someone else take it over. Not sure who that would be but at this point is really kind of odd that Microsoft has this division still. It simply does not fit into their portfolio in 2018 and I bet Nadella hates it.

    * I think the next generation of console hardware will impact PC gaming. The games I play on the X look and feel 98% there in terms of graphics and such. You need freeze frame comparisons in some games like Ghost Recon Wild-lands/AC Orgins, FarCry 5 etc. PC gaming will never die but it is a lot of cost/upkeep for less and less advantage, some will give it up with the next gen of console hardware.

    • My Hell baby speaking

      In reply to Stooks:

      In agree with the first and third point you make. Even with 100Mbit cable in a W. European urban area we have patchy bandwith and lag, sometimes noticable even when streaming video. Predicting the speed our network infrastructure was upgraded over the recent (tens of) years we may be ready for cloud gaming fifteen to twenty years from now. Of course, until then there would be hybrid solutions, but without cloud gaming being fully at service regular local gaming would not go away.

      Concerning Xbox: Microsoft commenced its perishing when they took away console exclusivity IMO. What is running on XBox today: a tiny piece of the PC catalogue. Case closed. Until Microsoft attempts to monetize aforementioned cloud gaming sometime in the far future, the brand name Xbox is unneeded.

      • SupaPete

        In reply to My Hell baby speaking: In the short term i would agree, at first sight it seems like a mistake of MS to make most if not all of their games cross platform on console and pc.
        Hw could they, that is just totally devaluing the xbox, no?
        Yes, at first glance it is, at least for anyone who would either chose a pc or a console or has a gaming pc and then maybe buys one console next to it (where then the PS would make more sense).

        But in the long term, it is actually one of the few aspects where MS has a very good and forward thinking strategy which is slowly starting to come together.
        In the future xbox will not be about the console. Yes, maybe, likely, there will still be the high end console and pc for those who want that. But to the majority of users xbox will be a service one can run on pretty much any computing device, like an app you launch and can then enjoy a huge game catalogue with instant access to any high quality game in highest quality settings even while running on the lowest end device specs.

    • SupaPete

      In reply to Stooks:

      I don't understand why you or anyone asks for MS to get rid of XBox. It's basically (besides surface devices, but those to way smaller amount) the only thing MS gets right right now in consumer facing hardware.

      It's their one way in into the living room and daily actually positive talk among regular people.

      They would be quite the fools to give that up or let it go to waste.

      It is also the one aspect where Nadella's push for cloud over everything actually makes a lot of sense in the future.

      Yes, not right now in most places yet while most people don't have good enough connection speeds yet, but the possibility is there and will clearly be realized in the future.

      Once there is game streaming which works great and is affordable and most people have a good enough and affordable enough connection (with no low quota limit etc), then yes, you are right, it will affect pc gaming, but not just that, it will transform all gaming, as it will not matter to most users anymore what device specs they have. They can run the same quality games on a mobile phone just like on a switch just like on a pc then, whatever device they have with them and want to play on right now.

      And btw Onlive, many years ago, was actually very great on technical side if one was close enough to one of their data centers and had a good connection. So the tech was there and is there and totally does work in great way. It just takes time until way more people have a great connection and a company with the balls and money to push through with it. OnLive sadly didn't have the money reserves to push through with creating data centers in enough places and stepwise building up their games catalogue and user base and not making that much money while investing into it massively for the first few years.

  6. PeteB

    They need to address the firstparty problem NOW or dreaming about some future Xbox is pure fantasy - players won't be burned again by a $500 box with no exclusives, while Sony pumps out hit after hit (example God of War just came out and it's 10/10 amazing).

    • Stooks

      In reply to PeteB:

      The first party/exclusive game argument is so old and outdated. People mostly pick the console their friends are on.

      98% of console games are Multi-Platform. I bet 99% of console gaming time, on both the PS4 and Xbox combined is on Multi-Platform games.

      Yes God of War is amazing, I have both a PS4 Pro and Xbox One X. That said it has been how long since that last God of War....2010 for version 3 and then that weird version in 2013. So that is not exactly fast.

      I use my PS4 Pro for exclusives, hint it hardly ever gets turned on. The X is for everything else.

    • Brad Sams

      In reply to PeteB:

      You can't create exclusives overnight...they take years to make; Spencer understands this and I think they are investing today for tomorrow, heavily.

  7. PhantomClaw01

    Xbox, after the X would just be box; so Micro soft would just be giving us boxes instead of X’s.

  8. Bdsrev

    Brad I made a forum post titled "The next Xbox needs to be just like the Switch" , could you check it out and ask your sources about this?

    (BTW there is a bug on the site where sometimes comments I leave are in gigantic bold text)

  9. Usman

    We know that AMD's Navi architecture will be using GDDR6, so it's a safe to assume that both the Xbox and PlayStation will use a mix of Zen + Navi on their APU Die.

    There really needs to be some compelling games, I know Paul brings up sales charts showing that PS4 exclusives didn't make the top 10 list of 2017 however it's about mindshare. People understand PlayStation has high quality exclusive titles, even if they don't buy them, they justify their console purchase based on the idea that they have the ability to play those exclusive games.

    Last point to make, on behalf of the esports community, it's esports not eSports/e-sports, it's just esports, like any word. Esports with a capital 'E' if it's at the beginning of a sentence, otherwise esports like any other word.


  10. maethorechannen

    So Microsoft are the mullet of the IT world - all business at the front, (gaming) party at the back?

  11. Tony Barrett

    Xbox is Microsoft's only real consumer facing brand that means anything to the average person on the highstreet now. Maybe that's the reason MS keep it going (Nadella was no Xbox fan apparently!), but it could be the fact Xbox is also heading to the cloud that kept him sweet on the project. Xbox is a powerful brand, but will always be 'second' to Playstation. Sony aren't exactly quaking in their boots over the 'One X', because Sony have the majority of the good exclusives, and Microsoft have, well, not much really.

    • Stooks

      In reply to ghostrider:

      Sony has done well this generation. No doubt because of the many mistakes Microsoft made at the launch of the Xbox One.

      That said Sony is but one Shart away from going under as a company. There is serious talk Netflix is going to buy their movie business.

  12. will

    Hardware is one side, the bigger side is games.

    Nintendo and Sony are winning over Microsoft NOT based on super powerful hardware, but with the first party game titles. The Halo name only goes so far and Microsoft needs to pickup some exclusive bigger games.

  13. SRLRacing

    Brad, in early tech demos of Crackdown 3 they were touting cloud physics calculations for the fully destructible environment. Any idea if this is making its way into the final product? It could be an interesting insight into the future of game streaming as you describe.

    I also have spent quite a bit of time on Nvidia's Geforce Now game streaming service which is pretty damn good but certainly not low enough latency for the CS Go's and Call of Duties of the world.

  14. SupaPete

    Streaming games is still far away to a lot of regular users in most countries.

    As dev i was lucky in getting access to OnLive early on and even better connection than many regular users and yes, then it worked kick ass for me, all that time a bunch of years ago.

    I could even run it on wifi and it would warn me on startup that wifi is no good idea (and they were right of course, pushing so hard to get the lowest latency to me possible and then i add a bunch of latency on the last 5 meters) but it still worked great then for me, i played through several full long games on it without any big issue at all.

    But, that was a special case since i got that closest ideal access and yeah, in average many users were not as lucky depending on how far away they were to the closest connection data center.

    And today, a good number of years later, well, in many parts of the world lots more people have way faster connections, but still not everywhere by any means.

    And in many countries there are still draconian data caps where they will throttle or cut you off when you go over a not that high quota per month (or charge you extra).

    So i feel like we're still not fully there and it will still take a few more years to get there for most people.

    but on the bright side, there is progress there and me personally, yeah, i quite look forward to being able to stream any game and start playing instantly.

    That was actually an awesome aspect of onlive and the only downside was that they had a not that huge game catalogue and it was also expensive per game since all newer "AAA" games cost pretty much retail value.

    Something like that, with a huge game catalogue like xbox has it and with a fair monthly subscription fee to play all or at least most of those many, many games, just choose any game and start playing instantly or download a small portion of it and then play it with no delay from the server side streaming, yeah, that is quite appealing to me.

    That's one of the outlooks for MS i feel most positive about. It's just it takes some years to be a viable solution for most users with how sucky most connection providers are around the world..

    (Another reason making me wish Google hadn't pretty much given up on fiber and would push it in way more places around the world)