A Few More Details About Microsoft’s Xbox Scarlett Game Streaming Service

Back at E3, Microsoft mentioned that they were working on a next-generation console. At that time, I noted that this new console is a family of devices and was going by the name of Scarlett.

Since uncovering that little bit of info, I was able to dig up a few tiny bits of content about how Microsoft is developing its next-generation consoles. And yes consoles because right now, they are planning two different pieces of hardware.

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First, Microsoft is building a traditional console that you would expect from the Xbox brand. I think it’s important to point this out so that those who prefer to have all their hardware locally, will have an option with the next generation Xbox.

As for specs for this device, that’s still not known at this time as it’s the early days of development for that piece of hardware. But what I am starting to hear more about is the second device, a streaming box that is designed to work with the company’s upcoming game streaming platform.

Scarlett Cloud as one person called it, is the game streaming service that we have all been envisioning ever since Microsoft showed off a demo game streaming at its all-employee meeting back in 2013. But this time, Microsoft has a path to bring it to market.

The second ‘console’ that the company is working on is a lower-powered device that is currently planned to ship with the next generation device that is designed for game-streaming. But the catch here is that Microsoft thinks it has figured out how to handle the latency sensitive aspects of gaming.

The cloud console will have a limited amount of compute locally for specific tasks like controller input, image processing, and importantly, collision detection. The downside of this is that it since more hardware is needed locally, it will raise the price of the streaming box but it will still cost significantly less than what we are accustomed to paying for a new-generation console which should help expand the platform’s reach.

And that is very important as Microsoft doesn’t typically make much money on the hardware sales but they do on things like Xbox Live, Xbox Gamepass, and game sales. If Microsoft can create a next-gen console that requires lower up-front payment and longer subscription payments (remember, all games will run in the cloud, so you will need to pay ‘something’ to access them), this is a huge win for Xbox and Microsoft.

The portion of the game that runs locally, some have referred to it as a slice or splice, means that the game is ‘running’ in two locations at the same time and utilizes Microsoft’s cloud to stitch it all together.

The benefit here is that Microsoft’s cloud platform reaches around the globe with data centers in every major market. This makes streaming the games platform available globally but this also likely means that it can run on any type of device. Of course, Microsoft would love you to buy their hardware but the company’s end-goal is that you can access ‘Xbox’ from any device, anywhere and Scarlett Cloud is looking to deliver on this idea.

One person familiar with Microsoft’s plans said that this may reduce latency in all aspects of the game as well. If a multiplayer game is using Azure as it’s central server, Scarlett Cloud console will be closer physically to the multiplayer server resulting in less latency.

When it comes to games, all Scarlett games will run on all Scarlett devices. Meaning, both consoles will be first-class citizens and there is not expected to be an awkward ‘this game only runs on the non-cloud Scarlett’.

The cloud version of Scarlett is further along in the development cycle than the traditional console that will also be released in 2020. This device does make me wonder if it has any relationship to the Xbox Hobart streaming device that was nearly released two years ago but was canceled late in the development cycle.

Microsoft has become quite confident in their streaming solution and now that they figured out how to bring it to market after many years of development, they are pushing forward with those plans.

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Conversation 19 comments

  • Bart

    Premium Member
    23 July, 2018 - 1:05 pm

    <p>That 'something' has got to be Xbox Game pass. I am calling it</p>

  • madthinus

    Premium Member
    23 July, 2018 - 1:13 pm

    <p>Good stuff.</p>

  • jprestig

    23 July, 2018 - 1:23 pm

    <p>I'm just over here trying to enjoy the X as much as possible before it's obsolete. </p>

    • slott

      23 July, 2018 - 7:02 pm

      <blockquote><em><a href="#294626">In reply to jprestig:</a></em></blockquote><p>The new Xbox hardware should be compatible with all Xbox One games and earlier Xbox games that are compatible with Xbox One hardware. They have been focusing on better compatibility, so you shouldn't worry.</p>

  • Daekar

    23 July, 2018 - 2:00 pm

    <p>And so it begins. My crappy internet connection will become more and more of a liability from here on out. </p>

  • rc

    Premium Member
    23 July, 2018 - 3:32 pm

    <p>I'm still curious on how they plan to make money with this. The infrastructure + bandwidth to do this at scale is not really cheap in any sense, even with their own cloud. And as I've pointed out before, even if they find a way to provide an enticing game streaming service at e.g. $10/month, it would probably still be a better investment over a console generation to buy a regular console instead.</p>

    • Skolvikings

      23 July, 2018 - 5:01 pm

      <blockquote><em><a href="#294639">In reply to rc:</a></em></blockquote><p>Sony already has their PlayStation Now game streaming service. It costs $20/month and although it can run on Windows 10 PCs, I imagine most subscribers purchased a full PS4 and use that to play the streamed games. So regarding your investment comment, it's really like subscribing to Spotify or Google Music. For $20/month you can play over 650 titles. There's no way you could afford to do anywhere near that if buying games outright. If, on the other hand, you only ever want to play a handful of titles, then buying the stand-alone console might be cheaper. The subscription service is for those who want variety and lots of options/choices.</p>

  • Stooks

    23 July, 2018 - 5:38 pm

    <p>Sorry but in 2018 Streaming = subpar experience. </p><p><br></p><p>I have a decent Internet connection (200meg up/down) and game makers have a hard enough time making MP games lag free when everyone is running off of a local copy of the game. I can't imagine adding streaming to the mix.</p><p><br></p><p>So far every streaming service I have seen either is subpar in terms of lag/eperienc or just "OK" because it is older single player games that are good enough over a stream. Local copy trumps both.</p>

    • slott

      23 July, 2018 - 7:00 pm

      <blockquote><em><a href="#294713">In reply to Stooks:</a></em></blockquote><p>Article says that some of the game is still being ran on Scarlett hardware, and streamed data will be minimum. This could work. We will have to see.</p>

    • Bob2000

      24 July, 2018 - 6:43 am

      <blockquote><em><a href="#294713">In reply to Stooks:</a></em></blockquote><p>You have not tried this service and none exists like it on the market currently so you cannot make a claim until it's available.</p><p><br></p><p>Current cloud services are a mixed bag, I've tried a few and even Sony's own PSNow leaves a lot to be desired but some on the PC work surprisingly well, if MS can build a consistent experience then can crack it.</p>

  • Lewk

    Premium Member
    23 July, 2018 - 8:31 pm

    <p>As someone who lives in a major Australian City that is 1000 kilometres away from the closest azure server, I remain highly sceptical that the game streaming will work well here. Especially when other major Australian cities are 1500-4000 kilometres away from azure servers. </p>

  • leops1984

    Premium Member
    23 July, 2018 - 8:59 pm

    <p>If for whatever reason you have a bad Internet connection… yeah, this will not be fun. </p>

  • Kevin

    23 July, 2018 - 11:05 pm

    <p>Yep this will be a no go for any rural gamers, but thankfully I am a minority so hopefully it will go well for them, minus that poor guy who is gaming in a submarine.</p>

  • fbman

    24 July, 2018 - 1:40 am

    <p>This will maybe work in the US, but outside the US, maybe in 10 to 20 years time. </p><p><br></p><p>The rest of the world is not ready for this level of cloud computing at a retail level. Where I live (South Africa), the cost of bandwidth will kill the idea. the average gamer, here still buys physical media when buying console games. Case and point, the chrome book has being pretty much ignored by the rest of the world, but to the lack of cheap bandwidth.</p>

    • Bob2000

      24 July, 2018 - 6:49 am

      <blockquote><em><a href="#294853">In reply to fbman:</a></em></blockquote><p>Games consoles target the developed world, they are not a ideal option for the developing markets due to their high costs.</p><p><br></p><p>Broadband permitting the Xbox Lite and Gamepass may work out cheaper for developing markets.</p><p><br></p><p>Internet infrastructure will continue to improve and makes Xbox a lead candidate for cloud gaming, keep in mind Google is chasing this too as is Sony, Nvidia and others.</p>

  • Ugur

    24 July, 2018 - 6:28 am

    <p>I feel like regarding streaming consoles stuff a large part of us gamers is in reality denial.</p><p>What i mean with this is that whenever talk about an upcoming streaming service comes up there is always huge uproar, in the vein of "this will not work, large parts of the world do't have fast enough internet and most people have low internet usage bandwidth/quoate limits!!"</p><p>While the reality is that mobile and online games which already require a constant internet connection are among the most widely most played games and video streaming services like youtube and netflix are totally a super popular thing used by hundreds of millions daily, too.</p><p><br></p><p>So that's one of the examples which made me come to the realisation: Lots of consumers are disliking things in theory when just talking about it in theory while in their daily usage they actually like it or at least use it not even thinking much about it.</p><p><br></p><p>Same could be said about many other internet/tech topics, like when one talks about Apple, Google, Facebook and privacy or some other political or hardware downside, one could think pretty much everyone despises especially Facebook but also, to lesser extent but still also Google and even Apple.</p><p><br></p><p>Heck, i bitch and complain about some shitty things each of those does, too, and that's well deserved.</p><p>But the reality is the products and services most of those put out are used by a huge amount of users (for Apple at least on iOS device side, the mac lineup is sadly really overall mostly crap for some years) and for example regarding privacy aspects most people don't care about it at all in their daily usage while they complain about it a lot when thinking about it theoretically and putting their theoretical thoughts out there on it.</p><p><br></p><p>As i said, i think regarding streaming services it is exactly the same thing.</p><p>Ask 10 gamers about what they think about streaming services and likely 6-9 of them will talk about how our internet connections and bandwidth limits etc are not ready for it yet.</p><p>Yeth then most of those users will happily play Pubg or Fortnite or some other game requiring a constant internet connection or watch 10 youtube or twitch videos a day or binge the next season of x on netflix.</p><p><br></p><p>I'm not saying it isn't true that there are still various places and situations around the world where one doesn't have the best internet connection and doesn't have high bandwidth/quota limit, sure there are many such examples.</p><p>But somehow there is also already a very actively used market and audience for heavily streamed content and this will only get more over time.</p><p><br></p><p><br></p><p>So in summary i feel like the problem there for MS is not that they are pushing streaming games forward, no, that is very reasonable and about time.</p><p>The problem is that it is a hard point to sell to gamers when talking about it because then that only existing on theoretical thinking/talking existing denial is replied. When one doesn't talk about it that much and just does it well, somehow hundreds of millions do use the streaming services on many other ends already.</p><p><br></p><p>Now onto these two devices:</p><p>It is a reasonable approach in my eyes that there could be two devices where one has all the local hardware horsepower and can run games all locally but also can take part in the streaming service of course and then there is the second box which has way less local hardware power and costs less thanks to that and only can play the games streamed.</p><p><br></p><p>As a developer the way you summarized it sounds very interesting to me, if it would really do collision detection locally, i assume the savings there in the streaming box would be that that it still has a powerful cpu likely but basically has no powerful gpu.</p><p>So the cpu could do things like collision detection/physics calculations locally (even if just as security cross check with rollback from server data) and most of the gameplay graphics would be rendered cloud side and then maybe it would only require a video hardware encoding/decoding like chip for graphics side.</p><p>Since the gpu (plus cooling setup etc) is one of the more expensive parts of a console i can see how that could reduce the costs for the streaming box.</p><p><br></p><p>Overall i look forward to this, sure they have to deliver and make it work nicely at least for all the hundreds of millions who can stream youtube, netflix etc fine, but if they achieve that, it could be something pretty cool.</p><p><br></p><p>I'm a developer and tech and gaming enthusiast so i will likely forever still also have some powerful hardware devices locally no matter what and play some games that way no matter what, but i can totally see myself using such game streaming services for the many other benefits regularly like that one should be able to select a game and start playing it pretty much instantly or switch between games way faster etc.</p>

  • winlonghorn

    24 July, 2018 - 9:02 am

    <p>Despite the thoughts about limited bandwidth and other pain points, I believe that this is a strong potential to succeed. I feel like the bandwidth issues may be one of the biggest reasons for Microsoft to still ship a secondary (traditional) console as well. Folks, despite what you may believe, they understand the market. They wouldn't be where they are without that understanding. Also, I don't believe that they intend to repeat their mistakes from the current generation!</p>

  • sachinkhanna48

    25 January, 2019 - 2:16 am

    <p>Despite the thoughts about limited bandwidth and other pain points, I believe that this is a strong potential to succeed. I feel like the bandwidth issues may be one of the biggest reasons for Microsoft to still ship a secondary (traditional) console as well it's because of bandwidth issue I can't properly enjoy my favorite <a href="https://flytunes.fm/best-xbox-one-games/&quot; target="_blank">xbox one games</a>. Folks, despite what you may believe, they understand the market. They wouldn't be where they are without that understanding. Also, I don't believe that they intend to repeat their mistakes from the current generation!</p><p><br></p>

  • deadlives

    16 March, 2019 - 11:36 am

    <p>I have all my games physical copy I will buy dlc , and update them then put my system back offline fuck all this online ,steam, streaming bullshit. I was just playing the elder scrolls 3 marrowind on my xbox one and it's a O.G. xbox game I have on disc btw it's dated 2001 I don't give a fuck about having the internet and if your streaming your games you'll never really own them to me that's a fuck that do they even think about the people that can't afford internet or all the other shit you'll have to pay. I'm going to laugh when people's internet crashes , get hacked, identify stolen, their system takes a shit then they have to download install their games and games are not small and would take a long time to download fuck that . DLC for my games is ok but I want to play the game now not wait hell some of my DLC I own on disc all I have to do is install it . I don't give a fuck about this always online bullshit I would laugh if the internet crashed permanently I wouldn't be able to use my phone unless maybe landline, and I but this generation wouldn't know what to do . I don't like playing games online with others, with friends link xbox 360s . Look at Sonys pspgo bullshit buy a game and now you have to go online or hotspot to download the game fuck that shit I want to play it now after I buy it not wait I'm glad that piece of shit failed I'll always say it if the next xbox is discless then I'll never own it. I still own my xbox 360 and xbox one. Yes I'm an old school game pro who has to own my stuff permanently and for this other shit I'll pass . I go to gaming tournaments and I win or I get my ass handed to me, but I'm more of a RPG gamer like The Elder Scrolls 5 Skyrim, Fallout, Dead Island and the list goes on and on . I want a game with a long campaign not a 8hrs . More like 80+hrs these games are worth $60.00 not like Halos, Call of dutys and the list goes on oh but they ha have online play so I'm not going to do the same old song and dance over and over again not fun why do you think you see alot of theses games at gamestop's or pawnshops ever year.</p>

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