Microsoft’s Looking to Build Cloud-Native Xbox Games and Experiences

Posted on June 21, 2021 by Brad Sams in Games, Xbox with 13 Comments

The games of the future may look similar to games that we play today but how they are developed, sold, and delivered is likely going to change. Microsoft is making moves to build out studios and technology internally that are developing “cloud-first” games.

The news comes from Polygon where it was announced that Kim Swift, known for her work on Portal, is joining Microsoft to work on experiences in the cloud. Notable, Swift was at Google working on Stadia which uses a similar model for game delivery – Google has significantly reduced its efforts to build out cloud-native content and internal games.

Swift joining Microsoft will help the company move towards its goal of producing cloud-native games and it opens up an interesting future. As an example, what is the benefit of a cloud-native game as opposed to local games that we experience today?

One such benefit is improved single-player experiences. While you already play modern multiplayer games on a dedicated server, having first-player experiences that are running in the cloud could allow for more dynamic environments or experiences.

Specifically, games of today are limited to the resources that are locally available. By running games in the cloud, there is elasticity to resources available that could be utilized for unique or improved gaming experiences. In short, more resources available means more creative options available to developers.

The key for Microsoft is that they are now pushing cloud gaming with Game Pass Ultimate and having the ability to create unique experiences across these devices could be an attractive offering that improves subscription’s appeal. That being said, based on the interview, it looks like Microsoft is in the early stages of developing this type of game or experience which means it could be some time before these assets are announced.

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Comments (13)

13 responses to “Microsoft’s Looking to Build Cloud-Native Xbox Games and Experiences”

  1. red.radar

    Fun to think that all those causal flash games I used to play were really ahead of their time.



  2. bettyblue

    At the end of the day, Google, NVIDIA, Microsoft and others simply do not control the network path between their data centers and the end user. Every single attempt so far at cloud gaming has been inferior to local gaming devices.


    Until we all have gige up/down to our devices a local gaming device is going to be the best option.

    • waethorn

      True. It’s become a new trend for service operators to rely on a fast Internet connection for phone, TV, and gaming, and to offload the cost of infrastructure onto the consumer. When you got cable or satellite TV, or landline phones, you never had to pay for a separate subscription for bandwidth. Companies need to come up with a subsidy or some other payment plan that involves providing the necessary bandwidth for these services without taking away bandwidth from other services you’re using. When I pay for Gigabit Internet, I want it for computer data. I haven’t seen any price reductions on on-demand TV that makes me think it’s any better than broadcast TV. Do the math: all of the streaming service “channel” bundling that’s going on, and then paying for all of it to get this show or the next…it’s very expensive. And yet it costs less to the provider because they don’t have to build out the infrastructure to people’s homes for it all. This whole scheme is just about maximizing profits, not reducing consumer prices. Microsoft doesn’t need to do R&D for consoles, hardware and compatibility testing, etc., and it’s up to the consumer to have fast enough Internet to play those games. Meanwhile, they hold the power over when and how you can use the service. That’s a lot of responsibility for little freedom to the consumer. I’d hope that Microsoft never thinks of “selling” games at full price with such a service offering, but I wouldn’t put it past them.

      • shark47

        Maybe the flip side, especially for games like Flight Simulator, is that customers don't have to worry about managing petabytes of storage. I'm sure it's actually cheaper for companies to simply put their game on a DVD or BluRay disc than to host it on their servers.

      • red.radar

        Isn’t this a factor to why the PS4 won the last round of console updates?


        people wanted disks because their internet wasn’t reliable or suited for distribution…. Also there was the issue of resale and ownership..





  3. vladimir

    I guess this change will come before or later. However, given the current situation of Internet connectivity, it seems a bit premature. It will just increase the digital divide. There are so many places in the world where a network cable is just not available

  4. scovious

    I imagine this means more games will use the cloud in the future, just like Flight Simulator already does.

  5. Ron Diaz

    Yeah, ok. I heard this same stuff about Crackdown 3. We saw how that worked out...

  6. codymesh

    wasn't this what Microsoft said about Crackdown 3?

  7. red.radar

    I believe this business model is to create continuous revenue for older titles.



  8. ringofvoid

    I'm intrigued by the possibilities, particularly for proceduraly generated games like No Man's Sky, for content generation to be offloaded to cloud resources. This could result in massive improvements in proceduraly generated content.

  9. WaltC

    Sorry, but not interested in playing single-player games from "the cloud" at all. If you'll recall, this always-online feature Microsoft tried to push with the last xBox reveal crashed and burned (before the latest xBoxen shipped, of course.) Microsoft was roundly booed at its reveal for trying to push something nobody wants. First, the idea that the gaming performance bottleneck becomes the Internet access speed one has on any given day--instead of the computer hardware one has paid good money to use in gaming--is a bad, bad idea. Won't go over any better than it did in that ill-fated xBox reveal. Secondly, it smacks of DRM and proposes a model where the end user doesn't actually ever get a copy of the game he paid for--another very, very bad idea. Paying customers have an aversion to being hit with nasty DRM, you know. I said "paying customers." Microsoft seems to find little difference between paying customers and software pirates. It's like a slap in the face to the honest people who believe in paying for their software, like yours truly.


    Seriously, does Microsoft ever learn anything?...;) They changed that always-online requirement for that XBox gimmick because of severe negative customer feedback xBox reveal (Who could forget it?) That serious mistake in judgement cost them thousands of xBox sales that generation as most everyone went to Sony's PlayStation which did not believe in punishing paying customers at all. Microsoft, for some reason, for decades has been perpetually stupid when it comes to PC gaming. The company doesn't seem to understand its potential customers, who enjoy buying and playing a game here and there! There seems to be absolutely no common sense about that, oddly enough.


    Here's an example to illustrate this lack of common sense and Microsoft's mistrust of its paying customers. A couple of years ago I was in Microsoft's program in which you paid ~$5 per month (or $1, IIRC) to play new PC games as they came out. Sounded really nice, but in reality it was a fairly terrible experience. I'm speaking of The Outer Worlds, specifically, sold only on the Epic Store and the Microsoft store for a solid year, I believe. So I downloaded the game from Microsoft, and what I got was so wrapped in copy protection gunk that I could not even mod the game! OK, so I figured that it was just something for the $1 club since that was essentially a rental from Microsoft. So, I bought and paid for my copy from the Microsoft store--and guess what? My fully paid-for copy of the game was exactly like the rental software, so heavily copy protected, I still couldn't even mod the game! I contacted the Microsoft store customer service and asked them to give me a clean copy of The Outer Worlds so I could mod it, or, failing that, a full refund of the game. I really thought they'd send me a moddable copy of the game since I bought the game at the full MSRP! Nope--they refunded my game very quickly--which seemed to me an acknowledgement of the fact that the huge amount of copy protection was ruining the game for a lot of people besides myself. Evidently, Microsoft cares more about the copy protection from the Microsoft store than it cares about keeping paying customers in the store. So, after my full refund, what did I do?


    I hopped over to the Epic store and bought a copy of The Outer Worlds because I wanted to see if it was Microsoft putting on the copy protection, or the game developers putting all of that stuff on. I not only paid $10 less than Microsoft charged me for the game, but I found I could run the game right from its executable and that modding the game was A-OK, no problem at all. The version of the game on the EGS had zero copy protection--the kind of thing paying customers expect! Microsoft's paranoia cost it who knows how many sales of that game...? That's just very poor judgement in my view. How customer unfriendly can a company get? I don't know, but I severed my relationship with the Microsoft store after that. And lo and behold--it looks like Microsoft is once again trying to run its paying customers off! Treating your real customers like thieves is never going to pay off for Microsoft.


    Single player games don't need to be perpetually connected to the Internet just to change the scenery...that's absurd...;) This is all about not trusting your customers and nothing else. If you want to change things in a single-player game then you can publish DLC, either free of charge or paid for, to do it--or create an expansion of the original game, etc. If Microsoft continues to persist in this then I'll wager they can expect a lot more booing that will cost them a healthy chunk of change--it's just a very bad idea with pretty much nothing in it for the customer except knowing that even after you buy their software at full pop, Microsoft still doesn't trust you. This is Customer Psychology 101 and Microsoft seems perpetually stupid about it, imo. I cannot believe they are doing this again!

  10. justme

    Respectfully sir, no.


    You are a multi-player gamer - and fair play to you for it. As a single-player gamer however, I do NOT need or want the internet in my games. It does nothing for me. Please tell Microsoft to keep their subscriptions and internet out of my single-player gaming experience.


    If you think having games in the cloud improves the single player experience then you dont play a lot of single player games. I do NOT want "more dynamic gaming experiences." An internet requirement is an excuse to add DRM, a paywall, a store, or telemetry to a title - period. It does NOT enhance my *single player* experience. Single player games do not need the internet. If you want to change a game, then publish DLC or an expansion - I am happy to pay for those. Mods are great for that as well, and I want the ability to play mods if I choose to. I do not want the speed of my internet connection or lack thereof to be a gaming bottleneck. I do not want to not be able to game when my internet goes out or I dont have access. And I *really* dont want to have to pay a subscription for a single player game. If a single player title is put into the cloud and requires a subscription, I will play something else. Did Microsoft learn nothing from their attempt to force always-on internet at a previous XBox launch?


    I apologize if this comes across like a rant - I dont mean it to. This is a topic that is dear to me and I feel strongly about. I am a PC gamer, so I generally have only a passing interest in XBox - I am interested in the technology and supporting my gaming brethren as a whole. However, I am an Elder Scrolls and Fallout fan. With Bethesda being purchased by Microsoft, I have a feeling of impending doom when it comes to their titles - much like I did with Bioware and EA. I just want to game on my own, without the internet and without a subscription, in peace. Please.

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