Microsoft’s new Cloud Gaming organization in Xbox Game Studios Publishing got an official introduction this week during the Game Developers Conference (via Video Games Chronicle). The new division, which is being led by former Portal lead designer Kim Swift, aims to support game studios developing cloud-native games that will be released exclusively on Xbox.
Swift detailed how Microsoft is looking to work with world-class development team to create the games of the future with cloud technology. This was pretty much Google’s initial ambition with Stadia, with the company promising exclusive cloud-native games that couldn’t exist on any other platforms.
Cloud-native games shouldn’t be confused with cloud game streaming, which provides access to console or PC games on any device with an Internet connexion. Cloud-native games leverage AI and other technologies to improve developer pipelines and services, and they can also provide unique gameplay experiences by executing calculations in the cloud instead of on the device.
In the presentation, Swift gave several interesting examples, such as using natural language processing technologies seen in Cortana and Siri to create more convincing NPC characters. The power of the cloud can also be used to improve graphics rendering, create special effects like destructions, or allow games to randomize levels, characters, or other features.
We’ve already seen some examples of cloud-based games with Crackdown 3, which had a multiplayer mode that featured cloud-powered building destructions. Microsoft Flight Simulator is another good example, with developer Asobo Studios using Azure and Bing Maps to recreate our entire planet with real-time weather.
“We’re really excited to talk to developers now and start to figure out what are the things that they want to use and what makes them excited,” Swift said in the presentation. If Google quickly gave up on cloud-based games by closing its first-party studios last year, Microsoft seems really serious about it and the company’s new Cloud Gaming organization will help game developers to embrace tools like Azure and PlayFab to unleash their creativity.