Microsoft has announced today Project xCloud, the company’s game streaming service that I have been writing about since early this summer and something the company has been working on for many years. Phil Spencer hinted that this type of service was coming soon at E3, and now we are learning more about it.
The idea is quite simply, being able to play any type of game on nearly any type of device. Microsoft showed off in the video below playing Forza on an Android phone but this is on the start of what will be possible with this technology.
And if Microsoft can deliver on this front, it will signifacntly change how we think about console gaming and will likely change how the market plays games as well. Imagine being able to play Xbox exclusive titles on a MacBook with nothing more than an Xbox controller and an Internet connection; for Microsoft, ProjectX Cloud will open up the gaming door to millions of more consumers.
The company is testing the service today with mobile phones and tablets paired to an Xbox Wireless controller but it is also playable with touch input as well. Public trials will start in 2019 but that’s about as concrete as a release date as we have right now.
Microsoft is building their own custom hardware for its Azure data centers; this isn’t a simple retrofit of racks to make them work with xCloud, but it’s a ground-up approach to building custom hardware specifically for this solution. Each blade in the rack houses several Xbox-console boards along with the other necessary equipment to make the streaming service possible.
Microsoft makes it clear in the announcement video that the company will not abandon the traditional console sales model, the streaming service is in addition to selling hardware as well.
The big if, and it’s a big one, is if the company can truly make a cloud-gaming streaming service viable for the mass-market. This has been the dream of many companies during the past couple of years but no one has been able to successfully deliver a product that has the latency and graphics that gamers demand.
This is clearly a big bet for not only Xbox but for Microsoft as a company as this utilizes the company’s Azure infrastructure to deliver the service.