Microsoft has revealed that the public trials for its Project xCloud streaming gaming service would begin later this year, although no specific time frame was given. The company's Gaming Cloud Corporate Vice President, Kareem Choudhry, recently blogged about the progress the company has made since first unveiling it back in October. Additionally, he also demoed the gaming streaming service during the company's Inside Xbox event.
Currently, Xbox games can be played on PC as well as consoles, thanks to Xbox Play Anywhere. The Project xCloud is the extension of that idea and would enable players to play games on any form factor. Choudhry compared this idea to streaming music and videos while highlighting how game streaming is a little more tricky because of its interactive nature.
During the Inside Xbox event, Choudhry showed how it would be possible to play games on an Android device using a controller connected via Bluetooth. The game being played was Forza Horizon 4, which is a resource-intensive game but since all the heavy lifting was done by the Project xCloud hardware in the data center, there seemed to be no problems in sight and the game ran flawlessly.
Microsoft also says that the games would not be tweaked in any way and would run on mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets as originally intended by the game creators. This means that you won't be playing a stripped down version of your favorite game and it would also increase the adoption of the streaming service as there would be no extra work involved.
While it would be great to have on demand and accessible gaming, there are certainly some challenges, as previously highlighted by Microsoft. Since games change dynamically based on player input, delivering a console-level gaming experience on mobile devices isn't that straightforward and various things would have to be taken care of such as low-latency, graphic fidelity, and framerates.
With data centers in 54 Azure regions, Microsoft is confident that it can scale access to games across various devices on Project xCloud all across the world. The company has made custom hardware for its data centers and created a new customizable blade to host component parts of multiple gaming consoles as well as the supporting infrastructure.
The public trials will enable the company to scale with different volumes and regions. Although the public demo was done with a controller, Microsoft had previously said that it will also be possible to play games on Project xCloud using touch input.
Branching out into game streaming service certainly doesn't mean that the company is leaving the console business. The company says Project xCloud will complement its consoled based gaming and provide gamers with more flexibility. Consoles would allow players to enjoy 4K and HDR experiences, something which isn't possible on mobile devices. Project xCloud would also give a chance to users who have never owned a gaming console before to enjoy Xbox games.
Although Microsoft plans to leverage 5G speeds to provide a quality gaming experience on mobile devices, it is trying to achieve the lower possible bitrate, so that regardless of the network they are on, users would be able to enjoy uninterrupted gaming. The latest announcement comes a week before the Game Developers Conference (GDC), where Google is expected to reveal its own gaming service alongside a game controller.