Microsoft has announced Project xCloud, a new game streaming service that allows gamers to play Xbox games on a range of compatible devices.
Any content provider knows that making content available across a full range of devices is necessary in order reach to a wide user base. While cloud solutions that permit gaming outside of the console are nothing new – Sony’s PlayStation Now service launched in 2014 – Microsoft’s vast data centre infrastructure makes it well placed to provide scalable true-to-life gaming experiences on the cloud.
The firm says it has modified its data centres to ensure compatibility with the 3000 games available today as well as all future titles. A new customisable blade hosts the component parts of multiple Xbox One consoles, as well as its associated infrastructure. The custom blades are fully scalable and will be gradually built out to its Azure data centres. Project xCloud trials will commence in 2019 to the test performance across different volumes and locations.
In a blog post, Microsoft’s Corporate VP for Gaming Cloud, Kareem Choudry, said cloud game-streaming is a ‘multi-faceted, complex challenge’.
“Unlike other forms of digital entertainment, games are interactive experiences that dynamically change based on player input. Delivering a high-quality experience across a variety of devices must account for different obstacles, such as low-latency video streamed remotely, and support a large, multi-user network,” he said.
“With data centres in 54 Azure regions and services available in 140 countries, Azure has the scale to deliver a great gaming experience for players worldwide, regardless of their location,” he added.
Microsoft is currently testing xCloud on mobile phones and tablets. Users will be able to play games either using a paired Xbox controller or a custom touch overlay that ‘provides maximum response in a minimal footprint for players who choose to play without a controller’.
Despite launching to great fanfare in 2014, Sony’s cloud service PlayStation Now has recently fallen out of favour with gamers. Users have cited a number of issues with the service, including that old Playstation games did not run optimally. Microsoft claims xCloud will deliver a user experience that is ‘consistent with the speed and high-fidelity gamers experience and expect on their PCs and consoles’.