Microsoft decided that it’ll bet on the cloud to drive gaming’s future. In a blog post, it announced Project xCloud. The technology was leaked a few months ago, but the Redmond-based company decided to make it official now as next-generation advancements on all fronts emerge. Now we’re getting to understand why Microsoft’s taking this path and how it works.
Between Azure and 5G, xCloud can be revolutionary for the entire industry. That’s the goal, at least.
xCloud, which won’t be offered to consumers until 2019, makes Xbox games accessible everywhere. No matter the platform, Microsoft’s ecosystem transitions to where you’re playing. It’s described as a “state-of-the-art global game streaming technology.” So it’s an experience that puts Xbox on consoles, computers, and mobile devices.
On the backend, Microsoft stripped down Xbox One units and rebuilt them for data centers. The same components are present, but here they’re tailored for the regions worldwide where Microsoft’s cloud computing exists. Azure is already live in 140 countries.
The arrival of 5G connectivity should help, too. xCloud is working on 4G networks running at 10 megabits per second, but global carriers are ready to roll out 5G networks and unleash faster, stronger high-speed data with low latency. Microsoft can’t have any hint of lag for xCloud.
The early tests have been done on a handful of first-party titles — Halo 5: Guardians, Sea of Thieves, Forza Motorsport 7, and Gears of War 4.
While you can use the Xbox Wireless Controller via Bluetooth, Microsoft confirmed it’s developing on-screen controls for enhanced flexibility. No one will be required to use a physical controller on phones and tablets. Really, xCloud seems to make Xbox gaming ubiquitous.
Watch this introductory video, courtesy of Microsoft:
Fear not, though. xCloud acts a supplement to consoles. Phil Spencer, who leads the Xbox team, was joined by several executives in emphasizing that flagship hardware serves a purpose. Consoles are powerhouses, but xCloud can give more flexibility to consumers and welcome those who’ve shied away from gaming in the past.
The public trials aren’t set to begin anytime soon. Microsoft says it’ll choose selection locations in 2019, and all tests should include different volumes. Since there’s such a strong reliance on servers and networks, xCloud might take a very long time to go from alpha to beta to release. But there’s no doubt that Microsoft wants the Xbox community’s participation.
We’ll let you know when Microsoft talks more about xCloud. Its new Xbox models are due out in 2020, so the year ahead might give us better insight into the technology.