Microsoft’s Project xCloud: Will this revolutionary innovation change the way we play video games?

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At the start of the year, Phil Spencer the executive Vice president of gaming at Microsoft announced during their regular E3 presentation that they are working on a streaming service for games. He surprised the audience for a time when he briefly explained the plans of Microsoft with the next generation of gaming.

The announcement was very brief. It did not contain the necessary details that one would need to make some sense out of it. So, fans waited for Microsoft’s confirmation. On Monday Microsoft officially announced their game streaming called Project xCloud in their blog post.

Streaming

Streaming is most probably the best way to counter the heterogeneity created by the post-colonial system. Most of the revenue generation from the entertainment industry is now coming from streaming.

People have busy lives now taking time out to go and watch, creates a lot at stake in this fast moving world. The argument in favor of game streaming is the same. You cannot play your favorite games on the go, yes there’s the Nintendo switch, but you cannot play Red Dead Redemption on the switch or any mobile device.

These massive AAA titles require you to sit down at a place with a certain hardware that is capable of running these games. That’s where streaming comes in. Only Sony provides video game streaming nowadays, but their servers are not as better as streaming requires. There are many limitations to PlayStation now too.

Now, Xbox is not entirely providing the same service as PlayStation now does. For PlayStation now you need to have the PlayStation 4 console and the library of games on the PS Now only contains classic PS3 titles. Microsoft is trying to build the streaming service that is accessible through any device.

They have released a demo where they clearly show a person playing Forza on an Android device using the Xbox one controller. The controller connects to the phone through Bluetooth. They are also working on controlling schemes for each game such that they can develop touch-sensitive controls.

To realize it they are closely working with a team of over 3000 developers; these game developers are from different studios/ developing firms owned by Microsoft Studios. These developers will help to bring the content over to the streaming service and make it compatible with the plethora of devices that people can use to stream games. Since the people behind the scenes will also be developing their scheduled games. So, the scalability of the project is huge.

Image: Microsft blogs
Image: Microsft blogs

Problems with streaming

With the Project, xCloud Microsoft aims to provide the same immersive experience that the gamers experience when they play the same game on the Xbox One series Console or PC. Microsoft has been in the gaming industry for the last 40 years; it can make such a service using its software and hardware experience.  They described the whole situation in hand in the blog post released on Monday.

“We are testing Project xCloud today,” the company wrote in a blog post. “The test runs on devices (mobile phones, tablets) paired with an Xbox Wireless Controller through Bluetooth, and it is also playable using touch input.

The immersive nature of console and PC games often requires controls that are mapped to multiple keys, buttons, sticks, and triggers. We are developing a new, game-specific touch input overlay that provides the maximum response in a minimal footprint for players who choose to play without a controller.”

Solutions to the latency problems

There are many problems that can arise through cloud gaming services and general, to make xCloud a viable project Microsoft would have to tackle these problems too.

Unlike most streamable entertainment genres, games require input from the player which dynamically change the outlook of the relevant scenario.

Netflix too has this service, but they only have a handful of games in their service. The games they possess require very little input from the player so managing these games is easy.

The games that Microsoft wants in their service are AAA titles that require input from players every second. It creates latency, and the additional latency of the internet is another issue that they are facing.

Microsoft is working on the solution of the latency issues in the same blog post they said, “Developers and researchers at Microsoft Research are creating ways to combat latency through advances in networking topology, and video encoding and decoding.

Project xCloud will have the capability to make game streaming possible on 4G networks and will dynamically scale to push against the outer limits of what’s possible on 5G networks as they roll out globally.”

The demo they used in the video uses a persistent internet connection of 10 Gigabits which is enough to stream games at highest possible settings. But not everyone is the world would have access to such fast internet. That is why they are using the Azura network to place their datacenters.

The reason behind using Azura network is that people can access it from all over the world as they have servers in 140 countries. It will also decrease the bitrate requirement of streaming.

The public beta of the service will be released next year and Microsoft is eager to get the early reactions from the users so a connected gaming world the goal of Xbox can be achieved.

 

 

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