MS' Project xCloud announced - what do you think?


#1

In short:
It’s the streaming service they’ve been talking about for a while.
It’s not out yet, but it looks to be up and running for testing.

Pair an Xbox Controller through Bluetooth or use a special touch interface overlay for mobile devices.

No word on specific devices, so presumably anywhere that’ll allow it.
Not just first party games.

I think it looks really interesting, and Microsoft does have a ton of experience with cloud computing from Azure.
Interesting to see if they snatch some of that Switch magic.
My personal daily use case for the Switch is on a train commute with spotty internet, so I’m not sure I have much use for Project xCloud.


#2

Being that this stuff has already been available from other vendors, I’m not sure this is a reaction or competitor to the Switch (unless players are simply unaware that this service has been around for a while and MS are able to leverage their Xbox brand to make those users aware of such services).

I think we all knew MS were working on this (as they’ve talked about it generally for a while and their Xbox leadership hasn’t hidden from such questions) and Azure does make it obvious with why they’re interested and would be even without the Xbox division (as are Google, Amazon, Sony, and nVidia - all of who are very into server farms full of GPUs/SoCs and getting paid).

This announcement feels a lot like MS realising they’re going to get awkward shareholder questions if they don’t make this not-secret rather more public after Google’s announcement a week ago.


#3

Yep this all checks out from everything that they and others have been talking about in the last let’s say 5-6 months. It’s a long term project that has the potential to re-define the ways in which many people interact with games so it’s certainly… interesting to see where it goes.

And yes I would definitely say that this is more than just switch-envy, this has been years in the making and I have a feeling Phil Spencer looks at this as the “future of mainstream gaming”, for whatever it’s worth.


#4

I would guess that the draw here is:

  1. Something that actually works.
    To my knowledge, any previous attempts have been shaky at best.

  2. The full Xbox library on the go.
    Sony is getting a lot of attention for their quality exclusives, but multiplatform titles like Assassin’s Creed, FIFA, Call of Duty, Destiny 2 and so on still attracts millions of players.
    If Xbox suddenly equals being able to play those games on the go + on the most powerful console hardware at home. That’s huge.


#5

So titles like Assassin’s Creed have already been available on PlayStation Now and could be played on any budget portable PC.

AC up to Syndicate, CoD up to Black Ops III, Far Cry 5, etc are on GeForce Now.

PlayStation Now actually works as much as we would expect from MS’s service (will be interesting to see what MS does about Sony’s patents in this area as they absorbed all those OnLive patents and Gaikai - there may already be some cross-licensing deal in place or it may be a non-issue today) and I’m yet to see anything that makes it sound like MS will have any different experience with 3rd parties than Sony already does (in terms of which games get offered on the service). The only real differentiator MS have is their 1st party games, same as on the consoles.

Edit: The number of current players who have offered a mobile and desktop solution and found the desktop one to be the focus of their ongoing business actually makes me think the mobile focus here is going to be something MS pivot away from. Only because that’s how it’s gone for several of the earlier movers in the market who also though the demand would be portables but actually (as wireless isn’t great for latency & this kinda makes a lot of sense for business person on a laptop in their hotel or streaming to a second TV without needing to own a second console or drag them around the house etc) found most consumers used it on lower power devices you don’t hold.


#6

They announced this back at E3. Seems less a reactionary move and more getting it out of the way so they don’t have to talk about it at the X018 Fan/Press event in Mexico next month. The different pitch of it is that they are saying “Its an option” and it sounds more like an extension of the Play Anywhere concept without the need for exclusive hardware like PS Now (Where you need a PS3/PS4) or GeForce Now where you need an Nvidia GPU and a Shield. It’s interesting and seems more like a preparation or maybe a move to adjust to markets they are weak in like Asia and Europe which do have better infrastructure to handle it where it’s a value add to their PC/Console services.

Though as for competing with Switch, I’ve seen more talk it might end up on Switch rather than a competing service. Especially since MS and Nintendo have way more diametrically different goals in gaming now, Xbox Live is already on Switch in Minecraft after all.


#7

Here’s the part of this that caught my attention:

Currently, the test experience is running at 10 megabits per second. Our goal is to deliver high-quality experiences at the lowest possible bitrate that work across the widest possible networks, taking into consideration the uniqueness of every device and network.

Seeing as Google’s service recommends 25 mbps right now, being able to run it well at 10 mbps seems pretty impressive. At least, from someone who doesn’t really have a full understanding of the logistics of internet speeds, and is just comparing two numbers (that would be me).


#8

Google announced their project with a target connection for testing around where Netflix put their “Ultra HD” bandwidth. I’m sure that there will be options for a lower resolution stream with lower bandwidth requirements (as this service is commercialised and rolled out beyond the current US test). I don’t think there’s that much to be read into MS announcing their tests starting at 10 Mbps.

An amusing aside: Google announced their interactive streaming video with a video served from Google servers. MS announced their similar service using… video served from Google servers. When it comes to expertise at providing video streams (at various quality settings), MS didn’t embed some Mixer links but YouTube links in their blog post.


#9

As someone who was out of town this weekend and spent it itching to play Forza, the pitch sounds really appealing. If this ends up extending my Xbox library to mobile devices, then I can see value in it even if it’s probably not going to be as good as local hardware.