MICROSOFT HAS OFFICIALLY taken the covers off its gaming streaming service, which it has dubbed Project xCloud; yep, someone ran out of credits at the imagination bank.
Despite the somewhat hyperbolic name, xCloud looks to be pretty impressive given it will push Xbox and Microsoft Store games to an all manner of devices from consoles and PCs to mobile gadgets.
But it'll need some trialling first before it becomes commonplace and has gamers eschewing consoles and powerful desktop PCs. Thankfully public trials of xCloud start next year at some point.
"Scaling and building out Project xCloud is a multi-year journey for us. We'll begin public trials in 2019 so we can learn and scale with different volumes and locations. Our focus is on delivering an amazing added experience to existing Xbox players and on empowering developers to scale to hundreds of millions of new players across devices," said Kareem Choudhry, corporate vice president of the gaming cloud division at Microsoft.
"Our goal with Project xCloud is to deliver a quality experience for all gamers on all devices that's consistent with the speed and high-fidelity gamers experience and expect on their PCs and consoles."
With the exception of PlayStation Now, which was helped with the absorption of OnLive by Sony, game streaming is still arguably in its infancy; even Nvidia's GeForce Now game streaming service is still in beta and has its limitations. So Choudhry's claims could be a tad ambitious.
But then again, the Redmond firm is building dedicated blade servers and infrastructure in its Azure data centres to support the xCloud service when it makes its debut sometime in the future.
And given the streaming can happen over 4G, there's a good chance Microsoft could deliver console-quality gaming to mobile devices that would normally run out of computing puff simply loading their menu of such games if they were run locally.
That could chip into the niche little market the Nintendo Switch has carved out for itself given there's no other handheld console that can deliver the quality of gaming the Switch does while on the go.
Not being reliant on a W-Fi connection could also open up game streaming to people with terrible broadband connections but have access to a decent 4G service with plenty of data to chew through.
Time will tell if xCloud can shift Xbox gaming from being a console affair to a streaming experience, but Microsoft seems to be putting its cloud expertise to the test, so watch this space. µ
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