Technology

Microsoft announces Project Xcloud—Xbox game streaming for myriad devices

A user plays Sea of ​​Thieves on Xbox and PC on a tablet via streaming of the game.

This attachment to the controller has been shown in the Microsoft video and support for the Bluetooth wireless controller is also provided.

Microsoft has included this map of Azure Data Centers in its blog post. These are the locations where the service could be deployed, but do not expect everything to happen at the same time.

A new Microsoft service, called Project Xcloud, is about to arrive. It will stream Xbox games continuously not only to consoles and PCs, but also to mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. Microsoft shared new information about its projects in a blog post and a video about YouTube's talking heads . The company made a vague announcement on the new service at its press conference on E3 earlier this year, but it is the first time the giant of the company has been in business. industry provides details on how it works and when it is available.

Microsoft is currently testing the service. Several control methods will be offered on mobile phones and tablets. First, users will be able to associate a wireless Xbox controller with Bluetooth, and Microsoft has shown a sequence of this operation in action with an attachment to mount on the phone for the controller. If a user does not have a controller, Microsoft states that it "develops a new, game-specific, touch-sensitive capture layer that provides maximum response in a small footprint."

The games in the first images of the service include Sea of ​​Thieves and entries in the Gears of War and Halo series. However, Xcloud will not be limited to proprietary titles; the plan is to implement the service so that no additional work is required to support it by third-party developers. Microsoft hopes to achieve this in part by running the games on what constitutes native Xbox hardware in its data centers. "We have designed a new customizable blade that can host the components of several Xbox One consoles," Microsoft said in its release. "We will be tailoring these custom blades in data centers in multiple Azure regions over time."

A short video showing the rendering of the Microsoft Blade Server has been developed.

Exploring this concept is not new to Microsoft or the rest of the industry. Six years ago, documents were released, hinting that Microsoft had targeted the OnLive OnLive streaming service as a "target of "Potential acquisition" because of its potential disruption of the console market. A year later, Microsoft was testing the streaming of Halo on Windows phones . Sony has acquired some patents from OnLive and today offers similar features on PlayStation Now a service that streams games to your PlayStation console, your laptop or your desktop . In addition, Google has recently announced a similar service for its Chrome platform called Project Stream .

However, Microsoft claims to have now a length ahead of Sony and its former company due to the global expansion of Azure, its enterprise-class cloud service. "With data centers in 54 Azure regions and services available in 140 countries, Azure is able to provide an exceptional gaming experience to players around the world, regardless of their location," the blog says. The Xcloud project is currently being tested on a data center in Quincy, Washington State. Microsoft claims that the current test experience is running at 10 megabits per second.

The goal is to make continuous play of games possible, not only on broadband Internet in homes or future 5G networks, but also on existing 4G networks. This is essential because many regions will not see 5G for a while, and prominent users that Microsoft is trying to reach rely exclusively on mobile Internet access for mobile devices.

In the video, Microsoft employees assure traditional gamers that consoles will remain a flagship experience, but that this new service is about offering new choices and reaching out to more people who might not be inclined to buy a console. . But since many players in the industry like Ubisoft think that services like Xcloud will eventually become essential rather than complementary, there are concerns about saving games for posterity.

Creators and publishers of content and intellectual property generally have control over how their creations should be monetized and distributed, which is reasonable; it's their property, after all. If users do not like the approach, they do not have to buy the product. There are great short-term financial and logistical benefits for creators who embrace the streaming approach, as well as practical benefits for players with powerful broadband access. But there are also disadvantages, and the preservation of the game is one of the most critical.

Some or all games released from the cloud in the future might look like games digitally distributed today, in that they might not exist on a medium physical that can be resold or saved for posterity. But unlike current digital games, these streamed titles would not even exist as downloaded files that users could simply avoid deleting. Thus, preserving games for future players or revisiting players could become even more of a challenge.

This is not just a problem for players who do not want to lose their favorite games. This is also a problem for developers, who often work long and difficult hours for years to produce works that could be lost over time.

The gaming industry as a whole has gradually turned to digital distribution, starting with Steam-based computers and its competitors before switching to Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch – and, of course, modern mobile games. been digitally distributed. This problem is not unique to streaming platforms. Many prestige games are still offered on physical media in retail stores. But if cloud games end up becoming as popular as companies like Microsoft, Google, Sony and Ubisoft think this will be the case, the availability of physical media may change in the future.

If it is impossible to preserve current and future games only available in the cloud, we could consider something like the lost beginnings of MMOs and MUDs, many of which only exist in memory players and creators. . Games as services are more and more social events – "you had to be there", could we say in the future transient communities that appear around the online games of the moment like Fortnite. This approach offers its own creative and experiential opportunities to people who create captivating games and those who play them. But it 's certainly not the same as what players today have known during the first 40 years of this medium.

The public trial concerning the Xcloud project will begin in the course of 2019.

Illustrative image of Microsoft

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