Back at E3 2018 in June, Microsoft announced that it had teams working to bring Xbox games to even more devices with the help of streaming technology, and we now have a clearer picture of what that will look like. Project xCloud is bringing game streaming to Xbox, PC, and mobile devices beginning in 2019, and it aims to make it easier than ever for developers to get on board.
Using the Azure cloud, which Microsoft has also used to power portions of Xbox One and PC games in the past, Project xCloud will allow players across several different devices to experience the games currently only available to Xbox One and PC through streaming. On mobile devices like phones and tablets, players can use a Bluetooth-connected Xbox wireless controller, or they can even use touch controls to play on the go.
“We are developing a new game-specific touch input overlay that provides maximum response in a minimal footprint for players who choose to play without a controller,” Microsoft gaming cloud Corporate VP Kareem Choudhry said in the announcement … perhaps he should consider changing his name to Kareem “Cloudhry.”
In order to run the games over the cloud, Microsoft is installing hardware in its data centers, with the first already online in Quincy, Washington. The hardware is made by taking the components of Xbox One consoles and turning them into a blade unit, which can then host multiple Xbox games at once. It’s currently running at 10Mbps, but this could be lowered further later to reduce latency.
In the announcement video, which you can watch at the top of the page, we see Forza Horizon 4 being played live on an Android phone, and it’s tough to distinguish it from the traditional version. A Halo game and Sea of Thieves are also briefly shown, with touch controls being used to control the characters.
Microsoft stressed that this isn’t designed to replace the traditional console experience, but to offer an alternative for those looking for more options. This seems to be in line with rumors we’ve heard about the next Xbox console. Rather than be one device, Microsoft will reportedly be offering two. The first will be a traditional console similar to the Xbox One, while the second will be a low-cost, streaming-only system that will presumably make use of Project xCloud.
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