Project xCloud is Microsoft’s next step in bridging the gap between consoles and PC gaming on mobile devices ranging from mobile phones and tablets in order to offer a high-end gaming experience.
While Sony has finally embraced the idea of cross-platform play, Microsoft is already looking to the future by delivering an in-home experience through Xbox and PC-quality gameplay via a phone or tablet coming in 2019. In order to do so, Microsoft is looking at the power of their cloud service known as Azure.
While Microsoft has already established this service as a backbone to Xbox Live for Xbox One, many of us have yet to really take notice of when the service is actually active in the games they play, but they do have reason to doubt what Microsoft is hard at work on. While we know its power thanks to the upcoming title Crackdown 3, we don’t know a whole lot about how other games utilize the cloud itself, but what we do know, is how Microsoft plans on using Project xCloud when it launches into early trials next year.
You’ll need a 4G, 5G or Home Network Connection
When it comes to gaming on mobile devices, there’s a lot of untapped potential in mobile devices as they start taking advantage of some of the latest technology entering the market. Even as the hardware becomes available, there’s a lot of work left to be done before console and hardware manufacturers really bridge the gap between home and handheld gaming experiences.
While Microsoft did talk about it earlier this year, Microsoft’s executive vice president of Gaming, Phil Spencer, has delved into the topic at hand. As part of their original E3 announcement, the service known as Project xCloud is now up and running using 4G (10 Mbps connections) and will be working with 5G networks once they go live.
It’s best assumed that the faster connection you have, the better the experience with Project xCloud.
You’ll be able to use your Xbox One controller on your mobile device or tablet
In order to ensure that you – the user – will get the best experience possible, Microsoft has confirmed that an Xbox One controller will be able to be used with your mobile device via Bluetooth connectivity. But, you don’t need one to actually play the games you want when you want.
As part of their initiative to give you the best experience possible, Microsoft has also confirmed that Project xCloud will also feature “game-specific touch input overlay,” in order for you to play your Xbox One games on Project xCloud.
You will be able to play both existing and future Xbox titles on Project xCloud
Now, here is where things get a little tricky when it comes to Project xCloud. Microsoft has loosely confirmed in a video (as seen below) that games such as Halo, Sea of Thieves, and Forza Horizon 4 are among some of the Project xClouds games. As part of their current stance, Microsoft is saying that developers will not need to develop their games any further than they intend in order for Project xCloud to play their games.
For developers, this should offer a small sigh of relief. For fans, this also means that if you don’t own an Xbox One or have room for a console place due to limited space, you can do so on a device of your choice.
Latency won’t be a problem thanks to 54 Azure Systems with more in the works
When you think of cloud gaming you are already worried about your download speeds, response times, and how good your experience will be. With Microsoft already doing closed testing on Project xCloud, you can already imagine that they are working hard to make sure that fans can get a latency-free experience.
Because of this complex and multi-faceted challenge that’s put before them, Microsoft has had to work as hard as they already are in order to overcome different obstacles such as low-latency video of the games being streamed without latency and even preservation of the game being played as if the user was on a console. With this obstacle in mind, Microsoft is already looking at their 54 Azure regions and services that are currently available in 140 countries across the world, which makes Azure one of the largest cloud networks in the world.
Because of this, Azure already has the size and scale needed to deliver what is intended for Project xCloud among various other cloud-based services. The hardest part is their researches still finding ways to combat latency through new advancements in networking topology, video encoding, and decoding, and how all of this will work on 4G and 5G networks as they roll out across the world.
Microsoft has confirmed that their current tests are using an average speed of 10mbps, which is already delivering the responses they’d like to see. By the sound of it, this is the lowest bitrate they’d like to consider as a working bitrate for the experience. This means you may actually see the bitrate requirement go up over time for better experiences, especially once online games are added into the mix.
Microsoft hasn’t confirmed what the final results will be, but have said they are looking at all sorts of performances across “the widest possible networks, taking into consideration the uniqueness of every device and network.”
Public testing is set to begin in 2019
While Microsoft is already testing the program in a closed state at the time of writing, the company has confirmed that they are looking to expand their testing in early 2019 to the public. It will be safe to assume, that these public tests may be based on invites at first in order to slowly expand their user base and allow them to enhance the performance of their Azure servers as the data demand grows with their user base.
What we don’t know about Project xCloud
While we know what kind of speeds to expect, what we need to use in order to play, what we don’t know about the project is an even broader topic. First, we don’t know if it’ll be a subscription-based service like Xbox Live for the Game Pass membership. We also don’t know if it’ll require an existing Xbox Live membership or if it’ll be a bundled membership and will allow you to play games you already own.
Another issue with this approach is the Bluetooth connectivity with an Xbox One controller. We’ve had very little information about how the mobile devices we will be using will connect to a controller itself and what controllers we’ll actually be able to use. Even then, we don’t know what games or how many will be apart of xCloud moving forward and how fast Microsoft will be implementing new titles to the program as it gets underway.
While Microsoft tails behind Sony in the means of sales and exclusives, it looks like Microsoft isn’t concerning themselves with Sony’s approach to gaming. While Microsoft, Epic Games, and the developers have won the cross-platform play battle; Microsoft is already looking at how they can continue growing their brand, expanding their Xbox platform and bring more gamers into the market.
Even as they do, I’m a bit apprehensive on what they can and cannot do when it initially launches into its Public Tests early next year. If anything, I’d rather see them spending their time, their money and their efforts into finishing out strong with the Xbox One and ensuring that fans got their money worth out of the hardware and the exclusives that they had once been promised nearly five years ago.
If you wish to know more, you can read the full blog post about xCloud here.
About the Writer(s):
Dustin is our native console gamer, PlayStation and Nintendo reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the borders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPG’s, Anime, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable. His elitist attitude gives him direction, want, and a need for the hardest difficulties in games, which is fun to watch, and hilarity at its finest. You can find him over on Twitter or Facebook.