Microsoft began testing Azure-based xCloud cloud gaming service, but not everything is so smooth with it

    Yesterday, Microsoft in its blog announced the start of testing a new gaming service xCloud. The goal of xCloud is to enable users to play full-fledged xBox games on any devices of any configuration, primarily on phones and tablets. As conceived by Microsoft engineers, the entire hardware processing of the video stream will be carried out on the xCloud server side, the final picture will stream over the Internet to the user's device, and the latter will only manage what is happening.

    Equipment project xCloud is placed on the racks of the Azure cloud service. While the system is working in test mode, the xCloud geography is small, but the company plans to install the necessary hardware in all Azure data centers, which is 54 points around the world. In this case, the company is quite ambitious approach to the implementation of xCloud and declares that the new development of Microsoft "will free gamers from hardware binding." In test mode, to control what is happening on the screen of a smartphone or tablet, the xBox One controller is connected via Bluetooth, but in the future we plan to introduce both a touch control system directly through the device screen and a special controller pad.

    For the first time, project xCloud was mentioned in 2018 at the E3 game exhibition, but then the company’s representatives limited themselves to a few marketing phrases and a number of loud statements about the next “coup in the gaming world.”

    Today, Microsoft already has something to say, but a number of the most important moments are still not covered. First of all, the company does not provide clear information about the configuration of the equipment that will be placed in Azure racks.

    The only thing that is known from Microsoft is that it will be iron, similar to xBox One. Connection requirements are also considerable. Representatives of the company say that for stable operation of xCloud you need a connection not lower than 4G and a speed of 10 Mbps. At the same time, the blog entry says that engineers are working to ensure that the quality requirements of the Internet from xCloud were as low as possible.

    Why does Microsoft need it?

    With the advent of a new generation of consoles (PS4 and xBox One), Microsoft has entered a new stage in the race for gaming attention with its main competitor in this market - Sony. Objectively, at one time, xBox 360 dominated PS3 for a variety of reasons, and Microsoft did not want to lose ground in this fast-growing market. And even taking into account the failed presentation of the new console (we all remember the stories of Kinect spying and the ban on transferring games to friends, over whom even Sony representatives themselves notably sneered), for the first few years xBox One successfully fought a competitor and even at some point became more salable than ps4 console. And then the Japanese launched their exclusive pipeline and the expression “no fuck igor” became more applicable to xBox than to the PlayStation.

    Instead of working on exclusives, Microsoft headed for online gaming and building a full-fledged PC-xBox cross-ecosystem. But something went wrong and in all regions except America Microsoft seriously loses to its competitors from Japan.

    In fact, with its launch of xCloud, Microsoft partially recognizes that this decade is a decade of Sony and the company is leaving to develop the mobile gaming market, which Sony tried to enter ten years ago with its PS Vita.

    What can go wrong

    The first thing to remember is that gaming is not watching videos on Youtube. We are talking about a full-fledged real-time stream in high bitrate without buffering and other tricks of network engineers, which allow us to now watch videos with cats without lags and waiting for downloads. The xCould service will be incredibly demanding of both speed and stability of the connection in terms of packet loss. That is, the Microsoft service also becomes dependent on the mobile Internet in the regions.

    The second pitfall is that according to preliminary statements by the authors of the system, the games will be streamed “as is”, that is, without any modifications and changes by the developers. Those who held the gamepad in their hands know that there are not 8 buttons on it that can easily fit as a touchscreen on the device screen. Many games are actively used and "triggers" and even clicks on the sticks, not to mention the main "crosses" management. The only obvious and adequate solution to this issue is the use of the “mobile device + xBox gamepad” bundle, from which the design looks too cumbersome. 5-8 years ago, they tried to accustom users to such a bundle for complex mobile games, but the practice somehow did not take root.

    The third argument against the viability of xCloud speaks Japanese, but this is not Sony, but Nintendo. For a couple of years already, the “marching” gaming segment is densely occupied by the Nintendo Switch, which broke into this market with its Legends of Zelda and other classic titles, is entrenched and is not going to go anywhere. In fact, it is Nintendo with their mini-console that is now a direct competitor to xCloud.

    And finally, it should be said that the very concept of xCloud was spied on by the same Sony, only with some amendments. At the dawn of PS4, when PS Vita was still being sold and fans believed that Sony’s mini-console would live, the Japanese giant offered users the mode of broadcasting from PS4 to PS Vita via Wi-Fi, or remote control of the console (download, system) via the Internet.

    The experience was extremely curious and even funny, but it did not take root: if you choose between a TV and a small screen of a mobile device when playing console games, then of course you will win TV. The broadcast on PS Vita was used in a very extreme case, or when I wanted to lie on my back, but did not stop the gameplay. Sony recognized the product as a "dead end" and refused to support and further develop this area, and the Japanese are very stubborn and change strategy extremely rarely.

    We are waiting for answers to the most important questions.

    Microsoft in its blog post did not answer the most important questions: what kind of hardware (judging by the hints in the rack will be stuffed with xBox One, which looks at least strange), to whom it will be available and how much it will cost. For now, the most likely way of development of events seems to be the access to xCloud model by subscription for current xBox owners with linking their account. However, this approach will not help to expand the xBox audience and, quite possibly, the service will be open to all comers.

    But on the other hand, there is not much sense in this for gamers: it’s hard to believe that for $ 5-15 per month Microsoft will provide access to all their games via xCloud, and buying games for xBox One without having this very xBox One is strange. If you look towards the PS PLus model, when a subscriber receives 5-6 games a month for free, then everything is not going smoothly. People will not play only what they give.

    There remains the option of selling games at a reduced cost several times, at the level of mobile games on Google Play and the AppStore, but in this case, right from here (through time and space) you can see how the user comes home, launches $ 60-title, which he got for $ 5 , on the phone, turns on the screen broadcast mode on the TV, picks up a gamepad and falls on the sofa, ready to enjoy Microsoft's bounty.

    Only registered users can participate in the survey. Sign in , please.

    Take off?

    Also popular now: