Earlier today, Microsoft detailed a little more information about its upcoming game streaming platform, Project xCloud, including a demo of it being used on an Android smartphone.
The idea behind xCloud is that you can play console quality games on a portable device, provided you have a strong enough internet connection. Rather than running the games locally, as you would right now with a console or PC, all the heavy lifting is done by a data centre, with the result streamed directly to a screen of your choosing, be it a TV, phone, tablet, and so on.
During Microsoft’s latest Inside Xbox episode, the company’s head of cloud gaming, Kareem Choudhry, spoke about how xCloud is the next logical step for the company’s gaming initiative in the context of backwards compatibility and the “Play Anywhere” program, which allows one copy of a game to be played across both Xbox and Windows PC.
You can see the demo below, which is Forza Horizon 4 played on a phone.
Play the games you want, on the devices you want, whenever you want. Project xCloud has big plans, and they’re kicking off this year. #InsideXbox pic.twitter.com/kyoXSjDc4W
— Xbox (@Xbox) March 12, 2019
Choudhry also mentions that public trials for the service will begin at some point this year, so we’ll have an even better understanding of how it’ll perform when that rolls around. If I had to guess, I reckon Microsoft will aim to start trials around E3, which takes place in June.
The biggest question Australian gamers are likely to have is, will xCloud run reliably on our country’s frankly shithouse internet infrastructure? Good internet can certainly be hard to find, and latency in online games alone is often a point of contention amongst the local community, so it’s a valid concern.
“Anywhere where you have a good network connection, you’ll be able to participate in Project xCloud,” Choudhry states in the video.
We reached out to Xbox Australia who is confident the technology will be strong enough to meet gamers’ expectations.
“As with any network-based product, the user’s specific network conditions may impact the quality of the experience,” an Xbox spokesperson told PEDESTRIAN.TV. “However, we’re confident our cloud-streaming technology will deliver the best experience possible for the conditions the user has.”
Given the US initiative is to replicate “the exact experience as the game makers intended it,” it’s likely the local AU team has some sort of solution in mind, whether it’s more data centres, or something else completely. There are four Azure regions in Australia currently, which is defined as “an area within a geography containing one or more datacenters”. In other words, there should be plenty to build on here, but the issue isn’t necessarily the infrastructure on Microsoft’s side, it’s what’s in between the datacentres and your home.
As Choudhry stated in a blog late last year, tests at the time were running at 10 megabits per second. By comparison, most consoles recommend a speed of at least 3 Mbps for online play, but remember, those games are running on your own hardware, so obviously extra is required to stream an entire game from a server.
Our average internet speed as of June 2018 was 30.53 Mbps, compared to a global average of 45.48 Mbps.
There’s no way to know for sure just yet, but I think the framework is there and those with a decent NBN or cable internet connection could get a good experience out of the service.
All eyes will certainly be on the public trials for more details on performance.