Tech corner

Why is Microsoft targeting video game developers?


Everything we know so far about Microsoft's exciting plan to revolutionise the gaming world

With Amazon announcing a plan to move into the video game industry, Microsoft has jumped onto the bandwagon too, announcing an ambitious vision for the future of gaming that’s as simple and attractive as Netflix. Put simply, both companies are set to develop their own streamed gaming services, which would allow users to play as many blockbuster video games as they want for a monthly fee, potentially without even needing a console. We’ve compiled everything we know so far about Microsoft's exciting plan to revolutionise the gaming world.


The name of the streaming service is Project xCloud, and it’s set to go public as soon as this year. However, the biggest potential problem with this service is that almost every other major tech company is also working on or considering a move into some form of video game streaming technology. Several of them have either already been announced or are available already, such as Google's Project Stream and Sony's PlayStation Now, whereas others are little more than an announcement, like with Verizon and Amazon. But whether all of these potential services see the light of day or not, it’s safe to say that Microsoft is certainly not alone in its plans.


Google's Project Stream was the first to show off the ability to stream blockbuster games in web browsers, starting with recent release Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. A public test gave access from late last year until January 2019, and it seemed to go down pretty well with users. Off the back of this response, Google is expected to announce bigger plans for its foray into gaming anytime now. The company is ahead of Microsoft when it comes to product testing – public trials of Project xCloud have been promised to take place this year, but fans have yet to receive a specific date. The service is currently only available to test privately on an invite-only basis.


Another competitor on the market is Sony, which has been running a subscription-based video game streaming service via PlayStation Now for around five years. This service enables PlayStation 4 and PC users to play a wide selection of PlayStation 2, 3, and 4 games without a download, instead paying a monthly subscription fee for as many games as desired.


The biggest problem that Microsoft may face here is meeting the high demands of video game streaming. Sites like Netflix and Hulu can stream video data to your television, smartphone, laptop, PC and other devices easily if you have a stable internet connection. If you’re using public Wi-Fi you’ll probably experience the odd bit of buffering, which doesn’t matter too much when watching a movie or TV show. However, those small stutters matter much more if you're playing a video game, and in some cases can mean the difference between winning the game and deciding it’s unplayable. Being faced with pixelated graphics in a brand new release can be extremely frustrating, and if you’re streaming or playing with friends, experiencing lag is just as bad.


With a high number of data centres located across the world, hopefully Microsoft will be able to find an efficient way to get rid of these issues by matching players geographically with the strongest connection closest to them. What we do know is that KCOM Lightstream will definitely be up to the task, helping Hull’s players to compete with the very best from around the globe.


You can read more about Project xCloud on the Microsoft blog.

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