After Google’s concrete plans for the launch of Stadia, we expected Microsoft to dedicate serious time to its Project xCloud service at this E3. Instead we got just a few quotes from Phil Spencer on stage – but they did cover a number of significant points.
First up, Project xCloud will launch in October of this year, which puts it roughly one month ahead of Google Stadia. Though further details make it clear that Microsoft’s offering has crucial differences from Google’s.
As we long suspected, Microsoft will go for a hybrid streaming system, as opposed to a pure cloud-based one. It also means that current-generation Xbox’s will support the hybrid service, rather than consumers having to wait for next-gen hardware.
“You’ll have two ways to stream, there’s a new platform feature: Console Streaming. It turns your Xbox One into your own personal and free xCloud server,” said Spencer. Which is a logical expansion of the local Wi-Fi streaming the platform already allows to other Windows-based devices on your home network.
That “free” part means Microsoft will only charge users for using cloud-based servers. The idea of a free to use cloud for Xbox owners is a brilliant one, leveraging the huge install base to encourage use in the service, without having to provide inordinate servers for users who already have idle Xbox consoles in their homes.
“Whether you’re using a console in our data centre, or your console at home, this October you’ll be able to use a hybrid gaming cloud to play your games wherever you go,” Spencer continued. “Where you play is now entirely your choice, you decide.”
Microsoft will be demoing Project xCloud publicly for the first time at E3 this week. Though the usefulness of such demos in the past, be they connected to immense fibre optic links or struggling with conference floor Wi-Fi, are not terribly indicative of any individuals final experience.