Google (GOOGL) Stadia, you have a challenger.
Microsoft is working on a game streaming service of its own, called Project XCloud, and may have a few tricks up its sleeve as competition in the space heats up.
Onstage at GDC, Microsoft (MSFT) executives teased more details about XCloud — and made their pitch to developers on how to build content for the forthcoming service.
“Our promise…is to enable you to create the games you want, for the consumers you want, for the devices you want. And without needing any special skills or tools to take advantage of that,” said Gus Apostol, a principal at Microsoft.
Microsoft executives ran through several demonstrations on how to make games “cloud-aware” as well as adaptive to touch, which would be needed for the game to work on a phone or tablet.
Not unlike Google’s Stadia, the idea behind Microsoft’s XCloud project is to make it possible to play any game on any device, with whomever you choose, all in a seamless experience amongst devices or surfaces. And similarly, Microsoft’s XCloud is backed up by Microsoft’s Azure — in 54 regions, with 135 edge sites, and 161,000 kilometers of fiber to be precise, the company said.
Microsoft’s message to developers was clear: If you’ve made Xbox games, you can easily make them work for XCloud with minimal effort, and without having to break open any code. Rather, using some of the tools in Game Stack, which Microsoft unveiled last week, game makers can simply fine-tune the game experience for phones or other devices if they wish, and then have those games playable on an array of devices.
Another main message? Community is important — and if you have an existing community around your game, you’ll take them with you.
“Our proposition is that you take these communities with you as you make this journey into the cloud,” Apostol added. “I think it’s pretty straightforward: ‘Put Xbox in the cloud.””
Both Google and Microsoft have their own public clouds to power the streaming experiences, but there are a few key differences between the tech giants that could affect how the streaming platforms are received, and who will play them. Amazon (AMZN) , too, is reportedly building its own game streaming service.
As for Google, Stadia will leverage an existing community of gameplay watchers on YouTube, according to Google executives, who could be converted into players through a “Play Now’ button that will launch you directly into a game. Microsoft, of course, has a deep footprint in gaming through Xbox and Xbox Live, which has 64 million monthly users.
How well XCloud and Stadia work, and how much gaming communities will embrace them, won’t be known for another few months. Google said that Stadia will be out sometime in 2019 and Microsoft has also said that XCloud will begin rolling out this year. Neither has announced pricing.
Microsoft shares were up 2.30% on Thursday, and Alphabet shares were up 0.79%.
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