After a number of quiet months since the launch of the Switch back in March 2017, all of a sudden the new console rumour mill is churning again. A few months ago there was much discussion that some game developers already had their hands on development kits for the PlayStation 5. Then last week came the Wall Street Journal report that Nintendo were planning on launching a new iteration of the Switch next year.
Today, we got the news of Microsoft's Project xCloud, officially announced in an informative video:
The video discusses a goal that numerous companies have been pursuing for years, and that Google have recently entered the fray for. Essentially, via cloud streaming, Project xCloud aims to enable almost any modern device - smartphone, tablet, or other - to play high-end games. It does this by granting devices access to enormous data centres, where the actual heavy lifting of the game - the graphics, processing etc. - is done. The result is that playing the game on your device is like watching a streaming video via Netflix or Twitch.
There have always been some major barriers to this process, including having internet connections and systems fast enough to beam controller inputs to the data centre and have them beamed back for inputs to feel instantaneous. However, with this announcement, Microsoft appear to be making the sizeable claim that they have solved the major issues surrounding game streaming.
This announcement is significant for several reasons. Firstly, streaming games has the potential to completely revolutionise how people play games, although as Microsoft are at pains to point out in the above video, they don't foresee this being the end of the Xbox. Instead, as we covered
when discussing Microsoft's Project Scarlet, rumoured to be the Xbox One replacement, they may well end up launching two consoles. One would operate as a traditional home console, and do all of its processing locally in the box. The other would be a streaming device.
Another interesting thing about this announcement is the timing. Microsoft's XO18 conference is next month, and it seems likely that if they had nothing more to announce on the topic, they would have saved this announcement until then. Perhaps we'll get a release date, perhaps we'll get more specs - or perhaps we'll get more information about Project Scarlet.