An Xbox Cloud Box Possibly Inbound

Earlier today, Brad Sams broke news of a possible approach for Microsoft’s next gen console strategy. Lead by the good graces of those in the know, Brad outlined a strategy where Microsoft would not only release a traditional next gen box, but also a significantly cheaper system with an emphasis on streaming from the cloud, presumably Azure servers, as opposed to playing games locally.

The family of consoles, code named Xbox Scarlett, would work alongside one another in order to attract a broader reach of players. Microsoft’s core strategy has shifted towards cloud services over the last few years and the new streaming box, in tandem with the new streaming service referred to as Scarlett Cloud, would offer a natural and seamless transition into the Xbox division.

Sony and Microsoft make the bulk of their money through game licensing and services, a notion Sony has become more cozy with after the introduction of paid online multiplayer. Its service, PlayStation Plus, had roughly 34 million subscribers as of March 2018.

It’s important to remember that the bulk of profits do not come directly from game console sales, and instead result from licensing and services. Sony has gotten serious about this with PS4, forcing users to pay for online multiplayer as well as offering a game streaming service of their own, PlayStation Now, as rudimentary as it is.

2 Steps Forward and Always Behind

One of the chief complaints of video game streaming, myself included, is the introduction of input lag. You can’t quite enjoy a fast paced action oriented experience if your movements are delayed and unresponsive.

This, along with the status quo of compression, is what Microsoft will need to tackle if they want to make the Xbox streaming service the start of something grand as opposed to a muddled detour for the industry as a whole.

Thankfully, it’s something that their engineers have been hard at work to ameliorate. The following excerpt from Thurrott.com addresses this:

The cloud console will have a limited amount of compute locally for specific tasks like controller input, image processing, and importantly, collision detection. – Thurrott.com

Personally, this little bit of information pointing to a somewhat hybrid approach to game streaming paints a very exciting picture for the initiative as a whole. The precedent set by a design such as this, fully realized, is immense.

Furthermore, while digging through a topic on resetera I was turned on to a YouTube video by Microsoft outlining this exact type of technology, modeled for the mobile landscape.

This video, as seen above, is one that I highly recommend anyone interested in the tech behind Microsoft’s approach to streaming. Kahawai, the name for the tech, details a landscape where streaming doesn’t need to be entirely offloaded to the cloud, and for the better.

Disc(less)world

I for one am incredibly excited to see what Microsoft has in store concerning this bold new approach to console gaming. While just a rumor, their recent strategies within the Xbox division, and the company as a whole, make it something more than a possibility.

Reconciliation with less than stellar internet all around the world, a removal of true game ownership, and vulnerability to inconsistent gameplay experiences are all things to worry about. Even still, there’s nothing wrong with more choices, especially since we know that Microsoft will be releasing a traditional console.

And as unfortunate as the situation may turn out, I do believe game streaming, just as video streaming currently is, will be the dominant form of play in the future. In the meantime, let’s hope that players don’t over zealously hype this rumor into a utopian grace from the gaming gods.

Just as with virtual reality, the tech just isn’t there to make this an earth shattering innovation just yet – hiccups are abound.

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