Cloud-based streaming is one of the hottest topics in the gaming market thanks to the launch of Google Stadia. It isn’t the only game in town, of course, but its rivals seem to still be taking some time building up their arsenal and their business. Stadia’s biggest competition may come from Microsoft whose Project xCloud is already in a limited testing phase. Just like Stadia, however, it needs games to actually make that happen and it’s now showing how developers can do exactly that.
Unlike Stadia, Microsoft already stated that xCloud’s goal isn’t exactly to be able to game on any device. Instead, it is focusing on allowing Xbox gamers to play anywhere on the one device they might always have with them, their smartphones. That focus brings a couple of considerations specific to that device and Project xCloud is explaining the areas they need to focus on based on their limited Preview.
The biggest divide that separates mobile games and Xbox games are controls. While it’s certainly possible to connect a game controller to a phone, mobile gamers prefer not to. Cloud-aware Xbox games, therefore, need to support touch overlays that map to in-game controls, something that’s admittedly easier to do when a game is primarily driven by gamepads rather than keyboard and mouse.
Compared to input, screen sizes might be a secondary but still important consideration, even with phones having high-resolution displays. However, a cloud-based game streaming service like xCloud will live and die by how the platform and its games handle network connectivity and latency.
Microsoft is providing game developers with these insights and tools that could help them build games that offer a “best-in-class” streaming experience. How that will translate into practice for both new games and especially older titles, remains to be seen.