Project xCloud eyes native console games on mobile via Azure cloud

Even while it is having not so small issues with Windows 10 updates, Microsoft seems to already be turning its gaze towards a new ambitious venture on the gaming side of its businesses. Perhaps emboldened by how its Xbox gaming and entertainment arm has been its most profitable last year, Microsoft is trying to expand its territory in ways it knows Sony and especially Nintendo will probably never do: bring its console games not just to PCs but to mobile as well.

Bringing console and PC games to mobile isn't exactly new. It isn't easy either. It requires an ungodly mix of emulation and retrofitting and, because of hardware restraints, often only involve very old titles. In contrast, Microsoft's proposed solution via Project xCloud won't require developers to modify even a single line of code.

Microsoft has been pretty coy about what it plans for its Project xCloud game streaming technology, but a session at GDC 2019 next month sheds a bit more light on the matter. It turns out, Microsoft wants to bring native Xbox console games to mobile but rather indirectly via its Azure cloud infrastructure. More interesting, however, is how they plan on making it almost painless for any game developer to do so.

"Project xCloud is enabling Console Native games to stream through our Azure-hosted game servers and streaming clients. Any Console Native game currently shipping in the Microsoft Store on Xbox will be capable of streaming to a mobile device. Project xCloud is an open platform with a customizable Client UX where streaming starts with Xbox game developers not having to modify a single line of existing game code."

Together with CEO Satya Nadella's admission of calling it "Netflix for Games" and another GDC 2019 talk on bringing Xbox Live to mobile and the Nintendo Switch, Microsoft is clearly casting its net as wide as possible, especially since it knows its rivals can't. Although Nintendo does have mobile games, it is slow to adapt. And Sony's self-imposed isolation ensures it will have nowhere to turn to in the future.

That said, Microsoft's plans hinges on one important variable: game developer and publisher support. With publishers eyeing their own stores or even their own streaming services, they might have fewer incentives to jump onboard Microsoft's train. Microsoft could rely on its Xbox exclusives, but that well is also starting to dry up.