As cloud gaming becomes more accepted with services like Onlive and PlayStation Now, it’s not surprising that a report from technology news website Neowin says that Microsoft is experimenting with game streaming. According to the report, Microsoft is testing Xbox 360 and Xbox One games that would run on Microsoft’s Azure cloud and sent as a stream to your browser.
The game streams would run at 60 fps, and will full dashboard support, just like consoles. The games could be streamed not only to PCs, but to smartphones or tablets. The report claims that the service has progressed beyond the concept stage and is currently in testing, with highly positive reactions so far from users.
Microsoft has already shown off some streaming technology last year, demonstrating Halo 4 running from the cloud. The important thing about that demonstration is the low latency that was shown, which made the game very playable. Latency is noticed strongly in action games, where players can easily detect even very small amounts of lag between the time a controller button is pressed and the corresponding action appears on screen.
Such a service would likely build upon Outatime, a research project within the company made public last month, which used FPS Doom 3 and RPG Fable III to test a method of disguising network latency for “mobile cloud gaming”. Microsoft could use a streaming game service to compete directly with PlayStation Now, the Sony streaming service currently in Open Beta in the US and Canada.
As with PlayStation Now, though, solving the technical issues is merely part of the problem. Creating a viable business model is a challenging task. Consumers may expect a subscription model similar to Netflix, though that’s likely to return much less revenue to individual games. Would Microsoft see this as a separate profit center, or use it to provide an additional incentive to pay for Xbox Live service. One thing a streaming game service could also do: It would solve the problem of backwards compatibility, allowing Xbox One owners to play old Xbox 360 titles . . . though again, the issue of how much this will cost the user is really going to determine how popular this technology might be. What do you think?