Microsoft is a technology company and when they see a problem that they think they can solve, they put their best and brightest minds to a solution. So when the question arises as to why cloud-based gaming hasn’t taken off and the answer is lag (to put it simply), the company sees this as a time to get to work.
A few weeks back, a Microsoft research project showed that the company had built a cloud-based gaming service that reduced the lag by a significant margin. Of course, Microsoft has many research products that never seem to make it out of the labs for one reason or another, but this product is a bit different.
Microsoft is testing out playing games in your browser and not just any games. We're talking Xbox games - and not just last-generation titles either. In fact, even Xbox One titles are currently said to be in the works too.
And don’t think this is some watered-down experience; one source told us that he thought the experience was right around 60FPS, while another stated that this is going to be the company’s next killer gaming feature.
The Xbox 360 games offer up the full experience, including the dashboard running in the browser too. So don't think this is some hacked together project, this is the real deal. The product, as it stands right now, has Xbox branding and works outside the walls of Microsoft.
It makes sense too - think about how quickly you can connect to Microsoft’s Azure platform when using the Xbox One and then apply that to this service. Microsoft has already proven that cloud-based off-loads can work with Titanfall and this is the next extension of that concept.
The service is not perfect as there are many barriers to overcome to bring this product to market. One issue is licensing; Microsoft may have to work with publishers to allow for this type of gameplay as it could cut into their revenue from PC game sales.
The implications here are huge for Microsoft as it removes the console from the equation to tap into the gaming market. Also, by off-loading the processing power needed to run these games, it means that they can run on any type of device. Microsoft’s current solution is not browser-locked either; it runs in Chrome as well as it does in Internet Explorer.
It was about this time last year that Microsoft showed off Halo 4 running in the cloud on various devices at the company’s all-employee meeting, and this project is the on-going work from that demo to bring it to more users. Our understanding is that significant progress has been made from that demo and it is now being rolled out to more users.
Microsoft is not the first to do this, with the most popular service being OnLive, proving that the model works - but putting Microsoft’s Xbox muscle and game library behind the service will certainly give it credibility.
There are still many questions about how well it will scale as right now the user testing is limited and with millions of Xbox users out there, Microsoft has to go forward carefully as they only get one shot at launching the service.
We also don’t know when this feature will go live either. Based on the current level of testing, it is beyond the concept stage and it is looking increasingly likely that this feature will be released at some point in the not-too-distant future. But, as with anything not officially announced, it could be killed before it launches but seeing how Microsoft is moving everything to Azure, we expect this product to be released at some point down the road.