At GDC, Microsoft’s VP of Cloud Gaming opens up on the future of streaming

Kareem Anderson

On the heels of Google’s cannonball into the gaming industry with the announcement of its new streaming platform dubbed Stadia, news regarding Microsoft’s GDC 2019 outing are beginning to resurface in comparison.

Despite not formally attending GDC 2019, Google has effectively become a focal point of conversation amongst attendees and presenters with its recent Stadia unveiling.

However, leading up to Google’s leg sweep of an announcement, Microsoft was positioned as the darling visionary with hints that the company was also ready to offer more details on its own cloud gaming ambitions.

According to Eurogamer, who conducted a quick interview prior to Google’s news with Kareem Choudhry, vice president of Microsoft’s gaming cloud had this to offer fans of cloud gaming,

“In the gaming division, our goal is to reach everyone on the planet, to enable them to play the games they want when they want on the devices they want,” he tells us in a swish Microsoft office in downtown San Francisco, just a block away from where the Google keynote will be taking place. “Our strategy is shifting from one that’s console-centric, where step one is please buy our console and steps two through to 58 are things accessed off the console. We’re starting to put the customer at the centre of what we do, and recognise that they have multiple devices, multiple lifestyles, then bring it all together in a cohesive way.”

Similar to what Google unveiled, Microsoft’s approach also consist of identical audience pillars which include community, content and cloud. Unlike Google who can leverage its YouTube community, Microsoft will be seeking to enthuse its Mixer and Xbox Live participants to help stimulate its cloud gaming efforts.

As for cloud and content, the interview nature with Eurogamer offers quite a bit more detailed than the presentation Google offered yesterday.

Microsoft address a seemingly untouched point by Google during its hour long announcement pertaining to the question of why, why is Microsoft getting into streaming?

In terms of why right now, you get this confluence of technology, consumer expectation, the device agnostic lifestyle that we’re starting to lead, the rollout of 5G that’s coming – that’s an important element, though in terms of our own plans that’s not a requirement. I always like to cover some of the hard problems. Music streaming was around the launch of 3G, video was what kicked off with 4G and there’s a general belief that game streaming is what will be the killer workload for 5G. Video is non-interactive, and gaming by its nature is interactive. I’ve spent two decades thinking about the game loop, all the way from input to TV display latency to 30fps/60fps/120fps.

Another important topic of discussion is how Microsoft plans to operate its GamePass alongside xCloud and whether or not their might be a bundling of the two.

Obviously GamePass is our subscription service, it’s really where we want to deliver great experiences and value to our customers. And right now it’s a console product – we have aspirations to bring it to more users and more places. Project xCloud and GamePass are going to co-exist in some reasonable way.

Thankfully, for those who admire the current console paradigm, Eurogamer ask the most important question regarding the fate the console ecosystem in Microsoft’s view.

Unlike Google, Microsoft has a built a pretty adamant console base to which it needs to gradually convenience the merits of game streaming, whereas Google is starting at zero and can feasibly mover more nimbly and ambitiously.

I’ve been building consoles for 15 years – we’re not getting out of the console business, we spoke about it in our xCloud videos. We love our consoles, we love that business, and we’re super proud to have the most powerful console out on the market place today and that leadership position we hope to retain going foward. And I also believe your best premium experience is going to be dedicated hardware running under your TV in your living room. It’s an ‘and’ conversation, not an ‘or’ conversation. Everyone loves to jump to the death of consoles, and I think it makes a great headline, but we don’t think that way at all.

Despite Google’s more ambitious rollout of its cloud gaming platform, the company seems to understand the tight rope walk of pandering to a gaming audience by also providing a physical console for people to purchase alongside its relatively robust streaming option.

Microsoft has been relatively gracious when discussing perceived competitors in the market, and just recently, head of Xbox Phil Spencer acknowledge Google’s impressive gambit and assured observers that later this year at E3 2019, Microsoft plans to be similarly impressive with its own announcements.