Microsoft explained how Project xCloud will work on phones at GDC

Laurent Giret

Microsoft briefly showcased its Project xCloud game streaming service last week during its Inside Xbox live stream, but the short demo left us hungry for more. What we saw was the racing game Forza Horizon 4 running on an Android phone connected to an Xbox One controller, but Microsoft previously explained that it had also designed a new touch interface to make Project xCloud work on all phones and tablets.

The software giant finally shared more details about this new touch interface at GDC yesterday. Russell Holly, managing editor at Mobile Nations attended the sessions and shared most of it content on Twitter.

The most interesting learnings from this Project xCloud session were that Project xCloud will provide a default glass controller layout for games played on a phone, but developers will be able to customize it for their games when that makes sense. Microsoft is also doing the platform work to allow developers to create different touch layouts, allowing mobile players to switch between them on the fly.

The other interesting information we learned is that Project xCloud will be device aware, which means that it will be able to optimize the gameplay experience depending on the device and the gamer’s environment. As an example, when playing on an phone it will be possible to use familiar touch controls where it makes sense, like pinch to zoom on an in-game map.

Microsoft also explained yesterday that if the player happens to play on a mobile device with sub-optimal connectivity, Project xCloud will also be able to tune the game to reduce latency. The multiplayer matchmaking experience in games will also be fine tuned for mobile players, for example by matchmaking xCloud players together.

With custom touch controls for each game, touch enabled menus and latency measurement tools to optimize the experience for mobile players, it seems that Microsoft will make sure that Project xCloud will provide a great experience for the generation of gamers who had their first gaming experiences on mobile devices. The other important thing is that adapting existing Xbox games for Project xCloud should require very little work for developers, compared to porting games to Google’s new Stadia cloud-based platform.

Public testing for Project xCloud will kick off later this year, and we expect Microsoft to share more details at E3 in June. In reaction to the Google Stadia reveal, Xbox head Phil Spencer confidently said that Microsoft plans to “go big” at E3 this year.