Microsoft formally announces Project xCloud, bringing Xbox gaming to tablets and phones

Laurent Giret

The video games streaming service that Xbox head Phil Spencer announced back at E3 2018 now has an official name, Project xCloud. Kareem Choudhry, Corporate Vice President, Gaming Cloud at Microsoft shared today the first details about the company’s “state-of-the-art global game-streaming technology,” which will go in public preview next year.

First of all, Project xCloud will be a “multi-year journey” for the company, and Microsoft aims to leverage its 54 Azure regions across the world to deliver a great experience to all gamers, regardless of location. The cloud service will be powered by custom blades that will combine the components of multiple Xbox One consoles, as seen in the video below:

Microsoft is well aware that a lot of consumers don’t have a fast Internet connection today, and that’s why the Redmond giant is currently experimenting with some unique things to improve latency on average connections. The good new is that you apparently won’t need to have fiber optics Internet to enjoy Project xCloud:

Developers and researchers at Microsoft Research are creating ways to combat latency through advances in networking topology, and video encoding and decoding. Project xCloud will have the capability to make game streaming possible on 4G networks and will dynamically scale to push against the outer limits of what’s possible on 5G networks as they roll out globally. Currently, the test experience is running at 10 megabits per second. Our goal is to deliver high-quality experiences at the lowest possible bitrate that work across the widest possible networks, taking into consideration the uniqueness of every device and network.

As Phil Spencer previously said during E3, Project xCloud will also work on mobile devices including phones and tablets, and Kareem Choundry revealed today that an Xbox wireless controller won’t be mandatory on those devices. “We are developing a new, game-specific touch input overlay that provides maximum response in a minimal footprint for players who choose to play without a controller,” he explained.

As for the content that will be available on Protect xCloud, Choundry said that Microsoft has “enabled compatibility with existing and future Xbox games,” and that the company is already inviting game developers to get on board. “Developers of the more than 3,000 games available on Xbox One today, and those building the thousands that are coming in the future, will be able to deploy and dramatically scale access to their games across all devices on Project xCloud with no additional work,” the exec explained.

Microsoft isn’t the first company to launch a video games streaming service, but Project xCloud being available on phones and tablets is quite unprecentended. “Project xCloud is about providing gamers — whether they prefer console or PC — new  choices in when and where they play, while giving mobile-only players access to worlds, characters and  immersive stories they haven’t been able to experience before,” said Choundry. This is a pretty ambitious project, to say the least, and it’s still not clear yet if there will be minimum specs to access the service on mobile. Anyway, the public preview won’t launch until next year and we should learn details more about Project xCloud in the coming months.