Analysis: Microsoft’s cloud gaming strategy on Xbox is a great example of Microsoft’s Strategy versus Sony or Nintendo

(Microsoft Photo)

Microsoft revealed on Tuesday morning that the long-expected debut of its cloud gaming service on the Xbox family of consoles is set for this holiday season, following earlier releases of Xbox Cloud Gaming on PCs and mobile devices.

Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscribers will have the ability to access compatible games almost instantly via Microsoft’s cloud servers. This feature will have its own tab in the Xbox Game Pass console UI. It indicates which games are compatible with cloud-play.

You can now try games without having to wait.

S hardware. Your local Xbox’s processing power doesn’t really matter if it is only transmitting inputs between remote Microsoft cloud servers. So in theory you could use the cloud for a virtual upgrade to your Xbox One.

Microsoft hyped up the advantages of cloud computing, but they all boil down to their immediacy. The Game Pass is a simple way to play a cloud-based game.

You don’t have to wait for a software download to experience something different. Cloud Gaming. You want something to do after the download is finished? Cloud Gaming. Are you looking to have fun with a group of friends and play now . Cloud Gaming. You can use it for personal purposes.

It comes with all the usual downsides. Cloud gaming is notoriously slow and eats bandwidth, almost as much as streaming HD video. You can play games on Xbox Cloud Gaming to reach your data limit if you have a residential ISP.

Xbox cloud games have a 1080p resolution at 60 frames per second. This is similar to Xbox Series S. Their sense of visual spectacle is being sucked to the point that cloud versions are a gross misrepresentation.

The service is not yet available in all countries. At time of writing, Microsoft maintains a webpage to indicate which countries currently have access to which services via the Game Pass project. International users are advised to keep an eye out for this website as the Game Pass is basically four separate services that have been loosely combined.

I can summarize my experience with Xbox Cloud Gaming’s browser-based version. However, if you are planning to spend any time on a particular title, it is better to use a local install.

This is double true for any online-related product. Even the most powerful internet connections will struggle to maintain a connection with both Microsoft’s cloud or a gaming server at once. Microsoft’s State Of Decay 2 was a good example. I felt it had enough lag that I could not use the cloud to dial into it.

An official Microsoft mock-up from Gamescom 2021 of how cloud-compatible titles can be found on the Xbox Series X|S console UI. (Microsoft image)

This does, however, continue Microsoft’s existing strategy in gaming. Earlier this summer, just before E3, Microsoft released a pre-recorded conference that discussed its gaming initiatives, where Xbox’s Phil Spencer referred to the Game Pass service as a “discovery engine.”

Microsoft has shown subscribers that they can play 40% more titles and 30% more Xbox games, even though the Pass requires a local install. It is possible to reduce the installation time so that players can jump into new games immediately.

This is Microsoft’s ninth generation console strategy. To sell its PlayStation 5, Sony continues to depend on its large library of exclusives and international appeal. Nintendo also has tentpole brands that help it stay relevant and a stronghold on the portable market.

Microsoft’s appeal right now (in these months prior to the release of Halo Infinite), comes from the way it is removing the hobby aspects of gaming. The Xbox ecosystem makes it easier to discover new games faster than on the Switch or PS5.

As more console exclusives begin to stream onto the Xbox from large third-party Microsoft purchases like Bethesda it should provide more than just convenience. Microsoft’s main argument for its console right now is simplicity of use at the consumer level. It’s much more persuasive than I expected.

Xbox Cloud Gaming will be available for testing this fall by members of Microsoft’s Xbox Insider Program. The results from this testing phase will likely determine when the service goes live to the public.

Microsoft announced cloud gaming during this year’s Gamescom press conference. This show is traditionally held in the late summer in Cologne and has been a highlight of the European gaming industry’s calendar. Due to COVID issues this year, the show will now be held online.

Gamescom also saw Techland unveil its long-awaited Zombie Parkour Game Dying Light 2 : Stay Human on December 7th. Also, Humble Games announced a deal that will bring 10 more indies to Xbox Game Pass. There were several updates to Microsoft Flight Simulator including an electric taxi mode, a race mode, and a console version of Paradox’s epic strategy game Crusader Kings III.

However, one notable oversight in the Gamescom presentation was the lack of any additional news on Halo Infinite which will still be launched at the end the year.

Publiated at Tue 24 August 2021 21.56:35 +0000

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