While Google have been fumbling with Stadia, Microsoft’s approach to cloud technology in gaming has been much more laudable. Striking a balance between focusing on dedicated hardware and investing in cloud tech, Microsoft’s much more measured growth and pace in the area seems like the way to go in an industry that currently doesn’t have the infrastructure to support the ambitions that so many seem to have with cloud gaming. But even so, already, the potential in Microsoft’s cloud has been exciting many with its potential, to the point that even Sony have decided to collaborate with them to make use of their technology.
James Gwertzman, Microsoft’s general manager for gaming cloud, recently spoke in an interview with Geisha411, and talked about what the future holds for cloud gaming in the industry. Gwertzman was formerly the CEO and founder of PlayFab, a company that Microsoft eventually acquired and have used as part of the foundation, alongside Azure, of their cloud initiatives, and according to him, cloud technology is going to allow developers to leverage tools to create the kind of experiences that would not otherwise be possible. Most of that comes down to how cloud technology will not only speed up production, but also make distribution much smoother.
“We have a number of ‘industry priority scenarios,’” he said. “It doesn’t roll off the tongue, but they’re things that we think the industry really cares about today that may be pain points that we’re trying to help with. The first one on our list of five is to accelerate game production with the cloud.
“This act of content creation, once you have it in the cloud, distribution becomes more fluid. We see this with xCloud. It started out as just racking Xboxes in datacenters and streaming it. Now we’re getting more experience with it, and you may be able to build game experiences that would not be possible without running in the cloud. Games were you can have lots of players in a single environment interacting in new ways.
“xCloud was about putting Xboxes in the cloud but the broader term is pixel streaming, where you’re running GPUs in the cloud and streaming it down. Initially pixel streaming is going to be useful in non-gaming scenarios like architecture or retail where you want a 3D experience but you don’t have to have the hardware. That will then move into gaming and you’ll see developers leveraging experiences that go beyond what was possible before.”
Most recently, Microsoft and Asobo Studio relied heavily on Azure’s cloud technology in the development of Microsoft Flight Simulator, which uses real-time data for a lot of elements of its world creation, and the results, as most people would agree, were impressive. There’s little doubt that with sustainable growth, cloud technology can be a huge boon to the medium in more ways than one. Fingers crossed that growth happens on a much more consistent basis going forward.