“Our goal is to reach everyone on the planet”: the head of Project xCloud about the upcoming game streaming technology


About the necessary speed of the Internet, technical subtleties and competition with consoles.

One of the main topics of discussion, which participants of the forthcoming conference of GDC developers will touch on March 19, is cloud streaming of games. Many companies, such as Microsoft and Google, are joining the technology race – and, apparently, in the next few years the market will be flooded with such services.

How the similar technology is implemented, said the head of the Xbox cloud office, Karim Choudri, in an interview for Eurogamer . It is unlikely that xCloud will enter into direct competition with consoles, yet the original goal of Microsoft is streaming games to phones.

Forza Horizon 4 on your phone

Choudhury believes that an important technological breakthrough in terms of streaming happens every time the speed of the Internet increases qualitatively. Although xCloud will not require 5G, the new wave of streaming services coincided with the development of communication technologies.

Streaming music became available around the time of launch of 3G, video streaming from 4G, and we are sure that streaming games will become the main load for 5G networks. Video is non-interactive, unlike games.

Karim Choudhury head xCloud

High speed Internet will avoid excessive delay – one of the main problems of modern (and past) streaming services. According to Choudhury, now the xCloud signal from a data center in Washington comes with a delay of 10 milliseconds. Even for a gamepad connected via Bluetooth to the phone, this value is higher.

All latency mitigation techniques that are applied on the multi-user side, we are going to include on the input side — the end user. I think it will work well.

Karim Choudhury head xCloud

In fact, xCloud can work now – it does not require ultrahigh speeds. But Microsoft continues to improve signal speed.

At those demonstrations that we recently showed, xCloud required 9-10 megabits per second. Now we are doing research, and it seems to me that we will be able to achieve very good quality broadcasts with 5-6 megabits per second.

Karim Choudhury head xCloud

Halo 5 Guardians on the tablet – with touch control

When Microsoft was just beginning to experiment with technology, the company went head-on – took out the Xbox One S hardware and inserted dozens of data centers. It worked, but it was necessary to make some changes – after all, the “stuffing” of the consoles was created taking into account home use, taking into account acoustics or energy consumption.

I spent a few years of life, measuring the decibels from the cooler three meters from the console.

Karim Choudhury head xCloud

The current xCloud data centers are based on a modified Xbox One S with a modified motherboard. It runs specific scenarios that are aimed at better handling of games. As in the case of the backward compatibility program, Microsoft takes responsibility for optimizing games for good work on the servers.One server can hold up to eight “consoles”

When asked why Microsoft doesn’t use the more powerful Xbox One X, Choudhrey answered simply – xCloud is primarily aimed at phones where performance will not play any role.

Our first goal is Android devices. We could broadcast 4K, but between him and 1080p, no one would have noticed the difference. It was easier for us to start with exactly this quality – and, to tell the truth, we wanted all the chips from Xbox One X to go to the customers of the consoles, and not to the data centers.

Karim Choudhury head xCloud

One of the main problems of all past streaming services was that from a small screen the user simply could not distinguish between individual interface elements or text – after all, games were originally created for consoles. Directly from Microsoft will not get rid of this problem, but there are still some interesting solutions.

One of the advantages of xCloud is that the technology to some extent knows what is happening on the stream. We do not use conventional encoders – we have a special algorithm that adapts the translation to each game using machine learning. For example, we know that the interface is in such a place — then let the flow be handled differently here.

Karim Choudhury head xCloud

However, in addition, Microsoft plans to work with developers to create special modes in the streaming game

The Eurogamer journalist also reminded that many see Switch as a huge potential in terms of streaming. Choudry does not know whether xCloud can appear on the console from Nintendo, but he would like this to happen in the foreseeable future.

I have never developed something for Switch – for obvious reasons. So I can not say whether xCloud will appear there or not. But I really want to be able to enable content on any device with a screen and the Internet. We start with Android, as mobile phones are an obvious starting point.

Karim Choudhury head xCloud

At the end of the conversation, Choudhry expressed his opinion on whether the emergence of mass streaming services means “the beginning of the death of consoles.

Not at all! […] I believe that the best experience from the game will still remain from the personal console standing under your TV in the hall. Streaming complements the console, and does not negate their existence.

Karim Choudhury head xCloud


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