Recap: As the cloud gaming wars heat up, details about the big players' services have been scant. Aside from an official announcement, Google has been tight-lipped about Stadia features and content, and we know increasingly little about Sony's future cloud ambitions. Microsoft has outlined some data on what its Project xCloud will be capable of, highlighting a massive streaming library spanning three generations of Xbox and a design that allows developers to deploy games to the service seamlessly.
Microsoft has struggled to compete with Sony in the realm of console exclusives, but one of the best things about the Xbox One is its backwards compatibility with past Xbox titles – an area where Sony has woefully dropped the ball.
According to Microsoft, backwards compatibility will continue to be a focal point in its cloud gaming service, Project xCloud. In fact, when Project xCloud is ready for debut, it'll be bringing 3,500 games with it, none of which will require any updates from the developer. Microsoft iterates that a swath of games encompassing three generations – Xbox, Xbox 360, and Xbox One – are already Project xCloud compatible.
What's more is that Project xCloud will purportedly allow developers to scale games across both Xbox hardware and xCloud with no extra work – developers only need to update the Xbox One version, and any xCloud version will receive the updates.
Microsoft's build out of xCloud is coming along nicely, as the company reports it just deployed Project xCloud blades to Azure datacenters in 13 regions, with more to come. Microsoft will leverage its massive Azure cloud infrastructure as the backbone of Project xCloud, a distinct advantage that even Sony can't ignore. Sony and Microsoft just announced a joint partnership hinged on Microsoft's Azure cloud technology, which Sony likely intends to use to bolster its own cloud gaming services.
Congrats to Project xCloud team for completing their takehome release. Excited to get feedback from our internal teams ahead of public trials later this year. pic.twitter.com/un1T8mg0d4--- Phil Spencer (@XboxP3) May 1, 2019
Microsoft recently rolled out an alpha version of Project xCloud that employees are testing at home, and a public trial is slated for later this year.
Microsoft also updated developer kits to include cloud and streaming specific APIs. New APIs like "IsStreaming" allow developers to add enhanced functionality for cloud gaming, like font sizes that respond to display size and hosting multiplayer matches on a single server to reduce latency. Developers like Capcom and Paradox are already running tests on xCloud servers.
In other cloud gaming news, we're set to get more details about Google Stadia later this summer. We should hear more about Project xCloud at E3 this year, so stay tuned.