Microsoft Offers Suspicious Demo of xCloud Game Streaming Service

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Microsoft announced its Project xCloud game streaming platform last year, but no one had seen it demoed publicly until last night. At Microsoft’s Inside Xbox event, the company brought an Android phone up on stage and streamed Forza Horizon 4 from its Azure data centers. Or did it? Regardless, Microsoft says it’s still on track to deliver a public test of xCloud later this year.

Project xCloud is Microsoft’s answer to Nvidia GeForce Now, PlayStation Now, and others. Instead of rendering the game on a local device, all the heavy lifting happens in the cloud and video of the game streams to your device. Then, control input streams back up to the cloud-based game. The result: Xbox games on your phone. Although, it stresses that xCloud isn’t a replacement for consoles. 

Other companies have found moderate success with this approach, although you need a bulletproof internet connection to ensure uninterrupted gameplay. Microsoft claims to be working on video compression and network management technologies to make xCloud feel responsive.

In the new demo, Microsoft had the phone attached to an Xbox controller with a mount and paired over Bluetooth. Forza appeared to play the same as it would on a TV with an Xbox OneSEEAMAZON_ET_135 See Amazon ET commerce
wired in, but very small. The game looks smooth enough with no hiccups or dropped frames. Although, the frame rate doesn’t look especially high.

This is an unreleased product, so no one expects it to be perfect. Even established game streaming services like GeForce Now have input latency issues from time to time. However, the host’s button presses don’t seem to correspond to what’s happening on the screen.

There are two options here: Either the lag is so bad that input doesn’t match up with what’s happening on the screen, or Microsoft was just showing a pre-rendered gameplay video. The latter would be extremely misleading, but we can’t confirm anything. Numerous Xbox fans are calling the company out on Twitter, alleging something shady.

Whatever is going on with xCloud, it looks far from playable. It won’t even be ready for public testing until later in 2019, but Google has already completed its public test of Project Stream. Google is expected to announce a game streaming product based on Stream at GDC next week. That may be why Microsoft decided to show off xCloud on stage when it’s clearly not ready.

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