In a new and extensive presentation on its gaming business, Microsoft released a couple of interesting insights into its plans for Game Pass and cloud-based game streaming. The most relevant announcement for PC gamers is that Microsoft plans to add cloud gaming features to the Xbox PC app later this year, offering the streaming service that is currently in beta for browsers in a centralized application.
This means that in addition to using the Xbox app to browse and download games, Game Pass subscribers will be able to play them with one click, without the need for installation (Internet connection allows, of all ways).
The current beta version of Xbox Cloud Games will open to all members of Game Pass Ultimate "in the coming weeks" at supported countries (more countries, including Australia, will be added later this year). And the quality of the Xbox cloud transmission is also increasing. "Everything will work with the latest generation Xbox Series X hardware: we are now in the final stages of internal testing and will be updating the experience for Ultimate members in the coming weeks," said CVP of Kareem Choudhry cloud games.
If I'm playing on my PC, I'll almost always prefer a local copy of a game, which will allow me to make better use of the 144Hz monitor without sacrificing image quality or transmission latency. I think some of Microsoft’s other streaming plans are more interesting: it clearly has big ambitions to grow Game Pass beyond the typical PC and console players.
Microsoft is working with TV companies to add a Game Pass app "directly to TVs connected to the Internet, so all you need to play is a controller," said Liz Hamren, CVP of gaming experiences and platforms. Hamren also said Microsoft is building its own hardware specifically for this purpose, which looks like a competitor to Amazon's Fire Stick or Apple TV, but focused on gaming.
“We’re also developing standalone streaming devices that you can connect to a TV or monitor, so if you have a strong internet connection, you can stream your Xbox experience,” Hamren said. He also tried to avoid concerns that Microsoft was taking into account in cloud games, mentioning that Microsoft is already working "on new hardware and platforms" for future consoles.
Microsoft devoted most of its presentation to publishing its cloud technology like Azure, the potential of streaming to reach billions of players, and the importance of Game Pass in its future plans. But the PC got at least some good mentions.
“As we pursue financial growth and user involvement, we’re sure to do a lot more on PC,” said Tim Stuart, Xbox’s chief financial officer.
"Looking ahead, we'll see continued growth on PC next year through another amazing list of Xbox Games Studios games and Bethesda games coming to PC," said Phil Spencer, head of Xbox. "While at the same time, Game Pass on PC will be a key part of our Windows gaming strategy."