Microsoft Explains How Its xCloud Streaming Service Will Bring Xbox Games To Phones


At the Game Developers Conference, all eyes were on Google's Stadia cloud gaming reveal. But it must not be forgotten that Microsoft is also hard at work on its service called xCloud, which it's already testing now.

At a developer session on Thursday, representatives from the xCloud team shared more details about the service, particularly how it will stream games that were made for Xbox consoles to mobile devices, or any screen for that matter. Since all Xbox games are played with a controller, it's interesting how that experience will be translated in the context of smartphones.

Project xCloud

Similar to Stadia, xCloud is a cloud gaming platform that will stream console-level games to any screen. Microsoft is starting with its existing library of games, including first-party titles such as Forza Horizon 4; and it's primarily working with Android phones.

Streaming a game designed to be played with a controller to a mobile phone presents some challenges, obviously. Not everyone has a Bluetooth gamepad lying around, for starters. No biggie — developers can resort to on-screen touch controls instead. However, laying onscreen elements on top of games already designed to be played on a big screen would, safe to say, crowd the experience altogether.

Touch Adaptation Kit And Cloud Aware APIs

Microsoft has a solution. Sort of. According to Gus Apostol, xCloud principal program manager, game developers won't have to re-architect their games entirely. Through a set of xCloud-specific tools, including the Touch Adaptation Kit and Microsoft's cloud aware APIs, games could be reworked to perform on touchscreens. All developers will need is a JavaScript Object Notation file to map the required inputs into a transparent overlay. That shouldn't be too off-putting, as there are a number of console-first games ported to mobile that feature the same control system.

Also, since people will be playing on mobile, Microsoft has to rethink how save states work. People are more likely to play in short bursts on their phones, and that could be a problem for games not meant to be played in increments. The cloud aware APIs aim to address this specifically. The APIs will also let developers easily adjust certain elements, such as making text bigger.

Beyond those details, not much is known about xCloud at the moment, but make sure to check back with Tech Times as we learn more.

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