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Phil Spencer: Microsoft will probably debut a game streaming service in the next 3 years

Sony's PlayStation Now may offer a great selection of titles, but it comes in at $19.99 for a month or $44.99 for three months. When Microsoft revealed backward compatibility for Xbox 360 games, many thought that this was their answer to game streaming, as it allows you to play last-generation titles on modern devices. However, it looks like the company is working on a separate game streaming feature too.

Buried in an interview between Bloomberg and Head of Xbox Phil Spencer was this piece of information. The report says the following.

While software and services are becoming more important, the console isn't near death yet. It's still best for gamer enthusiasts and the top games, and will remain so for quite some time. But Microsoft will probably debut a streaming service that doesn't require a console for some types of content in the next three years, Spencer said. A 2012 trial of such a service inside the company was too costly and never made it to the market, but Microsoft's progress in Azure cloud services over the past few years is changing the economics and quality level, he said.

Game streaming is a major service but there are a few challenges. Due to the fact that it's taking place over an internet connection, problems with input lag can hinder the experience. Spencer mentioned that Azure cloud services have changed the quality level but we don't know just how much of an improvement they offer in that area. Having the ability to play certain games on another device aside from an Xbox One would be a great way to make their experiences more mobile, if they can solve the potential lag issues.

If the Bloomberg statement is indeed true and not a misinterpretation of what Spencer actually said, it seems like Microsoft is fully embracing the idea of subscription services, particularly since the company also offers Xbox Game Pass. For $9.99 a month, members can download and play over a hundred games on their console. Any such streaming service — if it makes it to consumers — must be reasonably priced so it has a competitive edge. However, keep in mind that the company may not release this due to unforeseen circumstances. We never know what the future holds.

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Asher Madan handles gaming news for Windows Central. Before joining Windows Central in 2017, Asher worked for a number of different gaming outlets. He has a background in medical science and is passionate about all forms of entertainment, cooking, and antiquing.

38 Comments
  • now if MS is smart, just roll the streaming service into Xbox Game Pass. Give the users on XB1 console with the subscription to play via download, or stream it if they choose. Plus if the user wants to stream on his mobile, or PC then great. No extra cost beyond the $9.99 monthly fee. The games on Game Pass can be played any way the subscriber chooses.
  • Wasn't Microsoft mocking PS now for quite some time?
  • Eh, pretty sure their stance on it was that the internet wasn't quite where they wanted to be yet and their customers preferred the option to download games versus stream them because of how problematic streaming the latter could be.  Phil Spencer isn't the sort to poke fun at the competition.
  • Isn't ps mocking nvidia shield tv and tablet
  • 3 years away. Typical MS
  • Lets not forget that Microsoft are in full retreat from the consumer space so in three years time there will probably be no Xbox, Windows 10 Home or consumer facing services from Microsoft at all. All first party Xbox games will be on PS and everyone will have ditched Windows for MacOS or Linux anyway. By the time Microsoft realise that consumers are where the money is they won't have anyone to sell to. God I miss Ballmer!!!!
  • Honestly not sure if your being 100% honest and beleive this or just being a sarcastic troll for the laughs, becuase your comment makes no sense at all.
  • Totally.   Also,  there is one GLARING word in that sentence.    PROBABLY.    They have now changed from "coming soon™"  to "coming probably™"
  • They will certainly buy one of the big third-party game companies to make this plan be realised and succesful.
  • Microsoft has distributed data centers to keep servers close to users and limit latency (Azure), has experience in streaming video (VC-1 is basically WMV9, orignally designed as ASF "Corona" - a video streaming format), has a low-bandwidth streaming service (Mixer) and low-bandwidth games streaming over LAN (in the Xbox app), has GPU virtualization and rendering streaming (RemoteFX). I'd say they have all the pieces and are just waiting for the consumer's Internet connections to improve to get rid of the last latency bottleneck.
  • That will be a loooooooooong time, given how much US ISP's have leverage over policies. ISP's are pretty much just utility companies in almost all countries that have internet access.
  • It's coming fast in developped countries which let ISPs compete in a free market. That means about the whole northern hemisphere except the US, which unfortunately is a lobby market instead of a free market. Fiber means you can get as low as 1ms per 200km of distance to the server, so basically 1ms round-trip time per 100km.
    (before telling me I'm off by 50%, remember singlemode fiber is silica, not a vacuum, so refractive index is ~1.5)
    Latency is becoming the new measurement for ISPs, as we're at the point where bandwidth is good enough for most people, enough to stream HD movies and download apps and games in a comfortable time.
    The benefits of doubling bandwidth are getting lower and lower for typical users, and what limits web browsing and video calls today is latency.
    As the "last mile" is often the bottleneck, FTTH would have to replace cable and xDSL.
    For example I have a 5ms RTT connection to most servers within Switzerland, as they're all about 500km going through a central hub in Zurich and my ISP limited the number of routers on the way. The Xbox app streaming on LAN showed that gaming over a network is acceptable. All we need now are gaming servers distributed over the earth as there is simply no other solution to get latency even lower but to work on physical proximity. Netflix for example is hosting content servers within ISPs facilities to get as close as they can to their customers. Microsoft is in a special position here compared to Sony or Nintendo, as they already have video games, but also experience in streaming video, streaming games, and Azure datacenters distributed on several continents : https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/regions/
     
  • That is because the ISP's know they are a utility company and therefore need to focus on infrastructure to compete. Therefore being mutually benefit for all parties. Whereas in the US, it's driven by lobbying, shoddy contracts, under the table deals etc all for the profits of the ISP. Hence they've been gobbling up all the competition, don't forget about price fixing either.
  • Nonsense. It depends on completely on the ISP. In developing countries like india is far better in terms of broadband connectivity. Dirt cheap and fast as well. My current ISP provides 100mbps connection for ₹1150(~$15-17) a month with no data cap. Again NO DATA CAP and NO DROP IN SPEED after as fixed usage. I remains at full 100mbps no matter what amount of data you have consumed. Both download and upload at 100mbps. In some cities like bangalore they are providing 1gbps connection at just about half price as compared to the so called developed countries like US. I think in US not a single ISP provides data plan with no data cap and no speed throttling after specific amount of data. So it completely depends on the ISP. Reliance jio in india is fully VoLTE network even calls are made using LTE in the whole country not even a single city is left without VoLTE. Now, in the US or any other country for that matter, not even a single country is fully VoLTE enabled moat of them are not even completely 4G yet. It depends on the ISP they are so busy in making money they don't want to upgrade the Infrastructure that will drastically reduce costs of data for them and for the consumers too. But they are more like "where will these customers go? ultimately all of them will pay us. Why bother to spend billions of dollars in upgrading if we are still earning billions.
  • @abhimaurya96. It's not nonsense, what you experience in life will never be true for everyone else. Thus your scenario is not true for all. ISP's function on a slight on a "fair" use policy. To preserve bandwidth, they will throttle you if take up too much traffic. It also depends on the contention ratio per 'pipe'. That is true for old school broadband not fibre. VoLTE is a completely different, you are referencing to towers that use a fibre backhaul (yes I'm over simplifying things), here fibre is general - dig up the road, place fibre connections - make good. Furthermore you are not considering state politics and federal politics. So thus what I said was not nonsense, just doesn't fit in what you have experienced.
  • In Benlux (Europe), the service providers are bringer fiberoptics cables to the frontdoor of the end-consumers. In about 1-2 years all households will be covered.
  • Awesome. We only get that if we're a very lucky or/and there is no cabinet for miles or/and you have fibre from virgin media or/and you have cash to get fibre lines installed yourself through a community drive.
  • Same here in Chile, though it'll definitely take a while before ALL households are covered (especially in remote, rural areas). Barring one company (Movistar), none of the major ISPs have data caps, but their prices are sadly way higher than the guy posting above says they are in India.
  • I would love an Nvidia Shield type streaming service where I could stream my Windows 10 games on the the same network over to my Xbox One. That's something I would definitely use. Saves me having to move my display over to the tv and plug a controller into my PC every time.
  • Basically the reverse of what you can do from Xbox One to PC now? Wouldn't be a bad idea. Have you checked out a Steam Link? They are dirt cheap and it works flawlessly for me. 1080p @ 60FPS with no noticeable latency (As a comparison, I can't stand streaming my Xbox to my PC due to the latency, but Steam Link works a lot better for me)
  • Yes, because Microsoft's history with coming late to the party with something (Zune, Windows Phone, Band) and then not following through whole-heartedly has worked out SO well in the past.  Idiots.
  • With most ISP putting data caps on people I dont see game streaming being a viable service.  
    Combine tv, internet, gaming, netflix, etc...... people will be hitting caps in days.
  • They'll have gaming streaming in three years then abandon it within four.
  • I don't mind if they do launch one, but there's probably a reason most of these services fail eventually. It does kind of go against my preferences so I wouldn't bite, I just got an Xbox One X and I want 4K which would be difficult to stream smoothly even with connections in a lot of places being decent these days. No issue with them making it available to people though
  • How is this different from Mixer? (Im a noob in gaming)
  • Mixer is only the video stream from someone's console to viewers. A game streaming service needs servers that can run the games, receive gamepad inputs from a user and send back video, the total latency of both paths must be very low, being the latency seen by the user between pressing a button and the corresponding action being visible on screen.
  • Give examples of such pls. Who are the big "players" and competitors already?
  • Mixer is only for WATCHING other people play.
    What MS wants to do in the future is create a service that allows you to actually PLAY games, but instead of running those games on your PC or console, they would be running on a remote server. For instance, say you're playing any given game and press x to jump.
    That signal (you pressing the button) would be sent to one of Microsoft's server farms where the game would be running on one of many powerful computers they'd have set up for that purpose (running everyone's games simultaneously), and then the audio and video for your game would be sent back to your screen at home. That would allow you to play graphics-intensive games on a low-end PC, a simple streaming box, or even your phone, without having to download anything, as long as you have a reliable internet connection. There was a company called OnLive that did this years ago, but currently the only mayor player in the area is Sony.
  • How is Sony's solution called? Is it out there already? How about Steam
  • Not stream a video of you playing a game for other people to watch.   They want to create a service that streams the game to you so you don't actually have the game on your computer, you just have a screen and mouse/keyboard and play the game remotely.
  • I used Geforce Now service with Shield tablet in console mode to play PC games when it came out several years ago.  Even over wifi it worked well, but I stopped using it when they wanted me to pay for it.
  • Because Xbox music worked out so well... how is anyone going to trust a consumer Microsoft service again? They should just make nice with Steam and integrate it tightly.
  • Imagine if Nadella decides to kill Xbox hardware business once the streaming service debuts.
  • I foresee that happening seeing as they are in full retreat from the consumer space.
  • I sold my PS for this Garbage.. < 24 hours after the x launchs - we never said no generations - "Xbox's Aaron Greenberg has reiterated his company believes traditional console generations are over" - we will bring a streaming service.."One of the best things about Xbox Game Pass is that you can ... full-fidelity gameplay without having to worry about streaming, ..." GRRRRRRRRRRRR the exact reasons i left sony.. NOT HAPPY PHIL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Looks like "xboxnext" may fall to the same fate as xbox one launch.. try to change to much and lose market share
  • Don't worry so much. Games streaming, if released, will probably be an option for casual gamers.
    I don't see streaming latency being low enough for competitive 1st person shooters or e-sports before a decade, and since VR will likely be part of the next Xbox experience, latency is even more critical. Remember Microsoft has Xbox, Windows 10, and is keeping an eye on low-powered mobile devices (tablets, AR headsets,...). Bringing games streaming as an option would be to bring games to new customers that cannot play these today, not to alienate the hard-core gamers with a reduced experience. It definitely wouldn't be an xbox_next that's a streaming-only device. Think in the lines of an app for devices customers already has. Pay the monthly subscription and install the CloudGames client on your Android tablet or iPad, your PC, your Xbox One, and play, pause, resume from any device.
    Xbox_next could run the client, but would be the premium gaming device with the capability to run more advanced local games and VR games.
    Gamers could run CloudGames on their tablet, their smartphone, their Apple TV, ... and if they want to continue their game in the living-room, on their Xbox_next, because if you have the Xbox, you're not locked out of any of the experiences, you'll be able to run Xbox One, Xbox VR, Windows 10 UWP and CloudGames games on your console.
  • Streaming won't work until the majority of people (not only in the States but globally) have cheap, fast, uncapped, internet until then I'm more concerned about the other information that was spilled, Xbox first party games possibly going to PlayStation! I hear the same confusing commenting about this and the denial in the threads but this is exactly the same pattern we heard couple years ago in the domain of Windows Phone. 
  • Doesnt OnLive hold the patent for this?  The game streaming service was widely reported that the owner of OnLive has patent on it and still owns it after selling OnLive, that means anyone who uses will have to go through him.