PaxDei: Xbox could be developing a cloud-first MMO with Finnish developer Mainframe

Mainframe Concept Art
Mainframe Concept Art (Image credit: Mainframe Industries)

Xbox Series X Hero

Source: Matt Brown | Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Matt Brown | Windows Central)

Microsoft is a cloud-first company, so it should come as no surprise that the Redmond giant would be exploring cloud-first games. A while back I shared on my Xbox Two Podcast with noted Xbox Insider Rand_Al_Thor_19 that I'd heard Microsoft may be working with Finnish developer Mainframe Industries on some sort of cloud-based MMO, although I didn't have any other details beyond that.

Today, the majestically-maned Jeff Grubb of VentureBeat added a heap of details, adding fuel to the possibility that we may have uncovered yet another game to add to the growing list of upcoming Xbox exclusives.

Reportedly named PaxDei, this MMO will scale in complexity based on how you're accessing the game. PaxDei is, indeed, registered as a computer game trademark on the EU IPO website, attached to Mainframe Industries. The trademark was filed in June, but was granted through to 2031 starting this October.

Source: EU IPO (Image credit: Source: EU IPO)

Microsoft and Mainframe hope to establish a "best practices" framework for device-agnostic gaming using Pax Dei, which will adapt its user experience to cater to the device being used to access the game. Grubb offers examples in his piece, noting that players on a phone may want to do more simplistic tasks like resource gathering or crafting management, while players on a console or PC can access the more complex gameplay elements, such as combat and raiding.

World of Warcraft already has some systems like this, although they are quite "soft" in their implementation. Players can send NPC soldiers on missions using the WoW phone app, for example, and access things like guild text chat. There have been rumors for years that Blizzard was exploring a Pokemon Go-like World of Warcraft mobile game, which may or may not tie into the MMO itself, given that you can collect and battle pets in the base game. World of Warcraft was very much not designed with this in mind from the outset, though, which is probably why its device-agnostic systems are very limited.

Pax Dei would be among the first MMOs designed from day 1 to take advantage of a device-first gaming future, where games and services target players where they are. Xbox Game Pass and its cloud gaming platform are fundamentally an extension of this vision too, with device-aware APIs that detect whether a touch screen is present to surface touch controls, or whether a gamepad is present, and so on. Grubb reports that Microsoft's negotiations with Hideo Kojima of Death Stranding and Metal Gear Solid fame revolves around a cloud-first game too, and hopes that practices established with Mainframe Industries can also inform and aid the development of that game too, should a deal be finalized.

One thing is for sure: Xbox fans are going to be awash with exclusive titles in the coming years. From projects we know about like Hellblade II, Redfall, and Starfield, to mysterious unknowns, like Compulsion's game, and various Xbox Global Publishing partnerships — all on Xbox Game Pass. It's a recipe for success and represents a level of investment Xbox has never previously enjoyed.

Jez Corden
Co-Managing Editor

Jez Corden a Managing Editor at Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!

  • And still the cry will remain: XBOX has no games. 😈
  • I really don't want cloud only games I would rather have games cloud accessible only.
  • I'm glad you gave the known insider Rand some credit here. I'm glad you let him on your podcast. Probably because he's an insider.
  • Cloud only gaming probably won't be for me (Australian internet) but innovation drives success. I'm sure these pioneer games will lay the groundwork for what the next few decades of gaming is going to look like. An interesting and exciting future awaits.
  • It sounds like there’s a growing list of games that are going to be service based as Xbox exclusives, and this does nothing for me. I’m a single player gamer, and yes, Microsoft has some games in the works that cater to me, but I hope players such as myself aren’t once again banished to the forgotten zone we were relegated to for far too long. When important people like Matt Booty say they aren’t interested in competing with a company like Sony’s strong narrative driven third person single player lineup as game after game is announced as multiplayer games as a service, that’s worrying to hear. Dig up some rumors about new narrative driven third person single player games exclusive to Xbox besides Hellblade, please.
  • Yeah, good luck with that, single player games don't sell Game Pass subscriptions unfortunately (at least, that seems to be what Microsoft thinks).
  • So you go from ignoring Rand when mentioning "your" podcast to crediting him as a "noted Xbox insider." Grade A trolling. Hilarious.
  • Uh, guys?
    Cloud-first =/= cloud only. By the description, what they want is an always online, layered game, where the available features, controls, and UI will vary depending on how you login: mobile, low power PC/Console, high end system. Cloud-friendly might be a better term.
    One possible approach would give you an isometric mini-me view on mobile and a first person open world on the high end hardware. Also: this is in *addition* to the single player games MS "doesn't do", like Halo Campaign, Elder scrolls, Starfield, Fable, Gears Campaign, Dishonored, Doom, Wasteland, Fallout, Outer worlds... MS has some 40 games in active development when tallying up all announced and "insider" leaked games. Surely it's okay if they do an MMO or two or even a cloud-friendly game here and there, right? Especially with the xcloud client coming to TVs. Just because Sony and Nintendo don't do first party MMOs or Cloud friendly games doesn't mean MS can't. In fact, that they don't is tbe best reason to do it. To reach people who can't or won't buy hardware solely for gaming but might want to drop $10-15 a month on Gamepass instead. To get there, though, the cloud version of the game can't just be an imitation console experience. It rrally needs to fit the cloud. MS has already lined up 100 games with touch controls and mobile UI experiences. A good start. But the best cloud experience should also have gameplay tweaks to fit the user device. And finally, MMO's are the best place to do these things because MMOs are typically online-only. XBOX has made it clear they want to reach beyond console gamers and PC gamers or even mobile gamers. Their plan isn't just to build the better hardware and try to convince folks that grew up with the PS1 or N64 to switch at this late date; tbey want to folks who haven't yet committed to any platform. Or are interested in the *game* but *are* committed elsewhere. Cloud-first is the logical followup. And as with most platform businesses, getting there "firstest with the mostest" gives them a big leg up for when the wannabes show up.
  • I think this could be really cool if they do it right but all the talk about how cloud processing in Crackdown 3 was going to make it amazing make me a little skeptical. But I am an MMO fan so if this pans out, I'd really love to try it. TBH I wish they'd revive True Fantasy Online in this fashion. I thought that game had promise.