Microsoft’s new gaming cloud division readies for a future beyond Xbox

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Microsoft launched its first video game in 1981, appropriately called Microsoft Adventure. It was an MS-DOS game that booted directly from a floppy disk and set the stage for Microsoft's adventures in the game. A lot has changed in the last 37 years, and when you think about Microsoft's efforts in games these days, you'll immediately think of Xbox. It is also fair to say that many things are about to change in the coming decades, and Microsoft is preparing. Today, the software giant is introducing a new division of games in the cloud that is ready for a future in which the consoles and the games themselves are very different from the current ones.
Microsoft has been developing this movement for a while. The company has been mysteriously acquiring companies related to games in recent years. From Havok in 2015, Simplygon in 2017, to PlayFab earlier this year, you've probably never heard of any of them, but they're important to the audacious ambitions of Microsoft's cloud games. While these acquisitions were taking place, Microsoft has reorganized its gaming equipment as the company prepares to launch its own cloud gaming services. Phil Spencer is now the head of Microsoft's games and reports directly to CEO Satya Nadella. The new division of Microsoft's gaming cloud is headed by Kareem Choudhry, a 20-year veteran of Microsoft who has worked on Outlook, DirectX and Xbox engineering.
The new division of Microsoft game clouds began at the end of last year
"Phil really wanted a dedicated team focused exclusively on the game cloud," says Choudhry, in an interview with The Verge. "Those were the conversations that started happening last summer, and we really started creating the structure of the organization at the end of last year." The new division is designed to attract game developers and publishers to use Microsoft's cloud services. Ubisoft has been using Microsoft's Azure cloud services on PC, Xbox and PS4 with Rainbow Six: Siege recently, and even the Black Desert mobile game uses Azure virtual machines and databases. Microsoft wants more and more game developers to use their cloud, especially as the games become more connected on all devices for their multiplayer experiences.

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Microsoft wants to reach 2 billion players in the world
"We believe that there will be 2,000 million players in the world, and our goal is to reach each of them," explains Choudhry. Part of the way Microsoft will come with its new focus on the cloud for games is with subscription services. Xbox Game Pass has been available for the past year, and recently Microsoft decided that all of its top-level games would reach the subscription service at launch. Sea of ​​Thieves is the first great title, but future games of Halo and Gears of War will also be available. "We are very happy with the success that is happening [with Game Pass]," says Choudhry. "We continue to believe in the user's choice, and we also believe that there is space in the industry for a game subscription and that is what we are going to build."
A "Netflix for video games" would be an important service for any company with aspirations of gaming in the cloud, but it will be a difficult task for Microsoft on rival platforms such as PlayStation 4 or Nintendo & # 39; s Switch. Despite the challenge, Choudhry insinuates that Microsoft could achieve this by transmitting games to devices. "We are looking for ways to make that content available to anyone, no matter what device they are on," says Choudhry.

The Sony PlayStation Now service

It seems that every two years a new service comes to life, promising the transmission of games from powerful servers. Sony acquired the OnLive streaming gaming service only to shut it down, and Gaikai previously acquired it, which eventually became part of its PlayStation Now gaming service. Sony suspended the transmission of the game to PlayStation 3, PS Vista, PlayStation TV and smart TVs and Blu-ray players last year, and decided to focus on the PS4 and Windows PCs. The transmission of games is a challenging service to do things right, and even Nvidia is trying their luck for PC games.
Microsoft has mocked the transmission of Xbox games in three years, and clearly will be a big part of the new division of games in the cloud. "We spent a lot of time thinking about that space," explains Choudhry. He says that a "bunch of things" has to come together, even create a business model that is attractive to third parties. "What we are doing with the game pass and the creation of a subscription-based product, where more than half of the content is third-party content, I would say we are starting from the perspective of a subscription product."
Microsoft's new cloud gaming division is just beginning in several of these efforts, and the real test will be whether game developers and publishers are interested in using the tools, the distribution methods and, ultimately, , a game transmission service. Reaching 2 billion players is an ambitious goal even for a new Microsoft that is aggressively focusing on the cloud.


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