Microsoft testing video game streaming service

Project xCloud will offer streaming console-quality games on mobile devices. (Microsoft)

Microsoft announced Project xCloud, a video game streaming service it’s currently testing with plans for public trials in 2019.

The idea is to allow console-quality gaming without the console. The service will work on PCs and mobile devices—along with consoles—and will allow users to play with a Bluetooth controller or on-screen controls.

Microsoft said it will allow the developers working on titles for Xbox to deploy their games on Project xCloud with “no additional work.”

To enable a smooth streaming experience, Microsoft has built custom hardware to be installed in data centers. The company’s new customizable blade can host the component parts of multiple Xbox One consoles, as well as the associated infrastructure supporting it. The company plans to add more custom blades in data centers across Azure regions over time.

Microsoft said it is addressing hurdles during the tests including how to handle low-latency video streamed remotely, and supporting large, multiuser networks. The company is also working on supporting the graphical fidelity and frame rates needed to preserve the console gaming experience, and using networking topology, along with video encoding and decoding, to improve latency.

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Microsoft said Project xCloud will have the capability to make game streaming possible on 4G networks and will dynamically scale to take advantage of still nascent 5G networks. Right now, the test experience is running at 10 megabits per second.

“Our goal is to deliver high-quality experiences at the lowest possible bitrate that work across the widest possible networks, taking into consideration the uniqueness of every device and network,” Microsoft wrote in a blog post.

Microsoft’s announcement arrives hot on the heels of Google’s news last week that it is also launching a cloud-based video game streaming service. Google Stream is kicking off by allowing users to test out the new “Assassin’s Creed” game in Chrome browsers.