Cloud gaming is something that has always occupied a strange and secluded place in the industry. Onlive managed to turn a few heads, but the vast majority of gamers have stuck to their hardware. For most, cloud gaming is a novelty. An interesting concept, but not something ready for the mainstream audience. This, however, is changing. With the news of Sony’s acquisition of Gaikai last month, followed by Onlive’s support of the Ouya System, it is clear that cloud gaming will be incredibly important as the industry moves forward into the next generation, and will likely be the dominant form of gaming in the near future. The companies mentioned above will be a big part of that transition, and are currently the powerhouses in the cloud gaming industry. Yet, there is already one company which has a perfect setup to win the cloud gaming wars before they begin – whether it realizes it or not. That company is Microsoft.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. ”Microsoft? But they don’t do any cloud gaming! You’re just being a fanboy!” You’re partly right; Microsoft has done next to nothing in the cloud gaming industry. But what most don’t realize, is that almost all of the pieces the company needs to dominate the cloud market are already in place. This begins with Windows Live Marketplace.
You remember Windows Live Marketplace, right? It’s like Steam, but not as cool. Even so, Microsoft’s service allows Windows users to download a menagerie of games straight to their PCs and laptops, as well as install updates, add-ons, and everything else you would expect from a downloading service. Though it’s not often thought of, this is, in fact, a stone’s throw away from cloud gaming. At the very least, a great delivery system is already in place, and is currently being used by a vast amount of people. If Windows Live Marketplace could be adapted to allow gamers the choice to stream instead of download, it would offer a smooth transition while keeping loyal users on the Microsoft brand. It would take quite a bit of restructuring for Microsoft, but it could pay out big in the long run. Especially considering Microsoft’s Surface tablet is set to launch this fall.
A Surface tablet with cloud gaming could be a powerful mix for Microsoft
Microsoft’s Surface has a lot going against it right now. Apple and Google basically have the tablet market locked down, and it will be difficult for Microsoft to get a foothold – especially since it lost out in the smartphone arena. Adding cloud gaming to the mix could help sell hardware, as well as keep buyers on the Microsoft brand. Think about it; if it were possible to stream PC games to a Surface tablet, then buyers are not just getting a tablet, but a gaming laptop as well. Personally, I would absolutely love to be able to stream games like Batman: Arkham City or Skyrim at PC quality on my tablet. That could change mobile gaming forever, if it were done right. Now, what if this was connected to Xbox Live, and offered cross platform play, much like the PS3 and PS Vita have? This could be an incredible feature, and could well be accomplished through the use of Microsoft Smart Glass.
When Microsoft announced Smart Glass, a lot of people were left scratching their heads. I myself skipped the Smart Glass booth at E3, and wrote it off as a gimmick. For the most part, I stand by that. However, I see the potential in it if cloud gaming were to come to the Surface tablet. Since Smart Glass allows the Xbox 360 and tablets to share game data, it would be a small stretch to change the system to share game saves. Imagine, using this, you could be playing Assassin’s Creed III on your Xbox 360, transfer your save file to your Surface tablet, and pick it right back up whenever and wherever you want. You could even mix and match physical and digital games if you wanted. Why not buy a physical copy of a game for your Xbox 360, and then transfer the save file to a cloud version to run on your tablet? This could finally bring Xbox users and PC users under one unified brand, as well as be incredibly convenient for those who are constantly on the go, like college students, for example.
Outside of the very underutilized connection between the PS3 and PS Vita, no company has any system in place with this much potential. Between Microsoft’s Windows Live, Surface tablet, Smart Glass, Xbox Live, and of course, the Xbox 360, Microsoft has an incredible infrastructure at its disposal. It would be relatively easy, when everything is considered, to adapt cloud gaming to this expansive system. Microsoft has all the pieces in place to win the streaming war before it begins, and it has the users to back it up. But it would still be a risk, and unfortunately, big companies don’t usually like risks. It’s too bad, because Microsoft probably won’t put any of this into effect, at least for not several years. But I have to wonder, who could stop them if they did?
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How Microsoft Could Win the Streaming War Before it Begins
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