Future of gaming defined by Google, Microsoft

Both companies' E3 announcements mark a turning point for the industry

Ah, the Electronics Entertainment Expo, or E3 in short - that time of the year when the whole video game industry gathers to tell its fan all about the incredible games and projects it’s been quietly (or not so quietly) working on. From a Breath of the Wild sequel to Keanu Reeves taking the stage during Cyberpunk 2077 presentation and calling the audience “breathtaking,” this year’s E3 has been a whirlwind of stellar moments and exciting announcements.

Most importantly, however, E3 2019 was a moratorium on the future of gaming. And if you read the headlines, it is clear that the way people are going to play video games is about to change because game streaming is about to enter the house.

On the one hand we have Google Stadia. For the past two decades, Google has instantly delivered almost any information which is made possible from their data centres and network capabilities right at your fingertips and the company is now using that technology to change how people access and enjoy video games with its new video game platform, designed to deliver instant access to your favourite games on any type of screen be it a TV, laptop, desktop, tablet or mobile phone. With Google Stadia, the search giant will deliver games in resolutions up to 4K and 60 frames per second with HDR and surround sound, converging two distinct worlds: people who play video games and people who love watching them. This way, Stadia promises is to lift restrictions on the games we create and play and the communities who enjoy them. By combining server class GPU, CPU, memory and storage, and with the power of Google’s data centre infrastructure, the gaming platform can also evolve as quickly as the imagination of game creators. To be honest, no company with pockets as deep as this has entered the gaming sphere since Microsoft launched the original Xbox in 2001.

And speaking of Microsoft, its Project xCloud is what's on the other hand. It's another streaming service, and it complements the upcoming Xbox console, codenamed Project Scarlett, while also promising to forever change the way we consume video games. Microsoft’s approach to the next generation of gaming is a multi-faceted one since there’s actually two sides to the service though, with the first being the ability to stream games from your console and the other not requiring you to own any console or game yourself. Yet, during E3 Microsoft were very careful to emphasise that xCloud (which is just a codename) is a multi-year project and it’s going to take some time before everything is running as smoothly, and is as widely supported, as something like Netflix. In terms of what the company presented at E3, the Project xCloud seemed to work flawlessly, with Microsoft showing off Xbox One controllers with smartphones attached to them by a simple grip. Games such as Forza Horizon 4 and Halo 5 seemed to work flawlessly, with no visible difference to playing on a console in terms of resolution, latency, or graphical quality.

It’s however very difficult to compare the two services, not least because the xCloud demos were running on small smartphones and the Stadia ones were on giant TVs. The problem is that in the controlled conditions of E3 you can’t really trust anything, so there’s almost no point evaluating any of the streaming services until you can play them at home in considerably more uncontrolled conditions. The initial impression though was that Microsoft’s plans seem more assured and practical, and seeing Xbox One games running on a smartphone was a genuinely impressive milestone in video gaming tech.

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