Cloud gaming may have taken a blow in the eyes of the mainstream public with Google's decision to wind down its first-party studios a mere couple of years after opening them, but regardless of this specific and very Google-style instance, cloud gaming is still very much on the rise.
NVIDIA's GeForce NOW continues to expand, Amazon's Luna (still in early access) keeps adding new games like No More Heroes, and Microsoft's xCloud has been bundled into Game Pass to make the ever-growing library of games accessible even on the go by subscribers.
The latter cloud gaming service is built on Microsoft's Azure servers and PlayFab technology, which the Xbox and Windows giant acquired about three years ago alongside the company. Former PlayFab CEO and CoFounder James Gwertzman, now Microsoft's General Manager for Gaming Cloud, was recently interviewed by Game Rant; during the chat, he talked about the new opportunities allowed by cloud gaming technology to create previously impossible experiences.
We have a number of "industry priority scenarios." It doesn’t roll off the tongue, but they’re things that we think the industry really cares about today that may be pain points that we’re trying to help with. The first one on our list of five is to accelerate game production with the cloud.
This act of content creation, once you have it in the cloud, distribution becomes more fluid. We see this with xCloud. It started out as just racking Xboxes in datacenters and streaming it. Now we’re getting more experience with it, and you may be able to build game experiences that would not be possible without running in the cloud. Games were you can have lots of players in a single environment interacting in new ways.
xCloud was about putting Xboxes in the cloud *laugh* but the broader term is pixel streaming, where you’re running GPUs in the cloud and streaming it down. Initially pixel streaming is going to be useful in non-gaming scenarios like architecture or retail where you want a 3D experience but you don’t have to have the hardware. That will then move into gaming and you’ll see developers leveraging experiences that go beyond what was possible before.
This is something we've heard before from Google as well as game developers such as Larian. Of course, some might snicker at the idea resurfacing from Microsoft again due to the failure of Crackdown 3's cloud-based multiplayer, though just because one game failed doesn't mean the technology as a whole doesn't have potential.
Besides, that's merely one of the possible applications. Later in the interview, Gwertzman also talked about a voice-font tool that could make it much cheaper (and easier) for smaller developers to add proper voice acting to their game projects.
[...] we have voice-font technology where we can record and listen to a couple of dozen hours of someone talking, and then build a model that can recreate that person’s voice saying whatever we want them to say. When you think about that in the context of deep fakes it’s deeply troubling, but when you think about its use in casting voices for games, it could allow an indie developer with a small budget to create thousands of hours of dialogue. Even better, have the computer speak using AI in whatever voice you want, you can get some really cool creative experiences. I love the idea of using voice fonts to let the computer speak in a more natural way than you typically get today. There’s neat opportunities like that coming.
Are you excited about the potential of cloud gaming, especially once 5G coverage will be more widespread? Let us know in the comments.