Spencer: Game Streaming via Cloud Is Years and Years Away from Becoming Mainstream


Cloud streaming is about to make a big splash throughout the games industry. Of course, there are already cloud streaming services such as GeForce NOW (still in beta), Shadow, or even PlayStation Now, but Google and Microsoft are launching their services this year (Stadia and xCloud) aiming to massively expand their audience.

Speaking to Gamespot in a recent interview, however, Microsoft's Head of Gaming Phil Spencer warned that it may well be years until cloud streaming becomes truly mainstream.

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I think this is years away from being a mainstream way people play. And I mean years, like years and years.

Let's take Netflix, which is 20 years old. I think we forget that sometimes because tech moves so fast. It's 20 years old at this point, so it took two decades for us to get to the point where shows like Game of Thrones and House of Cards are some of the biggest shows on the planet and mainly watched via streaming. I think game streaming will get there faster than 20 years, but it's not going to be two years. This is a technological change. While it seems like it happens overnight, it doesn't.

It takes time for these services to evolve. We are building for the long-term, but that's why choice is so critical. I'm not trying to say go sell your consoles today and switch over to streaming because the experience just isn't the same as playing on your console, but I do think in terms of reaching everybody, the democratization of play and content, it's important that we don't lock all of these experiences behind purchasing a certain device.

And way over time, we'll have a global service that can reach everybody and the infrastructure to reach any customer with a consistent and high-quality internet service, but that's going to take time. We talk about Project xCloud and we use words like "trials" not because we don't believe in our tech--our tech is as good as anybody's tech out there, and the team is doing really amazing work--but this is about the reality of time and choice for customers.

Clearly, Microsoft is implementing a whole different approach to cloud streaming compared to Google Stadia. Whereas xCloud is starting slow with public trials and will remain a side option to Xbox consoles and PC for the foreseeable future, Google is betting everything on the cloud from the get-go with Google Stadia.

This is one topic we'll follow with great interest in the upcoming months. Stay tuned for a lot more coverage.