XCloud Team Admits Latency Still a Fact of Life, “Best Place to Play is Locally… Flat Out”


The excitement over our glorious all-streaming future has faded somewhat in recent months. Google Stadia launched in November to somewhat middling reviews and widespread player apathy, but what about Microsoft’s Project xCloud? The Xbox cloud gaming service is currently in beta and by most accounts feedback has been pretty solid, but following Stadia’s less-than-impressive debut, it seems Microsoft is being careful to not over promise.

In a recent interview with Game Informer, members of the xCloud team do boast about how easy it is for developers to make their games streamable (launching a game takes as little as 30 minutes), but they soft pedalled on some other subjects. For instance, Project xCloud Vice President Kareem Choudhry admits latency isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Instead, Microsoft is focusing on consistency of performance.

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What we’ve found is that consistency of latency is actually much more important than the absence of latency. We’re doing a lot of work to make sure it’s consistent as possible. People kind of adjusted the timing and they’re able to play a game like Killer Instinct in our public preview right now, and Tekken 7, and other ones that you would think would be very, very sensitive to latency.

Meanwhile, Xbox boss Phil Spencer outright admits cloud gaming is not a proper replacement for local hardware at this point…

The best place to play is locally. I’ll say that flat-out. Streaming is a technology of convenience. It’s a technology of choice when you’re away from your console and you want to play.

Pretty different messaging than we got from Google, who were promising Stadia would be superior to local hardware and (somehow) deliver “negative latency," prior to launch. But hey, as we’ve already spelled out, xCloud isn’t trying to be its own platform like Stadia, but simply an outgrowth of the Xbox platform, so Microsoft can afford to be a little more, shall we say, real about things.

As mentioned, Project xCloud is currently in beta. The service is set to launch in full sometime in 2020.