Xbox Chief Says Its Main Competitors Are Now Google, Amazon Rather Than Sony, Nintendo

from the not-so-sure dept

There are great rivalries in this world. The United States and Russia. The Yankees and the Red Sox. All of us and our mothers-in-law. And, in the gaming space for over a decade, there has been Microsoft and Sony. Since the Playstation 2 v. Xbox iteration of this, Sony and Microsoft have gone head to head in the console wars, with Nintendo also filling in some more niche-style gaming needs. The last battle in this war, the Playstation 4 v. the Xbox One, quite famously went in Sony's favor, with Microsoft having a disastrous pre-launch PR nightmare and sales numbers that ultimately saw Sony never once trailing its chief rival.

And yet, as Sony has announced its forthcoming Playstation 5 console, the man in charge of Microsoft's Xbox product recently stated that Google and Amazon are its competitors now, not Sony and Nintendo.

Microsoft’s head of gaming and Xbox, Phil Spencer, has revealed that the company sees Amazon and Google as its main competition for the future. Speaking in an interview with newly launched technology publication Protocol, Spencer dismisses Sony and Nintendo’s ability to create a cloud infrastructure that will challenge Microsoft, Google, or Amazon.

“When you talk about Nintendo and Sony, we have a ton of respect for them, but we see Amazon and Google as the main competitors going forward,” says Spencer. “That’s not to disrespect Nintendo and Sony, but the traditional gaming companies are somewhat out of position. I guess they could try to re-create Azure, but we’ve invested tens of billions of dollars in cloud over the years.”

This, of course, all revolves around game streaming services and gaming-as-a-service platforms. Spencer appears to indicate that such services are the way gaming will be done in the near future and Microsoft is somewhat uniquely positioned among the traditional console rivals to dive into that market, with the built out Microsoft Azure platform backing them. Sony and Nintendo aren't likely to be able to build out their own infrastructure to rival Azure, and would instead have to partner with another company. Except that Amazon and Google are the likely candidates for that and Google has its own Stadia product in place, despite its ongoing problems.

But the real question is: Is Spencer right to bet on game streaming as the wave of the future? There are real roadblocks in its way. Google is not without resources and its Stadia product both hasn't lived up to expectations and has poisoned the well to at least some extent with the public. Those bad impressions may not last forever, but certainly it doesn't look like game streaming is going to be ready for prime time in this console cycle. Add to that the woeful state of broadband internet in America, not to mention how a lack of competition has allowed providers to put data caps in place, and you very quickly have to wonder if game streaming has an underlying American infrastructure problem that it can't possibly solve.

You have to wonder too if Spencer is hedging his bets with all of this in preparation for losing yet another battle in the current console wars.

Cloud gaming still seems like it’s in the distant future, especially as Sony and Microsoft prepare to launch the traditional PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X consoles later this year. Both next-generation consoles will go head-to-head throughout the important holiday season, and Nintendo is still seeing positive growth with its Switch sales, thanks to the new Switch Lite.

If past is prologue, you would expect Sony to rush into the next battle in a strong position compared with Microsoft. If that occurs, Spencer probably better be right if he's going to bet on game streaming.

Filed Under: competition, playstation, stadia, streaming, video games, xbox
Companies: amazon, google, microsoft, nintendo, sony


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  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 7 Feb 2020 @ 2:42pm

    Years down the line perhaps, but now? No.

    If they're aiming for gaming streaming services the likes of Google and Amazon may be more immediate 'competitors' but ultimately the real chokepoint for that service is at the ISP level. It doesn't matter if Google, Amazon or Microsoft come out with amazing streaming services if most of the market can't actually use them, leaving standard gaming as the superior choice as a result.

    Google and/or Amazon might be their competitors in the game streaming service down the line should decent internet at sane prices becomes the norm, but until that point I suspect that most if not all attempts are doomed to failure or mediocrity, as the lousy internet service available hobbles them from the outset.

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    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 9 Feb 2020 @ 3:55am

      Re: Years down the line perhaps, but now? No.

      "but now? No."

      While the headline of this article says "now", the actual words from Spencer say "in the future". There's no doubt that the industry is moving more toward digital distribution, with services and streaming being as important next gen as anything else.

      Also, who's to say that those companies have to push their own brands? There's nothing to stop Sony and/or Nintendo teaming with those companies should they opt to do so. Especially Nintendo, who might soon tire of having the reputation of not having a clue about what they're doing online and get help in that arena.

      "should decent internet at sane prices becomes the norm"

      It is already. Perhaps not in the US, but some of us are already there, and the market for videogames is much larger than the US. As soon as companies like Google stop pissing around in large countries with notoriously bad service and decide to make their services available where the infrastructure already supports their vision, we should see some changes.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 9 Feb 2020 @ 11:38am

      Re: Years down the line perhaps, but now? No.

      Microsoft is really doing wishful thinking here. GaaS isn't viable currently nor will it be in the near future. Doing something like this requires massive infrastructure and legislation changes that no-one not even Google is willing to up front the investment for. Hell, Google tried to do it and failed due to the cost.

      Make no mistake, Gaming-as-a-service or more accurately DRM-as-a-service, is something the AAA gaming industry is literally dying for. There is another industry crash on the horizon, due to their own greed (again), and they want to try and make sure that when the industry recovers the only way you'll be playing games is through constant rent payments. Something that the other non-interactive media giants have that insulates them from consumer demand, that the gaming industry cannot currently exploit. As such there is a massive push for GaaS, backed by every promise and unicorn the industry can come up with. GaaS will happen. Baring any massive war or other incident, the gaming industry will get what it seeks. Consumers are just that stupid. Full stop. It just won't happen anytime soon due to cost.

      As for whether or not Microsoft will be be the beneficiary of GaaS when it does come to bare rotten fruit, that's also uncertain. Microsoft has never really tried to compete as a traditional console developer. Most would try to have exclusives and brands tied (contracted) to release on their console first. Microsoft doesn't do this. Most of Microsoft's offerings will always show up on a competitor's platform, if not on the same day as a release on theirs.

      Microsoft also doesn't really cover most gaming genres. Sure there's every release of Call of Duty / Halo (FPS) or Madden / Forza (Sports / Racing) on Microsoft's platform, but most other genres don't really have a presence there. It's certainly not the first place you would look for them. This last one alone is the reason why in overseas markets (Specifically Japan where Sony / Nintendo are HQed) Microsoft is mostly irrelevant. The gaming public there doesn't value FPS / Sports games as much as the US does.

      As such, Microsoft just doesn't have the exclusive franchises that would make their GaaS offering profitable. They would need to contract out to get them, and they lack the relationships for that as well. Sure they may be profitable the first three to six months after a COD release, but to maintain those server clusters and pipes they will need a lot more drawing people in and keeping them there to keep the servers running. Otherwise, their GaaS will be short lived as people begin to realize the games they "get" via GaaS are time limited. Maybe Microsoft's future in the gaming industry is via partnering with Sony / Nintendo. Maybe this announcement is an attempt by Microsoft to make such a partnership easier to accomplish politically. Independently however, Microsoft's GaaS will putter out the second Sony / Nintendo select a different hosting provider.

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      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 10 Feb 2020 @ 1:39am

        Re: Re: Years down the line perhaps, but now? No.

        "GaaS isn't viable currently nor will it be in the near future."

        So, what's your suggestion? Microsoft should provide zero investment in the sector until all their competitors have already profited from it, even though they're in the best possible place to support it now?

        "Something that the other non-interactive media giants have that insulates them from consumer demand, that the gaming industry cannot currently exploit."

        I'm not following you here. Are you saying that Game Pass doesn't exist now?

        "most other genres don't really have a presence there."

        Name just one, I dare you. Unless you're thinking of hentai dating sims, they're pretty much covered.

        "Sure they may be profitable the first three to six months after a COD release,"

        Why do you keep talking about cross-platform EA games in order to specifically attack Microsoft?

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      • icon
        Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 10 Feb 2020 @ 6:19am

        Re: Re: Years down the line perhaps, but now? No.

        I don't usually come out swinging in favor of DRM-as-a...err, gaming-as-a-service...but if anyone has a shot at this it'll be Microsoft.

        Mainly because they already have a hell of a backbone in the form of infrastructure - all of windows 10 and it's assorted cloud solutions/xbox integration.

        For them it's not a question of having to build a new network. They can just expand their existing one.

        It's no wonder everyone entertaining ideas of game streaming (like Sony and Nintendo) wants rental space on the microsoft network.

        What I don't get is why MS would ever allow Sony on their network. Sony has never, ever managed to find a platform online it couldn't screw up, and the fallout from that is more than likely to impact MS as well.

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        • icon
          PaulT (profile), 10 Feb 2020 @ 9:21am

          Re: Re: Re: Years down the line perhaps, but now? No.

          "I don't usually come out swinging in favor of DRM-as-a...err, gaming-as-a-service"

          I don't know how someone can look at the current status of gaming, with day one required updates, DLC and microtransactions and such, and say that streaming is the thing that would make this happen. Unless you do all your gaming through GOG or similar, you're already using DRM as a service, just to a different degree to if it's explicitly a rental service.

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          • icon
            Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 11 Feb 2020 @ 3:12am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Years down the line perhaps, but now? No.

            "Unless you do all your gaming through GOG or similar, you're already using DRM as a service, just to a different degree to if it's explicitly a rental service."

            Mainly? Buy the game if it's a title I'm really supportive of, then download the cracked version and install that one.

            In some cases I simply abstain completely because if the developers had to let Denuvo anywhere near their product that tends to speak volumes about how good the game is likely to be.

            Game streaming, otoh, means you pay good money for a product which may or may not be available tomorrow and with no real control over what you do with it. At some point consumer rights is something best enforced by having control over the physical installation.

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            • icon
              PaulT (profile), 12 Feb 2020 @ 12:48am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Years down the line perhaps, but now? No.

              "Mainly? Buy the game if it's a title I'm really supportive of, then download the cracked version and install that one."

              So, you're not interested in console games or games that require a significant online component?

              That's cool, but don't think you're anywhere near the mainstream market in that case.

              "Game streaming, otoh, means you pay good money for a product which may or may not be available tomorrow and with no real control over what you do with it"

              Which is why I referred to it as a rental. I have no problem with rentals. I don't expect the same control over my Netflix streams as I do with my Blu Ray collection, and it would be dumb to expect that.

              " At some point consumer rights is something best enforced by having control over the physical installation."

              Yes, and you should exercise that control. But, pirating a cracked copy and hoping you don't get kicked off XBox Live for using that copy on the service you need to play the game normally is not the option that you think it is for most people.

              I'm all for non-DRM ability. But, if you can't accept that most people are already using games that involve significant factors that are outside of the normal gamer's control already, then you're not addressing the realities of the modern marketplace. For every person like you, there's a bunch of gamers who already happily pay extra for DLC and pay to play components, from a digital download that's tied to their console. They're not going to blink at not owning a copy if streaming becomes a real viability, even if you stick with your plastic discs and pirated copies that make distributors think they're losing money.

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              • icon
                Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 12 Feb 2020 @ 6:12am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Years down the line perhaps, but now? No

                "So, you're not interested in console games or games that require a significant online component?"

                Console games not so much - if you end up assembling a high end PC by hand and enjoy playing around with high fps on a 2k monitor and a lot of user-generated content then frankly, the console isn't for you to begin with. An experience consolidated by my brief experience playing GOTY Oblivion on the PS3 and running comparisons to the PC version I had.

                Online component, sure, I do play MMORPG's. A rather large part of the market which won't do too well streaming. You still can't buffer a game stream like it was youtube which means jitter and latency - already major sources of grief - are likely to keep streaming away as an option for some time to come.

                "Which is why I referred to it as a rental. I have no problem with rentals. I don't expect the same control over my Netflix streams as I do with my Blu Ray collection, and it would be dumb to expect that."

                I don't either, when my expectation is that of a rental or a subscription service. But note that you do not, with netflix, pay an extra "purchase" fee per movie on top of your subscription fee. Microsoft may be smart enough to open for the subscription option. But I fully expect some of the major actors in this to get into the game with the primary motivation to screw the customer for as much money as they possibly can, and wrecking unrelated sit for said customer while at it. Sony comes to mind.

                "Yes, and you should exercise that control. But, pirating a cracked copy and hoping you don't get kicked off XBox Live for using that copy on the service you need to play the game normally..."

                Again a case of how much control you have, or strive to have, over your computer. Steam offers a lighter interference than Origin, for example. If the game I want to play is accessible through an acceptable platform with credibility then fine. If it's on Origin then that game, if it shows in my computer at all, will be the cracked and sanitized pirate version.

                "But, if you can't accept that most people are already using games that involve significant factors that are outside of the normal gamer's control already, then you're not addressing the realities of the modern marketplace."

                I'm all too aware to which extent the marketplace relies on there being a vast herd of people easily separated from their cash over brand or bling, alas. Pouring the exact same crap in three different bottles and selling them at a price difference of over 500% entirely depending on which logo is on the front is more or less status quo in many major businesses.

                "For every person like you, there's a bunch of gamers who already happily pay extra for DLC and pay to play components, from a digital download that's tied to their console."

                Naturally. There are reasons why many MMORPG's survive and thrive on buy2play and microtransaction models, after all.

                "They're not going to blink at not owning a copy if streaming becomes a real viability..."

                But that's a big IF. In previous arguments you've referenced the xbox a few times, and it's not hard to understand why that actually works fairly well - microsoft already operate cloud server centres everywhere due to their office365 and windows update services, catering to some 95% of the PC-owning world, including major corporations.

                For anyone else that's going to be an expensive operation which has to rely on game streaming exclusively to pay the running costs, where microsoft only has to expand current operations. It's no wonder Sony and nintendo immediately went crawling to MS begging for rental space. For game streaming to work without unacceptable link losses there has to be a local national server to process the game operation and shunt the instruction load onto the nearest T3 trunk to mesh it with the rest of the international gamer community of the game in question.

                "...even if you stick with your plastic discs..."

                I know. A lot of gamers will be all too happy owning nothing or very little of the hardware involved. That's what they are willing to settle for. My guess is it'll be a fairly heavy quality reduction against very little, if any, money saved, but as we apparently both can agree, the market consists to a very large degree of people who simply aren't interested in the quality of what they spend their money on.

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                • icon
                  PaulT (profile), 12 Feb 2020 @ 7:47am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Years down the line perhaps, but now

                  "Console games not so much - if you end up assembling a high end PC by hand and enjoy playing around with high fps on a 2k monitor and a lot of user-generated content then frankly, the console isn't for you to begin with"

                  OK... so you're presumably in a totally different area of the market to the vast majority of people these things are aimed at. That's fine, but such people are the last people that streaming services are aimed at serving. They're irrelevant to the current conversation.

                  "Online component, sure, I do play MMORPG's."

                  So, presumably you understand that you don't really own any part of those games no matter how much DRM you crack, the game stands to change massively at the whim of the service you rent from and you will lose access to the game if you stop paying rental?

                  How is that different from your objections to streaming, other than performance issues which don't seem to be a problem for the people who have been reporting reasonable performance for the most part thus far? The feedback I've been seeing is largely along the lines of "it's not perfect but more than adequate for a secondary gaming device", which is what reasonable expectation would be right now IMHO.

                  "But note that you do not, with netflix, pay an extra "purchase" fee per movie on top of your subscription fee."

                  Nor do most streaming providers. You seem to be specifically opposed to Google Stadia's approach here, which is neither the model for the industry nor the one most people are looking at long term. If you want me to say that Stadia's approach is wrong in the current market then I'll agree, but that says nothing about streaming as a whole.

                  "Again a case of how much control you have, or strive to have, over your computer"

                  Console owners have already agreed to cede some part of that control to gain access to the benefits of console gaming. It's all about what you value more. Some people want complete control and the best performance, some people just want to know a game will work out of the box and let them connect with the people they want to game with.

                  "In previous arguments you've referenced the xbox a few times"

                  Because I'm primarily an XBox gamer and use Mac/Linux for work purposes (so rarely if ever game on Windows). I usually go multi-platform, but have stuck with XBox this gen for various reasons (some financial,, some because I prefer the platform overall). It's the area where I can speak from personal experience, as well as one where I can correct some obvious misconceptions about what the service will be.

                  Again, you're free to tell me where I'm wrong, but most objections don't have anything to do with the way I see the experience of gaming.

                  "For anyone else that's going to be an expensive operation which has to rely on game streaming exclusively to pay the running costs"

                  Which isn't a problem if the whole thing's going to be a niche or failure as a lot of you keep suggesting. On the other hand, if they refuse to invest in this tech before it hits big and then have to collaborate to compete when it does, that's their problem.

                  "A lot of gamers will be all too happy owning nothing or very little of the hardware involved"

                  Whereas a lot of gamers have been invested in an endless cycle of having to replace hardware every 5 years or so for a couple of decades now, if not the constant upgrade cycle that PC gaming requires to remain cutting edge if that's your thing. I fail to see the overall problem, in terms of hardware at least.

                  "the market consists to a very large degree of people who simply aren't interested in the quality of what they spend their money on."

                  ...then your problem is not with streaming services selling them added convenience for access to what they want to buy.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 10 Feb 2020 @ 8:34am

      Re: Years down the line perhaps, but now? No.

      Years? No. In fact there's no reason to believe in our life times gaming as an online service will be 100% viable.

      I see no reason to believe internet connections are being improved across the board to even come close to facilitating streaming something like the next Call of Duty or Halo.

      Sure you can do small browser games, slow games, etc. They exist now and work just fine. But AAA type titles with tons of multiplayer and graphics pushing action? Get out. It's fantasy land without pushing well beyond what is available now.

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      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 10 Feb 2020 @ 9:13am

        Re: Re: Years down the line perhaps, but now? No.

        "But AAA type titles with tons of multiplayer and graphics pushing action?"

        The fact that you only care about on specific type of game says more about you than any service provider. You sound like the kind of person who was mocking the idea of Netflix streaming being viable because they couldn't deliver full BluRay quality everywhere at launch.

        "It's fantasy land without pushing well beyond what is available now."

        To further the analogy, that's what Blockbuster were saying about the viability of said streaming. How did that turn out again?

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        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 10 Feb 2020 @ 10:53am

          Re: Re: Re: Years down the line perhaps, but now? No.

          Not exactly analogous is it?

          People were pirating blueray quality before netflix did it so it was clearly possible to buffer and "stream" it. If you think your bluray videos you are watching in netflix is coming to you in real time constantly with zero buffering it says alot about your technical understanding.

          The fact you don't consider the very games that are not streamed right now, and are the most popular games for people to make twitch and youtube games about (overwatch, tarkov, rust, fortnight, etc) and that when they say about streaming games to PLAY not just WATCH cause watching can be BUFFERED and gaming cannot be buffered by seconds and considered any good. Even popular single player gaming experiences like Red Dead and The Witcher series would be unplayable messes if you are hitting seconds of lag to move and interact with the rich worlds.

          TLDR: The movie streaming shit was just that, shit and the people in tech knew it was shit when it was said.

          And if you think "fixing" it is as simple as the "fix" they made for bluray streaming, which I must stress... WAS ALREADY "SOLVED" BEFORE NETFLIX STARTED shut your damned trap about anything technial.

          You sound one of those idiots that would say "Well we put a man on the moon surely we can land a man on the surface of the sun!"

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          • icon
            PaulT (profile), 10 Feb 2020 @ 10:26pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Years down the line perhaps, but now? No.

            "People were pirating blueray quality before netflix did it so it was clearly possible to buffer and "stream" it."

            People were streaming Blu Ray quality video when Netflix launched? Really? Or, are you deliberately conflating other things? Because you're full of shit if you're claiming the former. They also certainly weren't streaming 4K, which Netflx are doing now in many places.

            The rest of your nonsense seems to depend on ignoring large parts of the gaming industry while making assumptions about tech you've never personally used. I don't know what the future holds, but people like you claiming that some things that are already happening will be impossible just because they haven't come out of the gate fully and perfectly formed will be funny to look back on in a few years, even if streaming itself never catches on as a mainstream option..

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            • icon
              Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 11 Feb 2020 @ 3:37am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Years down the line perhaps, but now? No.

              "They also certainly weren't streaming 4K, which Netflx are doing now in many places."

              But note that the AC's argument still applies - rarely in real-time which is an absolute must for interactive games.

              I'd be happy to see the infrastructure required for real-time thin clients emerge myself, but...I have to go with the AC on this much; We are unlikely to ever build networks that seamless within the next fifty years or so, and even if we did there's too much of the new bandwidth consistently consumed by Chinese and Russian hackers consistently stress-testing their botnet capabilities.

              That leaves a very few of us with great client-server connectivity and the rest hanging on a link which drops half it's packets across the ten hops or so which go over some decrepit old repurposed copper cable or pseudo-broken AT&T switch from the early 1990's.

              I think there is a very good reason why so many want Microsoft's cooperation in this - they already have the seeds of the infrastructure with their cloud based office 365 and other windows services catering to large corporations and individuals worldwide. The theory is they only need to scale the existing structure up.

              It'll still, in most cases, going to be a case of planning massive logistics across a network which probably won't cater to it. We'll see.

              But the questions are real enough to want to address.

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              • icon
                PaulT (profile), 12 Feb 2020 @ 12:55am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Years down the line perhaps, but now? No

                "But note that the AC's argument still applies - rarely in real-time which is an absolute must for interactive games."

                Not always. It really depends on the game. That's my point - there are some games where high resolution 60fps twitch gameplay is a must. There's some where it's really not a factor. There's some where it's nice but you can play no problem with some lag, etc. Claiming that the former is the only game type that exists does not help the cause. Neither does pretending something's not ever going to be possible anywhere because a few countries stopped investing in decent infrastructure.

                "But the questions are real enough to want to address."

                I'm waiting for one of you people to counter the results so far of Microsoft's streaming betas, rather than blindly claiming that it's not possible as a concept. From what I've seen a lot of those questions are being answered, you just find it easier to pretend nobody's looking at the results so far.

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                • icon
                  Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 12 Feb 2020 @ 6:31am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Years down the line perhaps, but now

                  "Not always. It really depends on the game. That's my point - there are some games where high resolution 60fps twitch gameplay is a must. There's some where it's really not a factor."

                  Well, yes. We'll have to observe which type of game - an MMORPG or FPS? Those already slim down the instructions which have to be passed to the game server to the absolute minimum - and not rarely, offer successful VPN service links ostensibly offering latency reductions by about 10%.
                  Those aren't likely to hold streaming as an option unless the servers are in the same city.

                  Single-player jrpg like Final fantasy VII-IX? Those are practically made for the streaming model.

                  "I'm waiting for one of you people to counter the results so far of Microsoft's streaming betas, rather than blindly claiming that it's not possible as a concept."

                  Microsoft already has cloud servers in every major location serving their office365 products, for not only private individuals but for most corporations. In their specific case adding xbox to their existing network is just expanding capability to a network already paying for itself.

                  That Sony and Nintendo are beating down Microsoft's doors is in that hindsight easy to understand, because they really don't want to build a server network which has to pay for itself exclusively through their streaming services.

                  It remains to be seen how well this scales. There are plenty of great ideas which worked just fine in beta but turned into complete shit-shows once the amount of clients exceeded certain tresholds.

                  From where I'm standing I'll grant you microsoft may have a go, mainly because their business model is already supporting a very heavy cloud server network. But for the rest and in general? I'm thinking it sounds as convincing as 5G still.

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                  • icon
                    PaulT (profile), 12 Feb 2020 @ 7:47am

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Years down the line perhaps, but

                    "Single-player jrpg like Final fantasy VII-IX? Those are practically made for the streaming model."

                    Then why is it a problem for you that people who favour those genres have access to streaming if they wish it, while people who prefer genres that aren't as suited simply don't use it if they don't want to? One of the problems with the modern "gamer" is that they love to gatekeep and declare something as useless if it doesn't fit their personal needs. I get it if some people only play AAA shooters, but they're wrong if they believe they're the only market that counts, no matter how much of a cash cow they've been to certain companies.

                    The bottom line is that the requirements differ from gamer to gamer, and if something is suited to someone with different needs, that's not actually a problem unless you make it one.

                    "Microsoft already has cloud servers in every major location serving their office365 products"

                    As do Google and Amazon, hence the point made in the article. MS having a head start this round doesn't mean that others can't compete, only that they can't depend on their last gen install base automatically upgrading hardware if it takes off.

                    "It remains to be seen how well this scales."

                    Microsoft expanded their xCloud coverage in South Korea after successful trials, then to selected users worldwide. It seems to be going quite well, but I'm sure we'll see when it goes public properly.

                    "There are plenty of great ideas which worked just fine in beta but turned into complete shit-shows once the amount of clients exceeded certain tresholds."

                    Some of them failed. Some resolved their issues to become among the largest platforms in the world. We shall see what happens here.

                    "From where I'm standing I'll grant you microsoft may have a go, mainly because their business model is already supporting a very heavy cloud server network"

                    Yes, and their competitors have the choice of ignoring the new market, competing with their own infrastructure, partnering with a supplier for the infrastructure they lack, or something else.

                    "I'm thinking it sounds as convincing as 5G still."

                    Maybe it's all hype, maybe it's the next big thing, maybe it'll just be a useful bolt on to existing subscription services and a unique selling point for Microsoft to claw back lost customers from the current gen while not shaking up the market too much. It's way too early to call for sure, but some people do seem intent on declaring it a failure before most of it's out of beta. As I've said, I've seen this before, and Blockbuster didn't win out in the long term against Netflix as I recall (to reuse the obvious example, there are many others).

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  • icon
    Thad (profile), 7 Feb 2020 @ 3:26pm

    Since the Playstation 2 v. Xbox iteration of this, Sony and Microsoft have gone head to head in the console wars, with Nintendo also filling in some more niche-style gaming needs.

    "Head to head" maybe in terms of the audience they're courting, but the only generation where they sold a comparable number of units was the PS3/Xbox 360 era (and both of those were outsold by the Wii -- if that's a "niche", it's a pretty damn big one).

    The PS2 outsold the original Xbox by a factor of 6.5. The estimated sales of the Xbox One are less than half the PS4 (and the Switch has moved more units since 2017 than the XBox One has since 2013 -- again, that's a pretty big niche).

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 8 Feb 2020 @ 9:33pm

      Re:

      Nintendo has grasped a simple fact that Microsoft and Sony both missed: The people that REALLY care about graphics play on PC. Therefore the constant battle to have the best console graphics is inherently futile, and focusing on other things matters more. Nintendo has consistently grasped this, from their first party game design being top of the pack, to their peripheral experiments with motion control on the wii, to their attempts to produce hybrid portable consoles with the switch, or even adding the first touchscreens on the DS.

      Nintendo experiments to find the next big thing while Sony and Microsoft are both somewhat stuck in a dick measuring contest. Microsoft is trying to change that by gambling on streaming with Azure here, but as That One Guy pointed out above, no matter how good the streaming, it's still hobbled by the ISPs sucking. And if there's one thing guaranteed in these United States, it's that your ISP, without fail, fails.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 9 Feb 2020 @ 3:58am

      Re:

      "The estimated sales of the Xbox One are less than half the PS4"

      ...due to a famously bad launch where their customer base revolted against everything they tried doing. They've since gained back a huge amount of good will and reputation, and the things that have caused that good will to return are all cloud based (backward compatibility, Games With Gold, Game Pass, etc).

      Whether it's a return to form remains to be seen, but there's a lot of customers interested in the next XBox who defected this gen.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        bhull242 (profile), 11 Feb 2020 @ 7:45am

        Re: Re:

        I honestly don’t know that much about the details of the Xbox One, but how is backwards-compatibility cloud-based?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          PaulT (profile), 12 Feb 2020 @ 1:24am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Because the console is based on a chipset that's not directly compatible with older consoles. Compatibility was not an intended design choice, it only became an major feature to try and tempt people back who had already defected after the disastrous launch.

          The way it's implemented is that the older console is emulated, with each game repackaged with an emulator included that's optimised and edited to ensure the specific title runs properly on the new hardware. So, you can't just put an XBox 360 game into the XBox One and have it run, it confirms you have a licence to play the game (either through inserting a disc - which you have to do each time you play - or through digital purchase) and downloads a full emulated copy of the game.

          It actually works extremely well, but it's not implemented in a way that's possible without connecting to the XBox store. In fact, although this sounds like a pain in the ass it's brought me some extra benefits - I have a few games where disc rot has rendered the original disc unplayable or I've even lost one of a multi disc set, but what I have is still enough to pass the licence check without having to buy a new copy.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 7 Feb 2020 @ 4:49pm

    Spencer isn’t wrong about Nintendo’s capabilities. The Big N had to be dragged kicking and screaming into putting online play into its games/consoles. Even then, Nintendo did that so ass-backwards that not having online in Nintendo games almost looked better by comparison. And given the company’s weird-ass restrictions on cloud saves from the Switch, the situation won’t be improving for a good long while.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Chris-Mouse (profile), 7 Feb 2020 @ 5:20pm

    Even if Microsoft is wrong about streaming games being the future, there is a lot of truth to seeing Netflix and Amazon especially as competitors. All of those companies are competing to capture as many entertainment dollars as they can.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 12 Feb 2020 @ 6:50am

      Re:

      " All of those companies are competing to capture as many entertainment dollars as they can."

      Not any longer. The issue today with competition isn't primarily how much money. It's trying to muscle a foot in sideways in whatever spare time the customers have to entertain themselves with.

      Yesterday the kid had the option of renting a movie, going to the movie, or playing a game on the PC or console.

      Today that same kid has thousands of options. Between Netflix, smartphone/tablet games, three types of console, the DVD or SSD library on their PC, and game options several orders of magnitude greater than just twenty years ago, just WHY would that kid take time off in their busy schedule to squeeze a switch or PS4 into the equation?

      Netflix and Amazon - being the "retail volume" markets, become the greatest competitive threat simply because any customer who is bored and in need of entertainment knows they can find whatever they'd like to see on either venue.

      Sony and Nintendo, in trying to sell entertainment today, are peddling sand to desert dwellers and ice to eskimos. They're hanging on to that market mainly because they are established brands with a lot of history but - and this is a big caveat - they've seen the writing on the wall. They've seen what happened to SEGA and Atari.

      Try googling "Nintendo president: “I compete for time,” not against Xbox, PlayStation" and lok up the ars technica interview.

      A quote; "He counted the exact number of minutes per day and said that outside of the time a consumer spends eating, sleeping, working, and going to school, "all of the rest of that time is entertainment time. That’s what I compete for, minute by minute. That time you spend surfing the Web, watching a movie, watching a telecast of a conference: that's all entertainment time we’re competing for."

      They aren't competing for money so much as they are competing for an actual consumer base.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Feb 2020 @ 5:33pm

    Spencer is pretty off in this

    It's almost as if Spencer didn't learn from why the xbone failed. Gamers typically don't want some omi console-desktop merger thing. They want a dedicated machine to play their games consistently well. Now MS has done a lot cross platform play but that doesn't add a ton of playability.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Feb 2020 @ 6:08pm

    Cloud gaming directly contradicts Microsoft's claim that the future is edge computing. Maybe they just want you to download the game cintent from the cloud every time you want to play. Which really doesn't involve Azure's cloud competition-level in any way.

    Whatever it is, they just want to push the direction of gaming to more gatekeeper control and vendor lock-in, however it is they plan on doing that. And what they actually end up doing. Those are always two different things with MS. Another thing being what the consumer wants.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Yakko Warner (profile), 7 Feb 2020 @ 6:08pm

    He's not wrong

    Considering he was talking specifically about cloud infrastructure, he's right. Google and Amazon are the other big players in cloud services. Nintendo is doing their own thing for online (sort of), and Sony has actually partnered with Microsoft on this. His statement in context really should come as no surprise.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    madasahatter (profile), 8 Feb 2020 @ 7:13am

    Idiocy Reigns

    Streaming services are useless without content. So if there are no games to stream or play online then the size of the server farm is irrelevant. Thus Sony and Nintendo as well as any other game producer are more direct competitors to Xbox than Google or AWS. Also, if a game is popular the content producer gets the profits, again the backend is not critical.

    Now as cloud service providers hosting content, Google, AWS, and others are direct competitors. But this ignores that what the content is what is important not whose hardware it resides on.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Feb 2020 @ 12:22pm

    Spencer,s do not seem to know about the miilions of users ,who have slow broadband or have limited caps, maybe 500 gig,
    they will not be streaming xbox1 games ,the new console,s due in 2o20 ,
    will games over 100 gig in size, with 4k hdr asset,s and content .
    streaming games is like 3d tv, the tech may be there, but the public may not want it.
    evert tv company had tv s with 3d mode s,
    but no one wanted to use it .
    no one makes 3d tv s anymore .
    no one makes 3d games any more .
    do not underestimate the public.
    google stadia cannot even stream reliably in 4k mode, its not gettiing much of a user base.
    of course spencer may be a rich exec, who has 4k tv,s and unlimited fast broadband,
    but he should not ignore the million of gamers who live in rural area,s
    with mediocre broadband service .
    people still want to be able to buy games on a disk, swap them or trade them in,
    Even those gamers who do not have fast broadband can use the ps4
    and buy games on a disc.
    the reason the sony ps4 won the gaming market,is it was aimed at average gamers who want to play games .
    xbox 1 was launched as a console with online drm console with kinect which most gamers did not use .
    amazon might have a great serivice and even give away free games
    but if most people cannot use it ,it may as well not exist.
    streaming game s might be like self driving car,s ,
    it might never be used by the general public or be viable in the real world .

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Feb 2020 @ 7:05am

    History repeating itself

    Microsoft prepares to shoot itself in the foot again. They've learned nothing from all the scandals they got into trying to dictate what customers wanted the last time around.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Feb 2020 @ 6:47am

    Microsoft has come in third place of the three major console makers since its debut. I'm sure the company is very happy with its numbers, but to continually fall into third place is rather embarrassing.

    So instead of trying to compete in one arena, it's moving to another, against two of the largest streaming companies on the planet, which don't cater these services strictly to gaming.

    Microsoft will not win this "war" either and the reason is quite obvious to anyone who pays attention to the gaming market.

    Without games, Microsoft has nothing to entice people to buy or subscribe to, which is something Phil and the other executives have a hard time accepting.

    Mention "Nintendo", and first party titles fill the conversation.

    Mention "Sony", and its exclusives fill the conversation (and plugging both Last of Us and Horizon Zero Dawn because they're exceptional).

    Mention "Microsoft", and you get children bragging about saving on a ton of low-budget or failed major publisher games because of GamePass.

    I don't buy a console to buy services. I buy it to play games.

    Ironically, Microsoft even stated they're giving no one a reason to by the XBox Series X (and their naming convention needs work too) as there will be no exclusives or titles released to show off its raw power.

    For a year.

    Personally, Microsoft's decisions have done exactly the opposite of their intended outcome: I just bought a PS4 Pro and there's no way I'm spending a dime on Microsoft in the future.

    Way to go, Microsoft. Hope it was worth it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 10 Feb 2020 @ 9:13am

      Re:

      "Microsoft has come in third place of the three major console makers since its debut"

      I wonder what tortured version of the Wii U and XBox 360 sales figures you have to refer to in order to make this claim.

      "Mention "Microsoft", and you get children bragging about saving on a ton of low-budget or failed major publisher games because of GamePass."

      Yes, failed games like GTA V, Final Fantasy XV, Forza Horizon 4, the Wolfenstein series and The Outer Worlds, among other relatively recent additions. I sure am dumb for paying the equivalent of $20 for 3 months access to those games rather than pay $60-80 per title up front, huh?

      "I don't buy a console to buy services. I buy it to play games."

      Me too. Which is why Game Pass is such a great deal as it allows me access to many more games than I'd realistically be able to afford to buy at full price.

      "I just bought a PS4 Pro"

      Good for you. Why you think that waiting for a console to go cheap near the end of its lifecycle, rather than buying early into the PS5 makes you a valuable customer is a mystery, though.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 10 Feb 2020 @ 12:51pm

        Re: Re:

        Be honest, Paul. You're not just paying "$20", you're paying $20 per month; that is unless you're actually beating those games in one month and then cancelling your Game Pass subscription.

        Actually, we're currently in the golden age of OPTIONS.
        -you wanna $ubscribe and stream, go ahead
        -you wanna own a physical copy, go ahead
        -you wanna "own" a digital copy (until it gets yanked for some obscure licensing issue), go ahead

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          PaulT (profile), 10 Feb 2020 @ 10:28pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          "Be honest, Paul. You're not just paying "$20", you're paying $20 per month"

          No, I'm paying $20 for 3 months, which is exactly what I said I was doing. Which is a better option for me personally than paying full price for the games I'm playing during my subscription.

          What exactly was wrong with what I said?

          "Actually, we're currently in the golden age of OPTIONS."

          Yes, which is why it's silly to see people losing their shit because they happen to dislike one of the options.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Feb 2020 @ 9:26am

    moving targets

    (disclosure: I've been gaming since the Atari 2600 and currently own a PS4 & a Switch)

    -eventually there will be no exclusives since consoles are specialized mini PCs now

    -Switch better watch out if streaming to any device takes off. Playing Xbox/PSNow games on my phone won't be powered by the phone as much as by the data center

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 11 Feb 2020 @ 3:47am

      Re: moving targets

      "eventually there will be no exclusives since consoles are specialized mini PCs now"

      Only if Sony is forced to face that or ruin. We all remember the shit-show of the "otherOS" PS3 and the SecuRom precursor rootkit. It's pretty clear that That certain corporation is willing to go to any distance if it means locking their customers out of actual choices.

      And unless they can get their customer base to migrate to nintendo or xbox they'll keep right on doing that, ensuring that at least one console will never be a "miniPC".

      I've strangely found console gamers to often resemble apple fans - willing to put up with a significant amount of abuse and loss of control before they decide to look at the prospect of switching.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Webmaniac (profile), 11 Feb 2020 @ 9:41am

    No, this competitor is always video games business

    The top 10 competitors in Xbox's competitive set are PlayStation, OUYA, Gamevice, Fan TV, WII, Sling TV, SteelSeries, GameStick, iConsole and Astro Gaming. Together they have raised over 115.2M between their estimated 4.6K employees. Xbox has 144,000 employees and is ranked 1st among it's top 10 competitors.

    My website : Link

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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