A recent quote from Phil Spencer in an article by Protocol has painted a clear picture of where Microsoft thinks the gaming industry will be going in the future. Even though Microsoft will be launching a new Xbox console this year, Spencer sees streaming as the future of gaming.
“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,” Spencer said. While Spencer appreciates what both companies do in the gaming space and their history of success, he doesn’t see either company being able to invest the time, or money, required to catch up to streaming solutions like Microsoft’s Azure platform.
Spencer sees the future being fought over access to cloud gaming services, with consoles becoming less important due to comparatively limited reach. “I don’t want to be in a fight over format wars with those guys while Amazon and Google are focusing on how to get gaming to 7 billion people around the world,” he said.
While Amazon, Google, and Microsoft are all betting big on streaming, with substantial financial investments in the service, the real-world results have been less than stellar. Google Stadia’s launch was marred by problems with pre-orders, a lack of games, and poor communication from Google themselves about the future of the product.
Nvidia GeForce Now, a streaming solution that has been in beta for years was just launched by the hardware manufacturer, but once again, early impressions are not the best. Users are reporting a lack of clarity in the design of the program. Also, the service is hampered by the need for an excellent internet connection. It does have advantages over Stadia, however, as it will allow you to stream the games that you already own. Rather than purchasing games on the service, you pay a $5 a month fee, and the service can stream games from your Steam, Epic, Battle.net, and Uplay accounts. This severely undercuts the price of Google Stadia, making it a more attractive offer to people who already play games. The downside is that GeForce Now doesn’t support all the games you own, and titles from studios like Rockstar are notoriously absent from the service.
In many ways, game streaming feels a lot like the first time Virtual Reality arrived in gaming. We are being told that it will be the future of the industry, but the reality of the present is disappointing because the technology isn’t there to support the idea.
While Spencer and Microsoft might feel that Google and Amazon are their main competition in the future, this year, they will be trying to turn around a war that they are currently losing to Sony and Nintendo in the console space. The console war might someday become the streaming war, but for now, gaming is still a hardware-based battle.