Xbox Game Studios Publishing, Microsoft’s first-party video game publishing arm, has announced a new division to focus on projects designed with the cloud in mind. The division is helmed by Kim Swift, who established herself in the industry as the lead designer of iconic first-person puzzle game Portal, and subsequently rook on roles at Amazon, EA, and Google Stadia before joining Microsoft in 2021.
In a video presentation, Swift remarked that the goals of Xbox Game Studios’ cloud publishing division is to seek and help develop games that have ‘high levels of engagement, broad appeal, and reach’, as well as ‘the potential to build communities, and champion diversity and accessibility.’
The formation of a cloud-first publishing arm was created with the aim to create games that have the potential for greater reach and accessibility. The announcement of the division also served as a callout to developers to pitch their cloud-first projects to Microsoft.
The Cloud Gaming division’s mandate is to ‘partner with world class game development teams to develop Cloud Native games to bring unprecedented experiences to players that can only be achieved with Cloud Technology’.
The promise of cloud gaming speaks to the ability to play anything, anywhere. Specifically, there’s an appeal in being able to play the latest, high-performance games on devices that might not usually be able to handle them under normal circumstances. Cloud gaming relies on a network of servers to perform the processing and rendering of a game, which is then delivered to a device via the internet.
In an ideal world, cloud gaming means games have access to a huge amount of processing power which can be used not only for better visual rendering, but computational tasks like AI processing and randomisation. Swift also pointed to the benefits of using machine learning, and how it can help identify player toxicity, create procedural game components, and cater content to players.
For developers, the power of the cloud means only needing to focus on one specific build, rather than catering games to many platforms. It also means players could potentially share games with others instantly, a feature which also allows for fast iterative playtesting during development.
Of course, all of this only works long as you have a solid, high-speed internet connection, something many countries still struggle with to this day, including Australia. With any luck, worldwide infrastructure will improve by the time the division begins to really get going – Swift compared their progress to Netflix’s eventual transition from mailing DVDs to online streaming.
With the ability for Cloud games to be played anywhere and anytime on a variety of devices, Swift and her team are eager to see what kind of projects can be made specifically with this user relationship in mind.
Currently, those who work with Microsoft and their various publishing arms like ID@Xbox, as well as their services like Xbox Game Pass, can already benefit from assistance like funding, first-party support, user research and marketing support, as well as creative consultation, business support, and technical services.
The cloud division will likely provide avenues for cloud integration support, a line of communication to the xCloud team and other cloud teams in Microsoft, and cloud native services.
Swift urged any interested developers to get in touch with the Xbox Game Studios cloud publishing team. She ended by saying Microsoft wanted to provide best in class support to create ambitious, innovative cloud games to push the tech forward in new and exciting ways.