Amazon, Microsoft and Google are in a race to win business from companies who are moving their workloads over to the cloud. However, a new competition emerged in a very different category of the cloud market – gaming – which Microsoft has long been a gaming powerhouse, introducing the Xbox console in 2000. Microsoft stated in October that it will begin testing a cloud gaming offering this year to further expand how and where people can play games. Its Project xCloud will work on mobile devices.
Amazon, also in the competition to acquire cloud gaming, remained quiet regarding its ambitions in the market up until Thursday. The Information reported that the company held discussions with publishers about releasing games on a new service as early as 2020. Though Amazon declined to comment, the project would further build on past efforts to support game developers.
Meanwhile, Google started testing a cloud gaming service under the name of Project Steam, with a limited number of users. While it’s the latest example of three massive U.S. infrastructure companies utilizing their technology to work towards a way of enabling customers to offload their computing and storage needs without relying on expensive hardware, these companies aren’t necessarily equal. In fact, when it comes to gaming, Microsoft definitely holds the advantage.
“Amazon is not a gaming company. Google isn’t. Sony is a gaming company, but they don’t have a cloud presence,” said Steve Perlman, former CEO of cloud gaming company OnLive. “Then you have Microsoft — Microsoft has both of those things.”
Perlman founded OnLive in 2007, in which he sold assets to Sony in 2015 just a year after Sony announced its game streaming service, PlayStation Now. Even earlier in his career, Perlman sold WebTV to Microsoft, including some of the members of the team who worked on Microsoft’s Xbox 360 console.
At that time, he said, Microsoft was more interested in console sales. “We had some conversations with them” regarding cloud gaming, Perlman said. “It just wasn’t a place they wanted to go.”
However, today’s world is quite different. Microsoft is now “mostly a cloud business,” Perlman said. Aside from its established relationships with gaming companies including Activision Blizzard, Electronic Arts and Take Two Interactive, the company is also invested in cloud infrastructure.
“At least in theory, I think they could do it,” Perlman said.
Microsoft released a statement, claiming that it is best-positioned to develop and deliver this technology. “There are only a few companies in the world with the resources to make a game streaming service real at a global scale,” the statement said. “Out of those companies, only Microsoft has years of first-hand experience in the key areas that are vital to making this a great experience for gamers: cloud (to support and scale a quality experience), content (whether first-party or not, designing technology with developers to make gaming libraries accessible from anywhere) and community (having built the first-of-its-kind Xbox Live and evolved it over the last 15+ years).”