Xbox unveiled a new publishing division focused on “cloud-native” games

Xbox Game Studios Publishing has officially announced its new “Cloud Gaming Organization”.

According to Microsoft, the division “works with studios to develop cloud-native titles and bring them exclusively to the Xbox ecosystem.”

The division is led by Kim Swift, who joined Xbox last year as director of cloud gaming.

Swift rose to prominence as the project lead and designer of Valve’s Portal, before working as a designer and artist on Left 4 Dead and its sequel, and most recently served as director of game design at Stadia.

Introducing XSG Publishing’s New Cloud Gaming Organization

In an overview video for developers (which can be viewed above), Swift explained that the division’s mandate is to “partner with world-class game development teams to develop cloud-native games to provide gamers with unprecedented experiences that can only be achieved with the cloud.” Technology”.

The concept of “cloud-native” games is somewhat different from simply streaming games to a gamer’s screen using something like Game Pass or PlayStation Now.

While this technically counts as “cloud native” because it relies on remote servers, these servers still primarily run games designed for home consoles, which would provide identical performance if installed locally.

Instead, “cloud-native” games use the cloud to process certain parts of the game, such as physics, lighting, environments, or AI. This has a number of potential uses, such as freeing up processing power on a home console or ensuring that gamers joining an online world can all enjoy the same synchronized experience.

An early example of this is the “destruction zone” multiplayer mode in Crackdown 3, which uses the cloud to process the physics of destruction, allowing players to blast huge buildings into countless small pieces with no drop in power. performance.

Note: To view this integration, please allow the use of functional cookies in cookie preferences.

“Cloud gaming is still in its infancy,” Swift said in her presentation, comparing the new division’s position with that of Netflix when it was just beginning to transition from a record shipping company to a service. streaming.

“At the time Netflix was created, internet speeds weren’t what they needed to send packages fast enough to support streaming, so instead they sent physical packages through the mail as DVDs, and they had to wait for technology to catch up with their vision, but they were ready.”

Swift said she sees the future of cloud gaming falling into three distinct categories: ubiquity, cloud AI, and runtime compute.

According to Swift, ubiquity – the ability to stream games to any device, even if it wouldn’t be powerful enough to run them natively – is the “low hanging fruit for cloud content”.

Cloud AI, meanwhile, will “advance what developers can do using technologies like machine learning, natural language processing, and reinforcement learning.”

While this could lead to benefits for players in the form of things like more compelling NPCs, it could also lead to useful tools for developers, such as:

  • the ability to create QA bots that can use machine learning to test games at scale
  • toxicity detection and filters
  • use machine learning to improve games that have procedurally generated features
Xbox unveiled a new gaming-focused publishing division
Kim Swift joined Xbox in June 2021 to collaborate with independent studios to create games that harness the power of the cloud

Finally, runtime calculations could be used to “increase the power at runtime”, leading to improved graphics rendering, AI agents, randomization (for crowd scenes, for example), effects of destruction…or, as Swift puts it, “all things”.

“I really think that’s what people think of when they hear cloud gaming,” Swift said. “At one point I was working on a cloud title and was asked the question, ‘how can we create massive, simultaneous scale for players and make that more engaging? How can we have more players in a space than we’ve ever seen before? »

“And those are areas that definitely require longer-term investment, but we’re excited to start looking ahead and driving what this potential space could be.”

Last week, Assassin’s Creed publisher Ubisoft announced cloud-computing technology that it says will allow it to create entirely new types of games unhampered by the limitations that hardware platforms impose on development. .

Titled Ubisoft Scalar, it will allow the company to create larger and more complex game worlds than ever before that can be updated in real time and populated by giant numbers of players, creating new social experiences, a he declared.