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Xbox officially announces its cloud gaming division – led by Portal director

Following the hiring of Portal director Kim Swift, Microsoft has lifted the lid on its new cloud gaming division.

Microsoft has always been keen to push cloud gaming, after it was introduced to Xbox consoles this past Christmas. Now, it’s ready to start building cloud native games and has formed a new division for precisely that.

Announced during this year’s Game Developers Conference (GDC), this division is a part of Xbox Game Studios Publishing and is being led by Kim Swift, who directed the first Portal game.

Swift was hired by Microsoft specifically to work as senior director of cloud gaming and it’s Swift who details her division’s mandate in a 16-minute presentation.

The plan is to partner with other developers to create Xbox exclusive cloud native games that will bring ‘unprecedented experiences to players that can only be achieved with cloud technology.’

Aside from cloud games being able to take advantage of cloud streaming (so they can be played across multiple devices, with no downloads), the technology can also increase the processing power available to games. Although unfortunately the best known example of that is the disastrous Crackdown 3.

Some more general examples posited by Swift include using the cloud to process things like lighting and physics, which would free up processing power on a console, creating more convincing non-playable characters. The technology could also be used for machine learning to improve procedurally generated features and content for rougelikes and such.

Swift admits that cloud native games are still in their infancy, but this is to be a long-term investment for the company. She directly compares it to Netflix and how its streaming business model wasn’t feasible at the time of its creation but it was ready to take advantage of that once Internet connections had improved.

It’ll probably be a very long time before we see the fruits of Microsoft’s labour, although it’s most assuredly started on at least one project. Last year, it was claimed that Microsoft and Hideo Kojima were in talks to give the latter access to Xbox cloud technology, with Swift to providing assistance.

Any such game would then be an Xbox exclusive, which would be quite the shake-up considering Kojima’s close working relationship with Sony. Although, while his last game, Death Stranding, was a PlayStation console exclusive, Kojima Productions is not a first party studio and has the freedom to release its games on other platforms.

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