In a recent leak from the FTC v. Microsoft case, details have emerged about Microsoft’s future plans for its gaming platform. It appears that Microsoft is aiming for “full convergence” of its cloud gaming platform and physical hardware by 2028. The leaked documents reveal a presentation called “The Next Generation of Gaming at Microsoft,” which outlines the company’s vision for a next-generation hybrid game platform that combines the power of the client and the cloud to deliver immersive and new game experiences.
This concept of a hybrid game platform is not new and was actually suggested by others in the industry, including myself. In a previous article, I mentioned how Microsoft had the opportunity to build games that scale from native hardware to the cloud. Microsoft has already experimented with this idea to some extent with Microsoft Flight Simulator, where photorealistic scenery is streamed from the cloud, providing a more immersive experience. Another example is an Amazon demo from 2014, where the game’s assets are stored in the cloud, and only certain elements are rendered locally to maintain responsiveness.
The leaked documents from Microsoft refer to this idea as “Cohesive Hybrid Compute,” which involves a cloud-to-edge architecture across silicon, graphics, and operating systems to enable ubiquitous play. The team behind this concept suggests that partnerships with AMD for silicon development would be crucial, as well as the inclusion of a machine learning AI coprocessor for various benefits such as super resolution and latency compensation.
According to the leaked documents, Microsoft had a potential roadmap for this technology, with hardware design beginning in 2024, dev kits arriving in 2027, and the production of hybrid cloud games from 2024 to 2026. However, it is unclear whether these plans were ultimately executed, as Microsoft has been known to change its strategies, as seen with the abandonment of its dedicated xCloud SKU in favor of partnerships with other providers.
The leaked documents also reveal that this idea of a hybrid game platform was a topic of discussion among Microsoft’s top leadership, including CEO Satya Nadella, Xbox boss Phil Spencer, and Windows devices and operating system leader Panos Panay. Nadella reportedly wrote, “We are building 4 types of computers: cloud everything, a hybrid Xbox, hybrid Windows, and hybrid HoloLens. We need to bring the company’s systems talent together to align on a unified vision.”
In a separate document called “Roadmap to 2030,” the leaked documents suggest that Microsoft’s new strategy may revolve around the controller. It mentions a new Xbox controller called Sebile, which includes “Direct-to-Cloud” connectivity, as well as Xbox Wireless and Bluetooth. The document also hints at the possibility of Microsoft developing a mobile controller, a one-hand controller, and a gaming keyboard and mouse.
It is worth noting that Microsoft hired Kim Swift, a former Google Stadia design director, in 2021 to lead a new team focused on cloud-native games. It is unclear if this initiative is related to the leaked plans for a hybrid game platform. Sony has also made moves in the cloud gaming space, hiring Jade Raymond from Google Stadia to lead a studio working on cloud gaming technology.
In conclusion, the leaked documents from the FTC v. Microsoft case have shed light on Microsoft’s plans for a next-generation hybrid game platform that combines the power of the client and the cloud. While these plans are not guaranteed to come to fruition, they provide insight into Microsoft’s long-term vision for its gaming platform. With the growing interest in cloud gaming, it will be interesting to see how Microsoft and other companies adapt and innovate in this space.