Microsoft is reportedly testing a way to stream high-end video games such as Halo to low-powered Windows tablets and phones.
According to The Verge’s unnamed sources, Microsoft showed a prototype of the cloud gaming service during an internal company meeting, where Halo 4 was streamed to a Windows Phone and a PC. An attached controller accessory effectively turned the phone into a portable gaming machine.
Latency was apparently 45 milliseconds on the smartphone, which would be a big step up from existing services like OnLive. (A 2012 test by Digital Foundry found latency of 183 milliseconds or more for OnLive. Other tests of the service have measured latency no lower than 130 ms.) Keep in mind, however, that Microsoft was streaming games from a data center near its Redmond, Wash., headquarters, according to Paul Thurrott. We’d expect latency to increase over longer distances.
Microsoft hasn’t announced any streaming game plans, so right now this is little more than a test. Still, it’s obvious why Microsoft would be interested in streaming games. Rival Sony will allow PlayStation 4 owners to run high-end console games anywhere in their homes using a PlayStation Vita handheld (and, perhaps, the Vita TV set-top box). Sony also plans to stream PlayStation 3 games to a variety of devices through the cloud service Gaikai, which Sony acquired last year.
Meanwhile, Valve’s newly-announced SteamOS and Steam Machines will allow users to stream games from their PCs to a television. Nvidia allows PC gamers to stream games to the Nvidia Shield handheld, and the company is building its own cloud gaming solution in Nvidia Grid.
All of these solutions effectively lower the cost of entry for high-end console gaming, both on your television and on mobile devices. I’m guessing Microsoft doesn’t want to be caught without its own solution if this turns out to be something people want. Besides, high-end Xbox games could be a killer feature for Windows Phones and tablets, and maybe even a low-cost “Xbox TV” set-top box.