Microsoft didn’t allow photos of the game streaming feature, since the user interface hasn’t been locked down yet.
A continuing theme from Microsoft’s presence at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco is that the company wants Windows 10 to be a release that draws the interest of gamers everywhere. One of the pillars of that plan is a Game Streaming feature that lets people stream games from their Xbox One to a PC or tablet in real time.
Microsoft hasn’t announced a release date for the feature, but GeekWire got a sneak peak at it during a demo at the Game Developers Conference. At first glance, it’s an interesting way for Microsoft to enhance the capabilities of both its home console and computers that have traditionally been left behind by PC gaming system requirements.
To achieve that, Microsoft uses a proprietary codec to encode the data that optimizes for visual quality across a wide variety of different networks and minimizes latency. And it works remarkably well.
Richard Irving, a Group Program Manager for Xbox One at Microsoft, sat me down in front of a Surface Pro 3 that was streaming Sunset Overdrive from a nearby Xbox One. Using a wired Xbox One controller plugged into the tablet, I was able to smoothly grind, shoot and jump around inside one of the game’s early levels. Surprisingly, the experience was seamless, whether I was watching the Surface Pro 3’s screen, or a television hooked up to the Xbox One’s video output.
It’s worth noting that all of this was done under incredibly controlled circumstances. Microsoft had the chance to set up its own network and hardware, plus select a section of the game that likely doesn’t push the system to its limits. Going forward, it’s entirely possible the system won’t perform nearly as smoothly in more taxing situations and on more congested networks.
That said, high-quality game streaming is achievable – I played graphically rich games on a MacBook using OnLive a few years ago – and Microsoft seems committed to ensuring a smooth experience for customers.
Microsoft hasn’t locked down the final minimum technical specifications for game streaming, but Irving said that he hoped they would line up with the minimum specifications for Windows 10. That would mean anyone with a device that runs Microsoft’s new operating system would be able to also stream games from their Xbox One.
If Microsoft can pull off reliably streaming games from an Xbox One to a PC, it would be a huge boost to the gaming capabilities of Windows 10. Gamers won’t have to worry about hogging the TV all the time, and the feature could turn cheaper computers into an approximation of a gaming rig without costing several thousand dollars.
The added benefit of that to Microsoft is that the feature could encourage more PC and Windows tablet owners to choose an Xbox One over the PS4 or Wii U, and encourage more Xbox owners to pick up a Windows device.