Netflix has revolutionised the way we watch TV. From its early days posting out DVDs and games, Netflix now streams TV shows, films, and mini-series across the world. Netflix has even started producing its own shows and films, and its success has led to increased competition as the world of streaming has become prevalent in our daily lives. It was therefore a matter of when, and not if, the same was to happen for games. There have been previous attempts to launch a Netflix of games:
- Google, launched Stadia in 2019, saw limited success due to the limited games library available, and many had to be purchased as individual titles
- Nvidia platform, GeForce now ran into issues with developers (Activision Blizzard removed all its games from the site)
- Sony has had PlayStation now for a while, though this requires a PC or PlayStation 4
- OnLive launched in the early 2000s, but struggled with connectivity
The new offering from Microsoft seems to address a number of these issues and is hopefully the start of a new era for games afficionados. Alongside the new Xbox launch in recent weeks, Microsoft also launched the beta version of xCloud. This is a streaming platform for games available as a free add-on to the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate Service. Initially, this will be available on Android devices and across 22 countries including the US, UK, Canada, and South Korea. The service will allow users to pick a game from an online catalogue and play straight away on their phone. There is a plan is to expand this to PC, though the date for this is yet to be confirmed, but Microsoft has yet to confirm plans to expand this into Apple IOS. The aim is to reach as many gamers as possible, removing as many barriers as possible.
There are upwards of 100 games available, including Destiny 2, Gears of War 5, Minecraft Dungeons and Halo 5 to name but a few, and will stream directly to players phones, tablet, or eventually computers, removing the requirement to purchase expensive consoles or physical games. By removing the need to download content, the need for storage is reduced, as everything will be stored on the cloud. This means that people will be able to play more games, and the subscription style will enable players to try lots of different games before settling on their favourites.
Microsoft has also partnered with various gaming hardware manufacturers to create a range of dedicated controllers and accessories to work with the cloud gaming offering. For example, there is the Razer, which attached to the users’ smartphone and provides analogue sticks and buttons either side of the phone for a more immersive game play experience.
Already in existence, and hugely popular, DraftKings online casino is not dissimilar to a ‘Netflix’ of games. When visiting an online casino like that, players can be guaranteed to find different games to suit all levels of skill, time requirement and budget. Players can find themselves engaged in traditional casino games such as poker and blackjack, using a combination of luck and skill to outwit their competitors.
There are almost infinite variations to attract and engage all type of player. Players can also play the slots, which have been designed to be fun and engaging, and have different themes to engage different types of player, incorporating popular culture and providing different rewards. There are also roulette tables, baccarat, and live games, as well as links to fantasy betting and sportsbooks.
Additionally, there is a VIP area, dedicated to rewarding the most loyal of players with exclusive benefits, promotional offers, competitions and more: the VIP status is so exclusive it is by invitation only! When scrolling through the pages and pages of games, it is clear to see why online casinos are considered to already be doing what Microsoft, and other companies before them, have tried to do with online games.
It is clear that this online, cloud-based, stream-able games library is the future of gaming, however it will be key for future entrants to avoid the mistakes of previous competitors, many of which Microsoft will be able to overcome with their xCloud. They will need to ensure it truly is a subscription service, that there are enough games to keep players engaged and renewing their subscriptions, that they maintain strong relationships with developers and that they continue to invest in accessibility across multiple platforms. It will be vital to include the Apple market moving forward. The final, and perhaps most important aspect will be to ensure that games are developed to take buffering and internet connectivity issues into account, as this will ensure continued success in this area.