Xbox Project Scarlett & Game Streaming – A Network Operator’s Perspective

While others have tried to launch a streaming service for gaming, the Xbox Project Scarlett might be the best looking of them all. A word of caution, success with this offering may be outside their wider control.

Anyone with more than a passing interest in video games are likely to have heard the news, or should we say rumour that Microsoft’s next games console, reportedly codenamed “Project Scarlett”, will offer consumers the a format and ability to stream games from Microsoft’s cloud.

This rumour, reported first by Thurrott, is that Microsoft will release a traditional console for high-end enthusiasts with it likely building on the Xbox One X released in 2017, as well as a less expensive box that will be streaming-only unit.  This model makes perfect sense. As the saying goes, hardware is hard so a cut down less expensive to produce model works on many levels. From a publisher perspective it’s a all good too. Already more than 50% of Global games sales coming from digital formats with the traditional retail sales avenue becoming less important with each passing quarter.

While there’s plenty commentary out there to be had on “what we already know about the new Xbox“, let’s take a moment to think about all this from a network operator’s perspective and by this we mean the people who provide the connectivity this service will be delivered over. Without them on board and with the possible erosion of Net Neutrality, Microsoft would be well served to seek their support in the run up and post launch time frame.

Video Game Streaming – It’s Mostly All About Latency

Let’s keep this nice and simple.  Any streaming service, particularly one for gaming needs super low latency, the time taken for an input on a controller to the response happening in the game, across the connection between a customers home network and the cloud platform on which the service is tested.

On this, Microsoft can engineer their code and work their magic so its as efficient as possible. They can also build the box with a decent amount of storage, RAM and processing power while using their huge scale to host the cloud services in super massively powered data centres.

However, what Microsoft can’t control is the speed and the quality of feed that goes into the back of the router in their customers home or the Wi-Fi spat out of those boxes that until recently, were chosen on the basis of cost, i.e. as cheaply as possible, rather than for their quality.

It’s this lack of control over the environment with which the service is to be delivered at the point of consumption that should have Microsoft most worried. Let’s be clear here, this isn’t a streaming Video service where latency isn’t all that much of a deal, in this case it makes all of the difference regarding the customers experience of the service. It is, as they say, a deal breaker.

Ultimately the ability for their service to be a success is out of their hands. Microsoft should know this.  The network operators and ISP certainly do.  If we were Microsoft, we would bridge this gap and take the necessary hits on the chin to do so.


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