PAT PILCHER gets all excited about the Microsoft announcement of Xbox game streaming from smart TVs, and then crashes back down to earth.
The days of longing for a shiny new game console may soon end if Microsoft’s recent announcements are anything to go by. At E3, Microsoft announced they are working on a cloud-based gaming service that will let people play Xbox games on smart TVs equipped with Xbox software. In this scenario, only a wireless controller, fast internet connection and a game pass subscription will be all that is needed.
Unfortunately, a big gotcha applies. The service won’t be launching in New Zealand any time soon.
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According to Microsoft, they are in the final stages of testing the service for US GamePass Ultimate members. Australia, Brazil, Mexico and Japan will also get the service later this year. The lack of data centres in New Zealand means Kiwis are not (yet) included.
Cloud-based console-free gaming isn’t anything new. Google has long had their Stadia gaming service. Now that Microsoft has launched a cloud gaming offering, it is likely that Sony could use its own TVs for a similar PlayStation offering. Google has so far not launched Stadia in New Zealand, despite the high penetration of fibre broadband and growing 5G coverage. Sadly, international bandwidth costs and latency issues appear to be to blame. This also means that Microsoft’s offering won’t reach New Zealand any time soon either. Google is also under no pressure to bring Stadia to New Zealand.
While Sony has a large base of Sony smart TVs to deliver cloud gaming, Microsoft will need alliances with non-competing TV brands. That said, Microsoft has a sizeable base of Xbox users. Current estimates are that Xbox Game Pass had over 18 million subscribers globally in 2020, according to Microsoft CEO Sataya Nadella.
Xbox Owners in launch markets with Game Pass Ultimate subscriptions should soon be enjoying Xbox games on browsers (Chrome, Edge, and Safari). For those lucky bastards, Xbox gaming is going to be available on most devices with a browser. Suddenly slacking off at work could become a whole lot more fun – if (and when) the service ever launches in New Zealand.
For not-so-smart TVs, Microsoft says they’re working on an Xbox streaming stick. It’ll plug into an HDMI port to deliver gaming directly to TVs from the cloud.
If you’re thinking I’m disappointed that New Zealand has again been left off the list, you’d be right. But the reality is that both Google and Microsoft have the same understandable excuse. They don’t have data centres in NZ, so they can’t offer Stadia with low latencies or avoid costly international bandwidth.
When asked about the availability for kiwi gamers, Microsoft gave this response: “We will continue to make Xbox Cloud Gaming available in new markets over time, but we don’t have any specifics to share right now.” Sadly, this means your guess is as good as mine for timings around a possible Xbox Cloud launch for New Zealanders. Here’s hoping it’s soon!