Microsoft is prepping technology that streams Xbox games on PC browsers, if a new report from veteran Microsoft reporter Brad Sams of Neowin is correct. Both Xbox One and Xbox 360 games will purportedly work with the service, which can be accessed through either Internet Explorer or Chrome.
Last year Microsoft used the effervescent power of the cloud to demonstrate Halo 4 running on a Windows Phone, amongst other devices. This browser-based solution apparently is the continuation of that research, as well as a use for Microsoft's enormous Azure cloud infrastructure.
According to Sams, "Xbox 360 games offer up the full experience, including the dashboard running in the browser too...The product, as it stands right now, has Xbox branding and works outside the walls of Microsoft."
Another source told Sams the experience will provide 60 frames per second, which is more than we can say of most Xbox 360 and Xbox One games.
The fact that Microsoft is entering the streaming space isn't a huge surprise. OnLive has been streaming games on multiple platforms for years, Steam now allows in-home PC game streaming, Nvidia's Shield streams PC games, and Sony's making its big push with PlayStation Now. Just last month Microsoft Research released details about DeLorean, its initiative to reduce lag in network-based games.
Here's where I'm confused though: PlayStation Now is the most direct equivalent to this Microsoft service, and it runs exclusively on PlayStation devices. Why would Microsoft take Xbox One and Xbox 360 games and make them available on all PCs? I have absolutely no idea, and it's the piece of this rumor that gives me the most pause. The Xbox One isn't selling incredibly well, but it's also not selling so poorly that a PC-based streaming system makes a ton of sense.
Unless, that is, the technology allows you to only stream the dashboard and games straight from your own Xbox, similar to the way Steam in-home streaming works with PCs. In that case, Xbox streaming to Windows devices could help prop up struggling Windows tablet sales and give the Xbox One an advantage over the PlayStation 4, whose Remote Play features are limited to a handful of Sony's mobile devices.
Of course, this project (if it exists) is safely nestled inside Microsoft's research lab--meaning there's a chance we never see it, or that it arrives but in an entirely different form. Regardless, we'll keep you updated if we find out more.