Microsoft’s Xbox One console and Windows operating systems don’t have a way for users to stream games directly to devices that wouldn’t normally be able to play them. Rest assured, that’s exact what they’re getting if reports of a PlayStation Now like streaming service codenamed Arcadia are indicative of Microsoft’s future plans.
What we know about Arcadia comes from All About Microsoft, who spoke to its sources about a project named Arcadia after a reader spotted the codename in a job posting on Microsoft’s Careers website. A posting mentioning the Arcadia team by name doesn’t specifically say that it’s working on a streaming service.
A second post does indicate that there is a team working on a streaming service within Microsoft’s Operating Systems Group saying, “The new Operating Systems Group Streaming team is leveraging the cloud to bring premium and unique experiences to Microsoft’s core platforms.” It goes on to say that “the client team is building the user facing applications, bridging the service and devices together seamlessly.”
It’s All About Microsoft’s assertion that this streaming team and the Arcadia team are one in the same; and that Microsoft will use its Azure platform to power the Arcadia. Allegedly, gaming and running core applications from anywhere is the Arcadia team’s focus.
This wouldn’t be the first time Microsoft experimented with a streaming service, it briefly showed off another streaming service at an internal meeting last year. That service, named Rio, never made it to users, but the hope is that Arcadia will. An online game streaming service has never made more sense for Microsoft to create and release than it does today.
The Xbox One has spent the better part of a year catching up to Sony’s PS4 in terms of features and pricing. One thing it’s still missing is an online gaming service to compete with PlayStation Now. Announced at last year’s Consumer Electronics Show, PlayStation Now allows different Sony devices to connect to Sony’s servers and stream games from them.
To the user, it’s as if they’re playing a game on their device, but what they’re really seeing is only a local rendering of the game that’s actually taking place on Sony’s servers. PlayStation Now uses a video game rental model. Users purchase two or three hours with a game. PlayStation Now is available on the PS3, PS4, PS Vita and PlayStation TV. Sony has said that it plans to roll the service out to tablets, smartphones and Bravia televisions at some point.
The core difference between what Sony has done with PlayStation Now and what Microsoft is doing with Arcadia comes down to compatibility. Sony has only said that PlayStation Now will be available on the devices it makes. Microsoft is searching for candidates who have experience with Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android operating systems. That’s in addition to its own Windows operating system. Arcadia could launch on Windows and be compatible with the smartphones already in user’s pockets.
That’s a level of compatibility PlayStation Now just doesn’t offer today. Such a move also jives with Microsoft’s priorities these days. It’s made an honest effort to bring its services and software to iOS and Android when it makes sense, despite already having its own mobile phone operating system, Windows Phone.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like we could see Arcadia announced soon. Allegedly, the service is still in early development and won’t make it to users until sometime after the Windows 10 operating system rolls out to users. Microsoft has a Windows announcement planned for January 21st on its Redmond Campus. On the list of speakers is Phil Spencer, who has already confirmed that he’ll be mentioning gaming on the PC at some point.