Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella just laid out the company's vision for its 'Netflix for games'

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella just laid out the company's vision for its 'Netflix for games'

satya nadella

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.

  • Microsoft is building a service that intends to be the "Netflix for games."
  • The service is currently named "Project xCloud," and its goal is to stream high-end video games to any device.
  • "We have as much a shot to build a subscription service as anybody else," Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said on Monday at an invitational editors meeting at Microsoft's headquarters.

SEATTLE - "We describe it as, shorthand, 'Netflix for games'," Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella told journalists at an invitational editors meeting at Microsoft's headquarters on Monday.

Nadella was speaking about Microsoft's cloud ambitions outside of enterprise software and, more specifically, the company's ambitious push into video game streaming with Project xCloud.

The idea is simple: Play high-quality, blockbuster games on any device. Thus, "Netflix for games."

Rather than your device powering the game, a more powerful computer somewhere remote would power the game while you only have to stream it to your phone, game console, laptop, or whatever other device. 


Project xCloud Phone Clip


In one example shown by Microsoft, a woman plays an Xbox game through Project xCloud on a smartphone connected to an Xbox One gamepad.

Though the concept is simple, executing it is far more difficult. Video games often demand precision timing, and the kind of unpredictable latency introduced by streaming over the internet is difficult to mitigate.

Nearly every major tech company is working on a form of video game streaming technology right now.

But Nadella thinks Microsoft is in a better position to tackle the issue than the competition. "We have as much a shot to build a subscription service as anybody else," he said on Monday. 

Some have been announced or are already operating, like Google's Project Stream and Sony's PlayStation Now, and some are little more than whispers at the moment, like the streaming services from Verizon and Amazon.


Nadella said that Microsoft has an upper hand with its Xbox gaming arm, which gives Microsoft a strategic advantage that much of the competition is lacking.

Halo Infinite

343 Industries/Microsoft

Microsoft owns and produces the "Halo" franchise, one of gaming's biggest blockbusters.

"We have a huge back catalog, which is we have our own games," he said, in reference to the Microsoft-published back catalog of games on the Xbox - from "Halo" to "Forza," and much more.

He also pointed to services like Xbox Live, which draws tens of millions of paying users monthly, and the company's ability to synergize between its Windows business and its Xbox business.

"We have a structural position in that we have both a console business as well as a PC business," he said, "which happens to be bigger than the console business when it comes to gaming."


Look no further than Microsoft's "Play Anywhere" initiative for proof of that cooperation.

Xbox Play Anywhere


The initiative has been huge for stoking good will with players: You buy an "Xbox Play Anywhere" game on either Xbox or Windows 10, and you immediately own it both places at no additional cost. Even your game saves transfer between the two platforms.

It's part of a bigger push within Microsoft's Xbox group, led by Microsoft VP of gaming Phil Spencer, to make Xbox into a platform rather than a piece of hardware.

"There are 2 billion people who play video games on the planet today. We're not gonna sell 2 billion consoles," Spencer told Business Insider in an interview in June 2018. "Many of those people don't own a television, many have never owned a PC. For many people on the planet, the phone is their compute device," he said. "It's really about reaching a customer wherever they are, on the devices that they have."


For now, Project xCloud - the "Netflix for games" service Nadella spoke about - is still in development. Microsoft is planning to run public tests of the service in 2019. 

For a closer look at the service, check out this video:

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