Leak: Why Microsoft's next Xbox might 'slice' games

Microsoft may offer two very different Xbox consoles at the same time -- with the same games.

Sean Hollister Senior Editor / Reviews
When his parents denied him a Super NES, he got mad. When they traded a prize Sega Genesis for a 2400 baud modem, he got even. Years of Internet shareware, eBay'd possessions and video game testing jobs after that, he joined Engadget. He helped found The Verge, and later served as Gizmodo's reviews editor. When he's not madly testing laptops, apps, virtual reality experiences, and whatever new gadget will supposedly change the world, he likes to kick back with some games, a good Nerf blaster, and a bottle of Tejava.
Sean Hollister
2 min read

The guts of the Xbox One X.

Josh Miller/CNET

At E3 2018, Microsoft revealed that the next Xbox game consoles were already underway -- and that the company would offer a cloud gaming service, too.

Notice how I say "consoles," not "console"? That's because there will be two very, very different Xbox consoles coming to market in 2020, according to alleged insider info from Thurrott.com

One of them will reportedly be a traditional high-power Xbox game console, while the other -- codename "Scarlett Cloud" -- will be a lower-powered device designed to stream games from Microsoft's servers, instead of playing locally from a hard drive or disc. 

Traditionally, such cloud gaming services mean you need a fantastic internet connection and/or nearby servers in order to avoid lag. But Thurrott.com reports that Microsoft has hit upon an intriguing technique to reduce latency: It'll "slice" each game so that part of it runs in the cloud, part of it runs locally, and Microsoft's servers can stitch it all together.

"The cloud console will have a limited amount of [capacity to] compute locally for specific tasks like controller input, image processing, and importantly, collision detection," writes reporter Brad Sams. 

That could make games feel like they're reacting to a player input right away -- even if it takes a (fraction of a) sec for some of the graphics to catch up.

This actually isn't a new idea. Amazon experimented with hybrid cloud games back in 2014. Take a look at the trailer below for a game called The Unmaking designed for Amazon Fire tablets:

See the giant crossbow / ballista? That's running locally on an Amazon Fire tablet, so you can aim and fire without lag. But early Amazon Fire tablets didn't have nearly enough processing power to render the giant armies in the background, so those are generated by remote servers. 

Sams reports that Microsoft is planning to offer the exact same games to Xbox owners, regardless of whether they're playing with a high-performance console or a hybrid between a lower-performance console and cloud servers. 

Microsoft didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Microsoft is far from the only company working on a cloud gaming service, by the way.

Watch this: New Xbox may stream games