Microsoft’s announcement last week on the Xbox blog indicated that the company was bringing the ability to stream games between devices, as well as engage live with the gaming community. They’re calling it Beam, and it’s going to be on a major update coming this week.
We’ve known for some time now that Game Mode is coming to Windows 10, which basically leverages the game-performance capabilities of Xbox One and brings it to the Windows 10 PC environment. Now, with Beam, PC gamers can take their game stream with them on any device that allows an Xbox Live sign in.
From what Microsoft says, they’re focusing on four elements with the next few Windows 10 updates: Streaming, Performance, People and Competition. People and competition have always been a part of Xbox Live, but Beam will now help integrate the performance and streaming aspects to the equation as well.
In one respect, Microsoft’s push into cloud gaming is attaining the kind of maturity that its earlier efforts lacked. They’ve been working on it for quite some time, and back in 2015 Microsoft even managed to bring bandwidth requirements for cloud gaming down by 80%.
What Microsoft did at the time was use a tool called Kahawai (which means “stream” in Hawaiian) to create a hybrid cloud environment where the resources that a game required would be shared between the local device or console, and Microsoft’s cloud.
The collaborative graphics rendering that Kahawai does splits the load between the cloud computing server and the player’s actual device. Obviously, in a live game environment, there will be a lot of heavy lifting in terms of resources. That heavy load is taken on by the cloud once the device’s GPU is stretched to an optimal load limit. At that point, the device switches to rendering a graphical “rough sketch”, and the cloud component scales up and down to meet the deficit – more players, more cloud computing power.
You’ll be able to see this in action in the multiplayer mode of games like Crackdown 3 when it comes out this year before the holidays to Xbox One and Windows 10.
It appears that Kahawai is what the much talked-about Game Mode is all about, and it will work in tandem with Beam to deliver a holistic cloud gaming experience on any Windows 10 device.
While Kahawai was able to cut the bandwidth of streaming games down to a fifth of what it actually is, Beam will now do the same for Windows 10 as well as Xbox One. Kahawai, incidentally, pre-dates Xbox One – before Microsoft had the additional hardware capability to make it a reality.
Beam now looks like the next level of cloud gaming – where multiple devices and multiple players can engage in a community-based game environment without worrying about spending heavily on high-end components for their gaming PC.
If that’s true, then Beam may be the breakthrough utility we’ve been waiting for to bridge the transition between hardcore PC gaming and seriously competitive cloud gaming.
That’s why the new Game Mode coming to Windows 10 is a critical component. From what Microsoft is saying, it appears that Game Mode will be the native component on Windows 10 that allows Beam to work optimally to load-balance available device resources with cloud resources.
That capability is already on the Xbox One, and Microsoft is now making it available to Windows 10 devices through an OTA update this week.
For now, Microsoft is gradually bringing the Beam experience to Windows 10 ahead of the Creators Update. The features will be added incrementally over a few large updates that should start dropping sometime this week.
Alongside these changes, Microsoft is also bringing an overhauled Guide to Xbox One, and making it easier to pull up the enhanced Guide with just a click of one of the controller buttons.
Microsoft is also bringing Arena to Xbox Live, which means more tournaments, as well as pro-level tournaments from FACEIT and ESL. Two titles – World of Tanks and Killer Instinct – will allow you to create your own tournaments within Arena and invite your Club members to join in.
Microsoft already dropped two very heavy updates over the past week – Build 15002 and Build 15007. This new build coming this week to Windows Insiders will start bringing the full cloud gaming experience across Microsoft’s gaming devices running Windows 10.
If you want in, you’ll need to get on the Fast Ring of the Windows Insider Program to get an early view of Beam, Game Mode, Arena and other goodies on Windows 10 and Xbox One.
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