Look out, Steam Machines: Microsoft eyes Windows-to-Xbox game streaming

xbox one

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Microsoft has already announced that it plans to stream games on its Xbox One console to Windows 10 PCs beginning later this year. Not unsurprisingly, it’s exploring the other direction as well.

In a talk at the Game Developer Conference here, Bill Schiefelbein, a principal program manager lead in the Xbox Experiences team, described the Xbox app (below) that Microsoft has launched for Windows 10, and what the company hopes to achieve for gaming on the PC. 

For now, the Xbox app represents a social network of sorts, bridging the PC and the Xbox One game console by allowing users to connect to friends, post game clips, and track achievements across the various gaming titles. Users will be able to either use their real name, their Xbox gamertag, or both, providing some anonymity if they so choose. In the future Microsoft plans to also add a game DVR function to record clips that can be saved or shared with friends.

windows 10 xbox app

Windows 10’s Xbox App.

The real draw of the app, however, will be the forthcoming ability to stream Xbox One games to the PC over a local network. (Microsoft hasn’t said exactly when this capability is coming.) But Schiefelbein said that Microsoft thinks that streaming connection should be a two-way street.

“It’s a great question—do we ever see PC streaming to the Xbox One? The answer is, certainly. We are thinking about this, it is in our vision. I can’t give you a direct time that it will show up, but we are absolutely thinking about the other way around as well. What we are announcing and what we are talking about right now is from the Xbox One to the PC, but again we are certainly investigating the other way round as well.”

Why this matters: When the feature launches, streaming from the Xbox One to the PC will be unique to Microsoft among the other console providers. But streaming from a PC to a console is relatively common, whether it be video from a Plex app running on a PC, the more sophisticated Gamestream technology that Nvidia has announced, or the similar Steam Link from Valve Software. It’s reasonable to believe that there will be more Microsoft Xbox One-Windows 10 PC combinations than Nvidia-powered PCs paired with either the Nvidia Shield handheld or set-top box—let alone a Steam Machine. In either case, Microsoft could pinch off either technology before it has a chance to get started.

Still, Microsoft hasn’t said when it plans to launch PC-to-Xbox streaming, just that it hopes to. That, for now, amounts to a stay of execution for the competition.

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