Microsoft’s upcoming disc-less Xbox Series X is not the only piece of news that has leaked from the ongoing FTC v. Microsoft case. The leaked documents also reveal the company’s ambitious plans for 2028, which involve achieving “full convergence” of its cloud gaming platform and physical hardware to deliver “cloud hybrid games.” The documents include a presentation called “The Next Generation of Gaming at Microsoft,” which outlines the company’s vision for a next-generation hybrid game platform that leverages the combined power of the client and the cloud.
The idea of cloud hybrid gaming is not new, and it is something that I advocated for in June 2021. Microsoft has already made some attempts at this with games like Microsoft Flight Simulator, where photorealistic scenery is streamed from the cloud. However, the leaked documents suggest that Microsoft wants to take this concept further and create games that seamlessly scale from native hardware to cloud.
According to the documents, Microsoft refers to this idea as “Cohesive Hybrid Compute,” and it envisions a cloud-to-edge architecture across silicon, graphics, and operating systems to enable ubiquitous play. The company suggests that it would need to partner with AMD for the silicon, potentially using the company’s Navi 5 graphics and Zen 6 CPU cores. Microsoft is also considering the use of Arm architecture and an NPU (machine learning AI coprocessor) to provide various benefits, including super resolution and latency compensation.
The leaked documents outline a potential roadmap for this technology, with hardware design beginning in 2024, the first dev kits arriving in 2027, and the production of hybrid cloud games from 2024 to 2026. However, it is unclear whether these plans were ultimately pursued, as Microsoft has sometimes changed its direction in the past. For example, the company abandoned its plans for a dedicated xCloud SKU in favor of partnering with other providers.
The leaked documents also reveal that the idea of cloud hybrid gaming came out of discussions among Microsoft’s top leadership, including CEO Satya Nadella, Xbox boss Phil Spencer, and others. Nadella reportedly wrote, “We are building 4 types of computers: cloud everything, a hybrid Xbox, hybrid Windows, and hybrid HoloLens. We need to bring the company’s systems talent together to align on a unified vision.”
The documents further suggest that Microsoft’s new strategy may revolve around the controller. One key tenet mentioned in a document titled “Roadmap to 2030” is that the controller becomes the hero, and the new Xbox controller is described as the only thing players need to play on every device. The document also mentions possible new controllers, including a mobile controller and a one-hand controller, as well as a gaming keyboard and mouse.
While it remains unclear how these plans have progressed since the leaked documents, it is evident that Microsoft sees cloud-first gaming as an important aspect of its future strategy. The company appears to be aiming for a seamless integration of cloud gaming and physical hardware to deliver immersive and innovative gaming experiences.