Microsoft to launch new “hybrid” cloud and AI-based gaming platform in 2028, according to leaked docs

As you’ve hopefully read elsewhere on here, there’s been an overnight windfall of insider info about Microsoft’s long-term gaming biz objectives, thanks to documents accidentally released by the US Federal Trading Commission during its court case against Microsoft’s Activision-Blizzard acquisition. We’ve learned that Microsoft are still rather keen on buying Nintendo (and Valve), and that the company had planned out the release of Dishonored 3, an Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion remaster and a Ghostwire: Tokyo sequel during the run-up to its acquisition of ZeniMax.

The leaked documents also include extensive internal pitch and presentation materials regarding Microsoft’s first-party gaming operations all the way to 2030. We can apparently expect a mid-generation Xbox console refresh, code-named Brooklin, in 2024; more intriguing, from a PC gaming perspective, is the promise of a 2028-bound “hybrid” Xbox platform, which will centre on a “thin client” OS that runs cloud-based games on “< $99”, “consumer or handheld” devices. Oh no, it’s the power of the cloud all over again.

“Our vision: develop a next generation hybrid game platform capable of leveraging the combined power of the client and cloud to deliver deeper immersion and entirely new classes of game experiences,” reads one set of presentation slides concerning Microsoft’s longer-term gaming objectives, which appear to date from May 2022. “Optimized for real time game play and creators, we will enable new levels of performance beyond the capabilities of the client hardware alone.”

A timeline for Microsoft's gaming business from a leaked presentation discussing the company's plans for a new hybrid gaming platform in 2028.

Image credit: Microsoft/FTC

If the presentation is an accurate description of Microsoft’s current endeavours, the new Xbox platform will call upon present-day investments in “forward compatible” CPU and GPU technology, perhaps created in collaboration with hardware manufacturers such as AMD or by licensing tech such as AMD’s forthcoming Navi 5. There’s also prominent mention of a new line of NPUs – neural processing units – which might plug into a raft of hypothetical machine learning features, ranging from automated game testing and dialogue generation to improving a game’s monetisation and compensating for latency.

If the roadmap is still current, the design of the associated hardware and the production of the first hybrid cloud games will begin in 2024, with the devkits arriving in 2027.

“We are building 4 types of computers: (1) cloud everything, (2) a hybrid Xbox, (3) hybrid Windows, and (4) hybrid HoloLens,” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella writes in the leaked documents. “We need to bring the company’s systems talent together to align on a unified vision. We can’t go from big idea to big idea. We need a single big idea to rally the company around.”

Sooooo, what do we reckon then?

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