A massive leak from the FTC vs. Microsoft court battle showed off Microsoft’s roadmap for the mid-gen Xbox Series the The same document It also revealed Microsoft’s tentative plans for the next generation of Xbox consoles – what it calls a “hybrid gaming platform.” The system will combine local hardware and cloud computing to create an “immersive gaming and application platform” arriving around 2028, according to a leaked May 2022 presentation hidden inside another PDF.
“Our vision: Develop a next-generation hybrid gaming platform capable of leveraging the combined power of client and cloud to deliver deeper immersion and entirely new categories of gaming experiences,” one slide reads. “Optimized for real-time gaming and creators, we will enable new levels of performance beyond the capabilities of client hardware alone.” In one slide, Microsoft expects the next generation to arrive in 2028 with “hybrid cloud gaming” and an “immersive gaming and app platform.”
On the hardware side, Microsoft expects things like next-gen DirectX ray tracing, dynamic global lighting, ML-based super resolution, improved micropolygon rendering, and more. The system can allow for different types of devices, from relatively powerful consoles to “thin operating system…$99 consumer or mobile devices” that rely on xCloud computing.
“Hybrid computing” is supposed to differ from regular cloud gaming by using hardware and cloud computing to render in-game elements simultaneously. For example, basic characters will run on your local GPU, while NPCs, background elements, and more will be created remotely.
Microsoft also sees heavy use of artificial intelligence and machine learning (ML) in next-gen games. On the performance side, neural networks can support super-resolution, frame rate interpretation, and latency compensation, for example. They will improve game experiences (AI agents, script, matchmaking, player rankings) and player services (safety and toxicity, customization and discovery, and support services). It will also help the creator side with AI game testing, procedural content, physics, NLP dialogue, and live operations (engagement and retention management, monetization, cloud resource optimization).
One slide indicated that Microsoft was seeking deals with AMD for Navi 5 graphics and Zen 6 CPU cores, but another slide said the company needed to make an “Arm64 decision.” However, she may have already begun her plans. Another slide titled “The Journey Has Already Begun” shows the full roadmap: hardware and hybrid game design starting in 2024, with development kits available by 2027 and shipping by 2028.
The slide feels like part of a conversation, not a static roadmap by any means. The slideshow is preceded by documents showing a conversation between CEO Satya Nadella, Xbox’s Phil Spencer and others. Saying that the company is working on four types of PCs (all-cloud, hybrid Xbox, hybrid Windows, and hybrid HoloLens), Nadella notes that “we need to bring the company’s systems talent together to align on a unified vision,” adding that “we can’t go from “Big idea to big idea. We need to bring the company’s systems talent together to align on a unified vision.”
Other ideas revolve around the “portable console”, where “the console is the hero”. This makes it seem like Microsoft was still developing its vision for the next-gen Xbox at the time of the presentation – so it may have completely changed course since then.
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