Amazon may be going after cloud gaming, but Microsoft has a head start


Zach Gibson | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, smiles at a meeting of the Economic Club of Washington in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 4, 2017.

Amazon, Microsoft and Google are in the midst of an intense battle to win business from companies moving their workloads to the cloud. Now, there’s brewing competition among them in a very different corner of the cloud market: gaming.

Microsoft has long been a gaming powerhouse, having introduced the Xbox console in 2000. In expanding how and where people can play games, Microsoft said in October that it will start testing a cloud gaming offering this year. Its Project xCloud will work on mobile devices. That announcement followed the acquisition last January of PlayFab, a start-up that provides game developers with cloud-based tools.

Amazon has kept quiet about its ambitions in the market. But The Information reported on Thursday that the company has held conversations with publishers about releasing games on a new service as early as 2020. That project would build on previous efforts to support game developers. Amazon declined to comment on the report.

Google, meanwhile, has started testing a cloud gaming service — under the name Project Stream — with a limited number of users.

It’s the latest example of the three massive U.S. infrastructure companies putting their technology to work in a way that lets customers offload their computing and storage needs so they can do more without relying on expensive hardware.

But these companies aren’t all equal. And when it comes to gaming, Microsoft has a home-field advantage.

“Amazon is not a gaming company. Google isn’t. Sony is a gaming company, but they don’t have a cloud presence,” said Steve Perlman, former CEO of cloud gaming company OnLive. “Then you have Microsoft — Microsoft has both of those things.”

Perlman knows the challenges this market presents. He founded OnLive in 2007, and ultimately sold assets to Sony in 2015, a year after Sony announced a game streaming service, PlayStation Now. Earlier in his career, Perlman sold WebTV to Microsoft, and some members of that team worked on Microsoft’s Xbox 360 console.

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