Xbox Cloud Gaming is getting mouse and keyboard support and latency improvements

Xbox Cloud Gaming is getting mouse and keyboard support and latency improvements

Microsoft is preparing to add mouse and keyboard support to its Xbox Cloud Gaming (xCloud) service that streams Xbox games to TVs, PCs, mobile devices and more. The software giant teased the addition earlier this year, and now it’s encouraging game developers to get ready for mouse and keyboard support and some big latency improvements in Xbox Cloud Gaming soon.

“Xbox has supported keyboard and mouse for a few years now, and we’re working on adding it to streaming for PC users,” said Morgan Brown, software engineer for Microsoft’s Xbox Game Streaming team. “But you can start adding it to your game right now and your console keyboard and mouse users will appreciate it. It will light up on the stream once we’re done adding it.”

Microsoft Flight Simulator Boss Jorg Neumann previously teased that the addition of mouse and keyboard support in Xbox Cloud Gaming could appear this summer. As Microsoft is encouraging developers to start thinking more about mouse and keyboard support for Xbox games streamed to PC, we’ll likely start seeing this soon.

It will allow Xbox Cloud Gaming users to stream Xbox games, not PC games, using a mouse and keyboard. We could see games like sea ​​of ​​thieves, Minecraft, infinity haloand even Fortnite all support mouse and keyboard through Xbox Cloud Gaming. However, the list of Xbox games that support mouse and keyboard is still relatively small. It will be especially useful when Microsoft expands the Xbox Cloud Gaming library later this year.

Xbox developers will get new APIs to improve streaming latency.
Image: Microsoft

In addition to mouse and keyboard support, Microsoft is also giving developers more ways to improve streaming latency in their games. Microsoft has been working on a new display details API, which can save up to 72ms of latency overall. This is achieved through the use of Direct Capture, which reproduces hardware characteristics in software to eliminate VSync wait time and double or triple buffering, and even the scaling required for TVs.

Scaling and artifacts add extra latency to game streaming, and many games already support Direct Capture to improve their performance on Xbox Cloud Gaming. Latency can drop to 2-12 ms, compared to 8-74 ms through the traditional display pipeline. However, there are some limitations. Direct Capture only supports a maximum resolution of 1440p and does not yet support Dynamic Resolution or HDR.

Resolution throttling won’t be an issue for most game developers right now, as Xbox Cloud Gaming upscales games to 720p on mobile and 1080p on PC and the web. Microsoft eventually hopes to support higher resolutions, but there’s no timeline on 1440p or 4K support for the new Xbox TV app. “That’s something we expect to change over time, based on different devices, network conditions, and transmission stack improvements,” Brown explains. Tools will be available soon for developers to test their games and find out how to support Direct Capture.

Direct Capture improves streaming latency in Xbox Cloud Gaming.
Image: Microsoft

Latency improvements are key for game streaming services like Xbox Cloud Gaming, and as Direct Capture shows, it’s not just about reducing network latency. Nvidia released its RTX 3080 GeForce Now level last year, with impressive latency improvements. Nvidia created its own Adaptive Sync technology, which varies game rendering to match a synchronous monitor and allows GeForce Now to sync streamed games to any 60Hz or 120Hz monitor.

Nvidia’s Adaptive Sync also reduces some of the buffering between the CPU and GPU on the server side, and the end result is some impressive latency improvements over what’s available on Google Stadia or Xbox Cloud Gaming. Nvidia even claims to beat an Xbox Series X running locally at 60fps thanks to its 120fps GeForce Now support.

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