Sony may start to use gaming rival Microsoft’s Azure data centres for its game and content-streaming services. Under an unexpected agreement signed Thursday, the two heavyweights of the gaming world – creators of the Playstation and Xbox respectively – will also explore collaboration in the areas of semiconductors and AI.
The discussions come in a non-binding Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), but it represent a coup for Microsoft as it ramps up cloud-based game delivery efforts.
Sony CEO Kenichiro Yoshida said: “PlayStation itself came about through the integration of creativity and technology. Our mission is to seamlessly evolve this platform as one that continues to deliver the best and most immersive entertainment experiences, together with a cloud environment that ensures the best possible experience, anytime, anywhere. For many years, Microsoft has been a key business partner for us, though of course the two companies have also been competing in some areas.”
Playstation and xBox: Both Coming to Azure?
“I believe that our joint development of future cloud solutions will contribute greatly to the advancement of interactive content. Additionally, I hope that in the areas of semiconductors and AI, leveraging each company’s cutting-edge technology in a mutually complementary way will lead to the creation of new value for society.”
Microsoft, with its xCloud project, is in a race to deliver glitch-free game streaming with Google, which is also moving fast, following its launch of Google Stadia earlier this year. The prize: capturing a potentially huge market for cloud-based game streaming direct to a range of devices.
Sony and Microsoft’s MoU comes as a patent filed by Sony back in 2014 was recently accepted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
The patent, first spotted this week by Digital Trends, shows the company is also working on a “system for combining recorded application state with application streaming interactive video output”. (Streaming, in short). It may be that Sony is looking to combine some of its own innovations in the area with the cloud delivery experience of Microsoft.
Azure has built custom hardware for its data centres to support its Project xCloud. This includes a new customisable blade that includes component parts of multiple Xbox One consoles, as well as the associated infrastructure supporting it.
Google’s Stadia instances tap a custom x86 Intel CPU running at 2.7GHz. This will be paired with custom AMD graphics silicon capable of 10.7 teraflops of raw compute, according to the company, fitted with 56 compute units and HBM2 memory.
Both require exceptionally good networks, and beta testers thus far have reported some issues with lag: while AAA game streaming is undoubtedly coming and has a huge addressable market, capturing that market is going to require improved downstream infrastructure.
“By integrating Sony’s cutting-edge image sensors with Microsoft’s Azure AI technology in a hybrid manner across cloud and edge, as well as solutions that leverage Sony’s semiconductors and Microsoft cloud technology, the companies aim to provide enhanced capabilities for enterprise customers” the two said in the MoU.