Rumour: Microsoft Wants To Stream Console Games To Phones

Kotaku has learned from a reliable source that either at E3 or in the very near future Microsoft plans to unveil a new feature known as Xbox Live Companion. Not to be confused with its social and marketplace app Xbox Companion, Xbox Live Companion is a system where developers of Xbox 360 console games can stream content directly to a mobile phone or tablet.

This source tells us the feature was internally known as Smart Glass, lending some credibility to rumours last week of an ability to stream content from your console to a phone or tablet. From what our source tells us, though, it appears Microsoft's ambitions for such a feature are a little more focused on games.

Xbox Live Companion would work like this: owners of iOS, Android or Windows phones (or tablets) download the Xbox Live Companion application to their devices. Then, developers of console games will have the option of coding in features that would allow those games to send content to the app while the game was running, transforming it into a personalised "companion" of the title being played.

An example we heard from this source was Halo 4: start playing the game on Xbox 360, and if you've got XBLC on your phone or tablet, it will become a Halo 4 companion application. Turn the game off and switch to something else that the app supports and it suddenly becomes your companion for that game.

Examples of more exclusive features include in-game inventory management or access to stuff like hacking minigames.

The reason for this "skinning" is the variety of platforms, requirements and resolutions there are spread across phones and tablets. Rather than ask individual developers to come up with their own Android, iPhone, iPad and Windows Phone versions of each "companion", Microsoft's app will be cross-compatible with all of them; game developers need only write their code for the Xbox Live Companion App and Microsoft will take it from there.

So what would these companion apps actually do? Because it's tapping into the same servers your account and games are running on, it can bring up things like maps and status screens for the game you're playing. Basically, then, a contemporary version of what Nintendo once hoped it would be able to achieve between the GameCube and GameBoy (or what Sony has been dabbling in with its consoles and handhelds).

The key difference here, though, is that almost all of its consumers already own one of the necessary handheld devices needed to take advantage of the service.

We've heard from our source that all Xbox Live users will be able to access these basic features. Gold subscribers, meanwhile, will get access to more advanced content. Examples of more exclusive features include in-game inventory management or access to stuff like hacking minigames, along with content streamed directly from the game to your phone/tablet, like additional video playback or a racing game's rearview mirror (though apparently the latter two are examples of features that may not make the app's launch).

This, however, is just the start. Microsoft hopes to, once the basics of the application are up and running, use Xbox Live Companion to let you stream further content or even, where supported, entire Xbox games directly from your console to a compatible device, much like streaming service OnLive already allows.

While there will be some Xbox 360 games that work with the application, given the long-term nature of Microsoft's plans it will also obviously be a part of the company's next console, code-named Durango.

We don't know when the application will be launching, nor whether it will be free or not. Hopefully Microsoft's E3 press conference this week will give us a little more information!


    Neat idea, but if it ever becomes mandatory to own a smartphone to play an xbox game, I think the idea has gone too far.

      It is precisely because the Xbox games won't work with phones and tablets manditarily that the problem comes in. Wii worked where Move failed because every game worked with the Wiimote. Games with large DLC worked on the PS3 because every PS3 came with a hard drive. WiiU will work because every game will have access to at least one Wii Umote.

    You can see the beginnings of this in the Windows 8 Release Preview. You can purchase Xbox Live Arcade games through the PC and tell it to play on the Xbox. None of the features discussed above but obviously they've put some thought into the framework.

      Hah! That'll be the kicker. Only available on Windows Phones. I can see it now.

        Well it seems like this will be available across all the major platforms. And since the Xbox Companion is what seems to be a container, it should just work. I wonder how they overcome didn't aspect ratios and the like, not to mention hardware fragmentation on Android. Regardless, they may have found a pretty awesome inlet into the mobile market.

    This is the kind of service I assumed would be available via an Xbox handheld, but Microsoft has (wisely, in my opinion) decided not to make a dedicated handheld device. I think a modern smartphone should be more than adequate, but like Shane said, it should never be mandatory, and I would hate for non-users to be disadvantaged.

    The only issue with making something non-mandatory is that most third-party devs will probably take that to mean "don't bother". I think Kinect is a good example of that. How many non-Kinect games have that partial Kinect support? Forza 4, Halo CE Anniversary, Mass Effect 3, Ghost Recon Future Soldier... and that's all I can personally think of. And how many people used those features once then disabled them?

      But... it'll allow them to port the WiiU screen features across.
      And if the xbox architecture remains the most popular to develop for... this is going to be a win for them.
      Wii-U functionality, no need for an expensive controller.

        This assumes that the bulk of the Wii-U tablet functions will be mostly optional as well, which doesn't seem to be the intent unless the Wii-U will allow most games to be played exclusively with a "Pro" controller, which seems to undermine the value of the tablet controller.

          And yet, 3rd party aren't going to develop a multiplatform game that they can't sell. I wouldn't be surprised if Sony announces something similar with the Vita.

          You don't think that Nintendo announcing a hardcore controller for multiplatform games signals that?

          Unless, of course, MS launched a new Zune (Windows Phone sans Phone, like the iPod Touch), and allowed it to be used as well. Given that the Kinect sensor is $150, and being sold below cost, and that iPod Touches are $180, and being sold at substantial profit, we could reasonably see a $150, 5 inch 'Zune 8' being used as an Xbox Accessory.

          That would be kinda awesome.

    i currently have the dev preview of windows 8 and so far its all "buy a xbox, do this on your xbox, buy this, buy that", its all in your face xbox and fair enough if your a xbox fan but im not, the xbox bothers me, bad ui, no games i like, and very annoying remote to hold, im more of a pc gamer and PlayStation gamer sorry microsoft, you lost my sale ill stick to windows 7or better yet linux once steam comes to linux

      A few things here I take issue to, and actually make me suspect that you're trollin' a bit.

      But nevertheless, in case your are being genuine, I'd like to save you a bit of disappointment: Even if Steam as a platform does come to Linux, almost none of the games will be compatible. So unless you intend to only use Steam as a messaging program, I'd suggest not raising your hopes too high.

        hmm, yes disappointment is a problem, i am actually genuine not a troll, hmm sucks that only a few games will work, maybe they will add more over time, ah well, windows 7 it is, thanks

    So the tablet 'apps' are totally interactive? I wonder how that's possible at a technical level? Doesn't streaming content mean that the tablet or phone becomes a dumb terminal? One way communication? I don't get it.
    Ok, having read a bit more closely, looks like it is one way communication. Which wouldn't be that cool TBH. I want to be able to change weapons with my iPad while playing. Or maybe it isn't as useful as I think, since that would involve taking my hands off my controller while in the middle of action? Maybe it really is sufficient for the tablet to be a dumb terminal only.

    It'll be surprising to me if this really takes off. But then, I thought the Kinect would flop.

      No reason it couldn't be 2 way communication, a la OnLive: Send image out, receive inputs back in.

      Remember, so far this is all unsubstantiated rumour. Given Microsoft's nigh-unquenchable desire for cross-device integration, I very much doubt they'd use tablets and phones as just an extra screen.

    Fantastic. The more of this stuff we see, the better. Also, using existing platforms to support it - iOS, Android, etc, while taking all on all of the heartache of making it all work intuitively - nice.
    I suspect we'll be seeing more of this sort of stuff, and personally I'd love to be able to use my ipad (er ... if I had one, that is ...) to manage my inventory in Borderlands 2. Swipe menus and touch-to-swap gun modifications? Yes please.

    in other words they saw Nintendo do it, so they had to do something similar.

    Another Idea copied from nintendo.

    And still no one will buy a windows phone.

    Liking this idea a lot. Could be a first for MS to streamline their games or games data across multiple devices not bounded to MS. This could make every portable device into a MS handheld device in a unique way.

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