Microsoft is gearing up 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 major latency improvements on Xbox Cloud Gaming soon.
“Xbox has supported keyboard and mouse for a few years now, and we’re working on adding this to streaming for PC users,” explains Morgan Brown, a software engineer on Microsoft’s Xbox game streaming team. “But you can add it to your game right now and users of your console keyboard and mouse will appreciate it. It will light up in streaming once we’re done adding.”
Microsoft Flight Simulator boss Jorg Neumann previously teased that the addition of mouse and keyboard support on Xbox Cloud Gaming could be coming this summer. As Microsoft encourages developers to think more about mouse and keyboard support for Xbox games streaming to PC, it’s likely we’ll see these coming soon.
We could see games like Sea of Thieves† Minecraft† Halo Infiniteeven Fortnite they 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 helpful when Microsoft expands the Xbox Cloud Gaming library later this year.
In addition to mouse and keyboard support, Microsoft also provides developers with more ways to improve streaming latency in their games. Microsoft has been working on a new Display Details API, which can save up to 72 ms of latency in total. This is achieved by using Direct Capture, which reproduces hardware functions in software to eliminate the latency for VSync and double or triple buffering, and even the scaling required for TVs.
Scaling and artifacts all add additional latency to game streaming, and many games already support Direct Capture to improve their performance on Xbox Cloud Gaming. The latency can drop to 2-12 ms, compared to 8-74 ms via the traditional rendering pipeline. There are some limitations. Direct Capture only supports a maximum resolution of 1440p and does not yet support dynamic resolution or HDR.
The resolution limitation won’t be an issue for most game developers at this point, as Xbox Cloud Gaming scales games to 720p on mobile and 1080p on PC and web. Microsoft expects to support higher resolutions eventually, but there’s no timeline for 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 improvements to the streaming stack,” explains Brown. Tools will soon be available for developers to test their games and learn how to support Direct Capture.
The latency improvements are essential for game streaming services like Xbox Cloud Gaming, and as Direct Capture shows, it’s not just about reducing network latency. Nvidia launched its RTX 3080 GeForce Now tier last year, with impressive latency improvements. Nvidia has built its own Adaptive Sync technology, which varies the game display 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 buffering between the CPU and GPU on the server side, and the end result is some impressive latency improvements over what’s available through Google Stadia or Xbox Cloud Gaming. Nvidia even claims to beat an Xbox Series X that runs locally at 60fps thanks to its 120fps GeForce Now support.