Microsoft and Sony are going exploring.
The two longtime gaming console rivals announced Thursday that they have struck a multiyear partnership that involves plans to think about doing stuff together, including among other things to “explore joint development of future cloud solutions in Microsoft Azure to support their respective game and content-streaming services.” In fact, the word “explore” appears no less than four times to describe the work the companies will be doing together in the short press statement describing their partnership.
All in all, the potential areas of collaboration between the two companies include running Sony’s streaming gaming services on existing Azure services, working together to integrate Sony’s image-sensing chips with Azure, and bringing Microsoft’s artificial-intelligence technology to Sony consumer devices. “Going forward, the two companies will share additional information when available,” they said in the statement.
There’s a solid chance this is the first and last story we’ll write about Microsoft and Sony’s cloud gaming partnership. Technology companies fashion these types of partnerships all the time, and while there are definitely things Microsoft and Sony can learn from each other, keeping their exact plans this vague allows them to tout the benefits of their collaboration without having to actually ship anything.
The two companies might still be fierce competitors in the console gaming business, but it seems inevitable that top-tier console games will be streaming services at some point in the future. Google’s Stadia venture and Microsoft’s own xCloud service all hint at that future, which has been held back to date by the poor performance of massive gaming hits on streaming services.
Should Google and Microsoft find success with their cloud gaming services, Sony will need someone’s infrastructure if it wants to run its own service. But, as the careful hedging in the press statement implies, the high end of the cloud gaming market is in its infancy and a lot of assumptions could change.