During Meta’s Connect 2023 conference, the tech giant confirmed that Microsoft’s Xbox Cloud Gaming service will be coming to Meta Quest 3 this December. The companies first teased the partnership last year but didn’t provide a release window until now.
Through Xbox Game Pass Ultimate’s game streaming platform, Quest owners will be able to access hundreds of games on a large virtual screen from within their headset. While Xbox Cloud Gaming on Quest 3 wasn’t available to try out at Meta Connect, I still wanted to learn more about it, so I asked Mark Rabkin, Meta’s VP of VR, for more details during a media roundtable.
To start, Rabkin notes that the possibility of big Xbox games like Starfield being playable on Meta Quest 3 quickly proved tantalizing to both Xbox and Meta.
💥 AND GUESS WHAT 💥
Play 1️⃣0️⃣0️⃣s of high-quality Xbox games — including @Halo Infinite, @StarfieldGame, and @ForzaMotorsport — all on a massive screen you can take with you anywhere. Subscription… pic.twitter.com/qCeJFaON2K
— Meta Quest (@MetaQuestVR) September 27, 2023
“A fun quick demo like that helped wow executives from both companies,” he says of the Bethesda RPG running through the cloud in VR. “We’re like, ‘Oh, my God.’ A lot of times you sign partnership deals like this and both companies have to come together and work on it for years. Here, both companies want to do this and it exists, and both companies said, ‘Oh, my God, yes.’ So it was pretty exciting.”
From there, he says it was “surprising how easy it was to get it running once the core tech was built.” He says that comes down to the Quest 3’s mixed reality technology, which blends the virtual and real worlds for new immersive experiences. In the case of Xbox Cloud Gaming, this creates a TV-like display in your living room to which you can stream the games.
“I was so thrilled with it — it was a testament to the power of the headset. Once we had the mixed reality, working on the panel positioning, all the core stuff that took us years to build — a couple of engineers were able to throw together a wonderful demo running literally in days,” says Rabkin.
For him, it’s especially noteworthy considering this mixture of technologies is still in its nascency.
“When an Xbox cloud game renders directly to a screen and just draws into the exact rectangle, everything’s a lot simpler. But here, it’s drawing into a virtual rectangle that we then place in your room, and then you move your head relative to the rectangle,” he explains. “There are a lot of optimizations we’re doing to make these two-dimensional panels look great from every angle and not lose resolution, and when we upscale and all kinds of visual tricks to do that.”
Ultimately, he says he’s “thrilled” at “how well the cloud zone and the mixed reality zone came together so seamlessly” in the end. “These are two areas of technology that are a new vertical — mixed reality and cloud gaming? It’s a whole different type of gaming. Now it all just works together super well.”
Of course, he notes that there are always areas of improvement, both leading up to and beyond the December launch.
“There’s a lot of work left to be done to keep improving it from both the Microsoft side and our side — working on latency, working on graphics rendering,” he explains.
“And then, of course, we’ll just have to see how people use it. I think there are a lot of exciting improvements to do on just controller pairing and pinning your favorite games and so on. So, I think it’s an amazing use case, but it’s also quite early, and I’m sure we’ll get a tremendous amount of community feedback on it. Just looking on the socials today, people are super excited about it, so I’m very excited to evolve it.”
The Meta Quest 3 is now available to pre-order in Canada starting at $649. The headset will be released on October 10th.