Microsoft and EE, the British mobile network, announced today an expanded partnership that will see Microsoft commit to a 10-year agreement to provide Xbox PC games to EE customers. This deal is part of Microsoft’s cloud gaming series, but it’s different than others and could indicate that PC games will be coming to Xbox Cloud Gaming.
“Microsoft’s and EE’s partnership in cloud gaming is expanding,” Phil Spencer, Microsoft Gaming CEO, said in a tweet. Microsoft’s cloud-gaming deals with Ubitus and Nvidia have all included the placement of Xbox PC games on a competitor cloud gaming service. However, EE does not offer its own cloud gaming service.
EE, a UK mobile operator, offers customers access to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate through an add-on to their monthly mobile contracts. It does not operate its own cloud gaming services and has not announced plans to.
I asked Microsoft for clarification on Spencer’s tweet about the partnership, and it said that they don’t have any other information to share regarding its vague announcement. I also asked EE about this deal. It didn’t respond to my question regarding the fact that it doesn’t have its own cloud gaming platform. James Auterson, spokesperson for EE, said that “as part of our ambitions to be the top destination for gamers,” they are currently reviewing many exciting new areas in order to improve our customers’ gaming experiences. “We don’t have any further information on our future plans at this time.”
Microsoft may be preparing to add PC games for Xbox Cloud Gaming, rather than EE launching a rival cloud gaming service. We haven’t seen any signs that Microsoft is building data centers capable of running PC gaming in the cloud. This is despite the fact that Microsoft has been testing keyboard and mouse support for Xbox Cloud Gaming. However, this support is only available for Xbox console games and not PC ones.
Microsoft wants its Xbox PC games to be available on cloud gaming services. In February, , the software manufacturer, reached a deal to bring Xbox PC games to GeForce Now. Activision Blizzard games will be added to Nvidia’s gaming service if the Microsoft Activision deal with Microsoft is approved.
Microsoft currently streams Xbox console gaming through Xbox Cloud Gaming, using custom Xbox Series X hardware to power the experience. If Microsoft is looking to rival Nvidia’s stunning RTX4080 cloud gaming platform, PC games on Xbox Cloud Gaming will require a different kind of hardware investment.
We are left to wonder what the “PC Games” portion of this 10-year partnership is, with both Microsoft and EE refusing comment. This announcement comes days after Microsoft and Sony both responded to concerns raised by the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority about Microsoft’s proposed acquisition of Activision Blizzard. Microsoft has been signing 10-year license agreements to appease European and UK regulators, while Sony is worried that Microsoft could undermine Call of Dutyon PlayStation.