One of the biggest tech acquisitions of the last few years with implications for the video game industry is that of Microsoft buying Skype for a hefty $8.5 billion. Windows Phone already takes advantage of the app and with Xbox 360 utilizing Kinect video already, it’s a natural home to be for the service as well – especially for seamless cross-platform communications.
Microsoft has bigger plans for the service long-term however, and Skype could have a substantial role in video games themselves come time for the Xbox 720 (codenamed Durango).
GeekWire spotted an interesting posting on Microsoft’s careers page, one that’s seeking help implementing Skype into the next-gen Xbox for in-game purposes.
“Skype is working on powering real-time voice and video communications on the Xbox. Xbox is a fundamental lynchpin of Skype’s living-room strategy, and we are focused on enabling amazing new in-game and in-console voice and video experiences for the next generation of Xbox. This is a crucial initiative for Xbox, and it is time-critical given the hardware lead times involved.”
Click here to see the full job listing.
Video chat is the natural evolution for in-game communications. Audio communication is key to the multiplayer experience and has become the standard, but video is the future and the only thing holding it back is bandwith. With the Xbox 720 rumored to ship with Kinect 2 built-in, in-game video chat is a logical next-step in development. Think back to Wing Commander when NPC characters would communicate to you and players could see a little Avatar of their face in the top left – what if that were a friendly face of a teammate in real-time?
What if Microsoft implements a tablet controller much like Nintendo is doing with the Wii U (as rumored) and said controller featured a camera and the screen displayed a video chat with a teammate in Ghost Recon or the next Call of Duty? Cooperative gameplay could get that much more immersive with real-time video communications between players and the idea could work wonders with something like Battlefield 3, had it included a commader role like its predecessors.
Still, video doesn’t just add more to existing player experiences, but it could lay the foundation for new types of gaming experiences entirely. By the sounds of the job description, the next Xbox could come sooner rather than later. But is there any chance of an early tease of it at E3, despite Microsoft’s denials?
Follow Rob on Twitter @rob_keyes.