Despite Microsoft’s Project xCloud gaming service arriving soon, the company has kept many details under wraps. While Google’s Stadia rival has been fleshed out, xCloud is something of a mystery. Microsoft has this week tied up a partnership that provides some details on how xCloud will be made available.

We already know Project xCloud is a cloud-based game streaming service. We also know it will allow users to play Xbox titles across all form factors, including mobile devices. This means Microsoft will handle the computational heavy lifting through its own Azure servers, allowing players to use intensive games on the limited hardware of a smartphone.

While Microsoft’s own server capabilities will play a big part, strong mobile connectivity will also be important. With that in mind, the company has announced a partnership with SK Telecom, a cellular service provider from South Korea. Specifically, the collaboration will see Project xCloud available on 5G.

In a joint announcement, Microsoft says SK Telecom will be the exclusive cellular partner for xCloud in Korea. SK Telecom already has over one million 5G customers and has one of the largest networks of LTE and 5G in Korea.

Microsoft understands the importance of xCloud finding success in South Korea, the fourth largest gaming market in the world. Xbox has traditionally struggled next to Nintendo and PlayStation in Southeast Asia. Microsoft clearly wants its cloud gaming service to be more successful.

“SK Telecom is pleased to announce this meaningful business cooperation with Microsoft(…). We expect to take customers’ mobile gaming experience to the next level by combining SK Telecom’s 5G competitiveness and Microsoft’s strength in cloud and gaming.”

Hint at Approach

Microsoft’s gaming chief Phil Spencer points out Microsoft is calling on vast experience in its cloud gaming push:

“Microsoft’s approach to game streaming combines nearly 40 years of gaming experience. With investments and resources from Azure, Microsoft Research, and other business groups across the company, allowing us to reach gamers around the world(…). Partnerships, like the one we announced with SK Telecom today, are critical to continuing that trajectory and moving the gaming industry forward, starting with the incredibly engaged gamers and game studios in South Korea.”

SK Telecom will launch a public preview of Project xCloud in October, available to select LTE and 5G customers.

It will be interesting to see if Microsoft follows this approach in other regions. Tying up an exclusive partner helps the company get a guaranteed foothold in countries. However, that means shutting out a subset of potential users on other networks.