Reliance’s 2020 Annual General Meeting (AGM) is on July 15. While the machinations of a large corporation with interests in tech and data are of little concern to a site like ours, what’s fascinating is if the the company builds on its gaming commitments through Jio.
With that in mind, here’s a timeline of Reliance Jio’s gaming efforts so far as well as speculation on what could come to be in terms of its cloud gaming efforts.
Reliance Jio in games
The company has three teams working in the games space. One is in charge of liaising with developers to have their games on the JioPhone app store, essentially feature phone fare made compatible with the JioPhone family of devices that run on KaiOS.
The other is developing the living room and android set top box gaming initiatives, and a third is focussed on esports (whose head quit last year). A quick check on LinkedIn verifies the existence of these three departments.
During the 2019 Reliance Jio AGM a sketchy FIFA 19 demo with Xbox controller button prompts was dubbed as the firm’s own “cloud gaming” tech running off an “Android set top box”. Since then there have been no announcements from Reliance Jio regarding this service or the set top itself.
Reliance Jio and Project xCloud
Fast forward to February 24, 2020. A televised conversation between Reliance Industries Chairman and MD Mukesh Ambani and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella confirmed that both companies are partnering on Project xCloud — Microsoft’s game streaming tech that allows users to play Xbox One and eventually Xbox Series X games on smartphones with an Xbox controller. The Mako Reactor was the first to discover that the telecom giant has partnered with Microsoft for this purpose.
“Yes, we confirmed the news of our intent to bring Project xCloud to Indian gamers with Reliance Jio as part of our Future Decoded event in Mumbai in late February,” a spokesperson for Microsoft told The Mako Reactor over email a few weeks later. “We announced this intention to come to India at X019 London in November, and will have more news soon on how and when this will play out for your local market.”
After that, several sources familiar with Microsoft’s plans spoke to us on the condition of anonymity confirmed that there were no plans to make Project xCloud exclusive to Jio to begin with. They claimed that the Redmond-based company firmly believed that if it wanted Project xCloud to be a mass product for those without access to an Xbox One, Xbox Series X, or gaming PC, it would need to be on every possible telco.
This would suggest that Project xCloud may not be exclusive to Reliance Jio in the way an app like JioTV is, which requires a Jio phone number to use (barring some unsanctioned, possibly illegal workarounds).
Assuming Microsoft follows the same strategy for Xbox Series X, it may not be exclusive to Amazon India, a stark contrast to its Xbox One launch which saw it limited to Amazon India for the first year, a move that proved fatal for the company’s efforts in the country. We reached out to Microsoft and Reliance Jio to clarify this and had not received a reply.
What about the Reliance Jio Android gaming set top box?
Sources in the supply chain speaking to The Mako Reactor on condition of anonymity state that two versions of the Jio set top box are in development (neither to be confused with the already released Jio Fiber Set Top Box).
Both are powered by Android and have the ability to play games with the latter being able to output recent Android titles in HD. It is unclear however, if both will be launched simultaneously or if both will even make it to end-users as Jio is yet to decide on its strategy for them.
In May, multiple sources reached out to The Mako Reactor confirmed that those plans had fallen through. It’s not like the other options are ideal: Stadia is suffering from a litany of issues in markets with better Internet connectivity, xCloud plans to go multiplatform, and Sony’s silence on PS Now what with the PS5 being front and centre leaves Reliance Jio with few options. Keeping the competition and current environment in mind, we’d speculate that it would be in the best interests of Reliance Jio and Nvidia to partner for cloud gaming.
Would Reliance Jio partner with Nvidia for GeForce Now in India?
Most of Reliance Jio’s efforts in any space have focussed on having exclusive offerings. From having its own app for Jio users in JioTV to games built around the JioPhone, the company’s strategy appears to be based on this key tenet. If this is indeed the case, working with Nvidia may prove beneficial in building a bespoke service powered by GeForce Now as the service appears to be on life support at the moment despite being one of the better options in terms of end-user experience.
Considering Nvidia’s ongoing struggles to keep publishers on board even after changing its policies big players in the space like Bethesda, Activision Blizzard, and 2K have all left the platform in quick succession.
Unlocking access to Reliance Jio’s 388 million subscriber base which is forecasted to reach 500 million in 2023 will be crucial to keeping publishers and their games on the service.
More importantly it would essentially give Reliance Jio access to content to retain its user base and hopefully grow it beyond the 500 million projection. There are mutual benefits to such a deal. However at the same time, this thought experiment does have some very real world challenges. Namely data caps, consistent Internet connectivity, rising Internet costs, and seamless payment options. Let alone what pricing tactics come in to play or the cost for end-users assuming hardware would be required (though a recent report suggests subscriptions being a likely option). And that’s before considering that Sony may launch PS Now before Reliance Jio’s cloud gaming initiative any fruit or Google’s own plans for a Stadia launch in India.
That said, Reliance Jio has received considerable investments of late. These include Qualcomm, Facebook, General Atlantic, KKR and Intel Corporation, Abu Dhabi-based Mubadala and Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, and Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund. So if it does finally decide to make gaming a priority it will have the capital necessary to pull it off. Thankfully we won’t have to wait too long to find out.