Walmart’s unannounced cloud gaming service, codenamed Project Storm, has been detailed in new confidential emails. An exhibit in the Epic Games v. Apple trial reveals Walmart’s efforts to pitch its cloud gaming service to Epic Games and get Fortnite on board.
“I played Walmart’s demo on an Android phone (with an Xbox controller) and the experience felt like playing on PS4 and superior to playing on Android or iOS,” said Epic Games co-founder Mark Rein in an email thread from April 2019. Rein also excitedly shares a photo of a game clip with the rest of the Epic Games executive team, showing how Walmart was planning to sell this in stores to let a phone attach to a controller. “They’re going to sell the clip for a crazy low amount, they were saying something like $2,” said Rein.
A presentation attached to the emails shows how Walmart had been pitching its cloud gaming service to publishers like Epic Games. The company was planning to run the service on Windows, with third-party game launchers like Steam, Uplay, Origin, Epic Games Store, Battle.net, and Bethesda Launcher supported.
It’s not clear from Walmart’s presentation when the company planned to launch the service, with a beta period originally set to launch in July 2019. An early mock-up of the user experience looks very similar to other cloud gaming services, with a list of games, genres, and a search function.
Walmart was planning what it describes as an “open ecosystem,” with the ability to stream from the cloud or download and play games locally. The technology behind Walmart’s cloud gaming service is LiquidSky, a service Walmart acquired. LiquidSky was previously powered by IBM Cloud’s bare metal servers and Nvidia GPUs, and it appears to offer a powerful Windows PC for cloud gaming.
Epic Games was one of many publishers to which Walmart pitched. Reports originally surfaced about Walmart’s plans in 2019, but the company has still not officially announced any cloud gaming service. Sources familiar with Walmart’s plans tell The Verge that some publishers and developers had signed up to produce or host games on Walmart’s service, but that the launch had been put on hold once the pandemic began last year.
It’s not clear if Walmart’s cloud gaming service will still launch. We reached out to Walmart to comment on Project Storm, but the company did not respond in time for publication.
Either way, Mark Rein seemed interested in Walmart’s pitch and exploring services like Google Stadia and Nvidia GeForce Now. “Walmart is open to exploring all kinds of business models, but I expect their service will be the least expensive of all of these because they’re Walmart and that’s their gig.”
Epic Games ultimately partnered with Nvidia to launch Fortnite on GeForce Now last year. It’s currently the only way to play Fortnite on iOS, after the Epic dispute with Apple led to the removal of Fortnite from the App Store.