When one thinks of games and the more popular titles that proliferate the space, they see sprawling PC rigs, next-gen consoles, and a LOT of big, bulky hardware. The one thing they have in common? Well, you can’t take your gaming with you. However, thanks to the new Project xCloud, you’ll be able to play your favorite games anytime you want to.
What is Project xCloud?
Project xCloud is Microsoft’s start to a video game streaming service. Giving the ability for players to instantly stream both PC and console games to any device of their choice so long as they have an internet connection.
Like the system used by Google Stadia, you don’t need to download any games that you want to play in Project xCloud. Instead, they’re streamed from Microsoft’s servers. This makes use of Microsoft’s Azure Cloud architecture that’s implemented in games like Titanfall. There are currently around 54 different Azure regions across the globe. Ensuring that Azure Cloud would provide stable and smooth service to any user regardless of location.
Project xCloud isn’t made to replace current disc-based and digital gaming, however. Instead, Microsoft wishes for xCloud to offer console-quality gaming to gamers who lack the necessary hardware to do so at the time or people who can only play on mobile platforms. It also signifies that more players can enjoy any Xbox or PC game they wish to play without the need to buy an entire gaming system. If you wish to learn more about getting Xbox games, here’s our How to Download Xbox Games article to help you out. Also, here are our guides on how to check your internet speed and what is a good internet speed to upload & download files.
Microsoft began teasing the public of its developing streaming service back at E3 2018. Though they would formally announce the name, Project xCloud several months after in October. They showed off its capabilities as a game streaming platform in March 2019 by running the racing game Forza Horizon 4 on an Android smartphone. All while the game was being played using an Xbox One controller.
Xbox head Phil Spencer at this time used a private server to test the capabilities of the service to play games on a remote connection. xCloud then entered the home testing phase in May 2019. At that time, it could now be used outside a lab environment. It was slated for public testing later in that year and was unveiled at E3 2019.
xCloud runs through the use of Microsoft’s 54 Azure cloud computing centers that are hosted in 140 countries. This service is made to work with phones, with touchscreen controls or through the use of an Xbox controller connected via Bluetooth. Microsoft stated that the size of its Xbox content library xCloud is more appealing than competitors like Stadia.
xCloud trials began in October 2019. And as of November 2019, it hosts over 50 games. These have supporting testing for Apple Inc’s iOS devices, in addition to Sony Interactive Entertainment’s DualShock controllers.
How does it work?
Project xCloud uses Microsoft’s Azure datacenters’ hardware to render games remotely, said games will then be streamed to the device of your choice. Its only requirement is that a strong network connection is a must to play the game in question at home, as well as on the go. If the demo video Microsoft made is accurate, each server blade has the internals of 4 Xbox One S systems. Making it a pretty powerful platform.
A similar cloud saving system is currently used to create Xbox Play Anywhere. This is the cross-buy program that Xbox One and PC has that also can be used in Project xCloud. This means that if you’re playing a game and you need to go somewhere, you can continue the game right where you left it.
In a demo that Inside Xbox made in March, people got their first look at Project xCloud in action. Running on Azure data center servers, the game played, which was Forza Horizon 4 was streamed to an Android smartphone. With its quality near-identical to that of the console version of the game. The framerate looks to be the same as well, giving players an experience that wasn’t pared down or downsized in any way for it to work in streaming.
Into the Future
It’s unclear how the video quality will compare to the newest next-gen Xbox and Playstation systems. When asked, 3D Realms VP Frederik Schreiber stated that “the console will surpass the capabilities that Google Stadia offers”. When there’s finally concrete details on xCloud’s specs, it’ll be easier to create a direct and concrete comparison. However, in a blog post that Microsoft made in March 2019, their Vice President of Cloud Gaming Kareem Choudhry stated that Microsoft still values the console experience, as consoles allow 4K gaming alongside HDR. This probably means that Project xCloud won’t hit the 4K graphics spectrum, which for some people might be a bummer.
XCloud on Mobile
To better optimize the streaming experience for those who play on mobile, Microsoft has offered multiple options for game control. These include the capability to use Xbox One controllers through the use of Bluetooth, which all-new Xbox One controllers have. In addition to this, touch support will be offered as well. Instead of using a one-size-fits-all control format for touchscreens, games can also obtain unique setups to suit the actions that players will be making in-game.
Currently, Microsoft hasn’t shown the pricing for Project xCloud. Because the recently-announced Xbox Game Pass Ultimate will make subscribers pay $15 per month, it’s anticipated that xCloud will cost the same. PlayStation Now, which is Sony’s version of a streaming service, costs around $20 every month. So there might be a chance that the price may be higher.
Also, Microsoft hasn’t shared how — if at all — the platform supports game purchases yet. For people who wish to play games the way God intended, at home, you’re gonna have to wait and see if you’ll get any discounts or credits for already purchasing games you want to play in Project xCloud.
However, there’s going to be a workaround that’s available for those who own games on any Xbox game system and plans to leave said Xbox plugged in and active. You’re going to be able to use your own Xbox as your xCloud server. This allows you the ability to stream games to any device you currently have without needing any additional payment fee. All games you currently own on your Xbox will be supported. This should include those that were released for older Xbox versions.
How do you get an account?
There is currently a beta preview period underway for Project xCloud. Although, it’s limited to the US, Canada, South Korea, and the United Kingdom.
Those that are currently participating in the beta must use an Android 6.0 device or higher, alongside Bluetooth versions 4.0 or newer. The preview build currently out is compatible with many Bluetooth-capable Xbox One controllers, in addition to having either a 5GHz Wi-Fi or an acceptable mobile data plan with about 10Mbps minimum download speed.
In this beta period, there are more than 50 games available for people to play. These games include Madden NFL 20, Gears 5, Tekken 7 Devil May Cry 5, and more. Those that participate in the beta period are encouraged by the developers to offer their feedback on the streaming platform through their Reddit.
iOS users also have the chance to register for the beta as of February 2020. Unfortunately, their options are a wee bit limited. Currently, there’s only Halo: The Master Chief Collection available for the iOS, and the device has to be running on iOS 13.0 or later and with Bluetooth 4.0 or newer versions. Meanwhile, the Xbox Console Streaming is now available for their beta period.
Countries with access to xCloud
As stated above, the beta preview of xCloud is available in the US, Canada, South Korea, and the UK. However, unlike Google Stadia and PlayStation Now, Microsoft is taking a slow approach to its Project xCloud streaming service. While it’s true that the preview launched originally in the countries mentioned above, Project xCloud is now extending its beta to Spain, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, France, Germany, Belgium, Ireland, Netherlands, Italy, and Norway
How does Project xCloud Compare to similar Cloud Gaming Devices?
Project xCloud currently has a few competitors. The most prominent would be PlayStation Now, GeForce Now, Jump, and lastly, Google Stadia.
As of right now though, the amenities that Project xCloud offers goes above and beyond that of Stadia, Jump and GeForce Now, with only PlayStation Now being a possible competitor. But first, let’s go at some things as to why this is the case.
Let’s start with Stadia. At Stadia’s current state, it’s almost impossible for it to compete with xCloud. With all the current problems that Stadia currently has today, it’ll take a pretty long time before it can even stand back at its own feet.
After that, let’s talk about Jump. Jump is a good game streaming platform. However, most of Jump’s games are indies. And while it’s a great selection of games, some people who wish for more mainstream game series wouldn’t appreciate the platform because of it.
As for GeForce Now and Playstation Now (They sound the same too…), both are decent alternatives for xCloud. And not only because GeForce Now and PlayStation Now have their own set of exclusive games (Though to be fair, they DO have a few of those), both of the platforms are also as polished in the execution of their streaming services as xCloud. So if you’re looking for a decent alternative, you can go with either of them.
Pros and Cons of using xCloud
There are pros and cons for any existing and upcoming gaming console or model. But, due to Project xCloud being currently in its beta stage, it’s easier to highlight the flaws in its service but not to necessarily set these flaws as bad benchmarks. Due to these features being subject to change.
Pros of Using XCloud
Let’s begin with the service’s pros. Gaining access to video game betas/demos can be a real pain. However, Microsoft’s process of downloading the xCloud beta is pretty simple compared to this. You’ll get the invite first and foremost. Then, you can download the app from Google Play Store or Apple App Store.
Once you’ve downloaded it, you get to sign up into the app but xCloud won’t work without connecting your Xbox console. The main interface comprises an extensive list of games that have exceeded 50+ even before its official release. The resolution and quality of the game you’re playing is limited to how big your smartphone screen is. Don’t try and expect to get 4K graphics streaming on a regular phone. Despite this, the resolution quality will be clear as crystal.
Of course, some games might require more bandwidth consumption and loading time than most. If that’s the case, try and consider opting for a WiFi connection for stable internet instead of relying on a mobile data connection.
Cons of Using XCloud
As for the cons that xCloud has? Well, there’s a few but not much. It’s hard for a gaming service/platform to remain untouched by skeptical or negative reviews. Currently, there are not that many shortcomings or issues inside the service. Maybe the beta version needs some changes in its UI design due to lacking standard user experience QoL. Some said that the text on the app’s screen is a bit difficult to read. Etc.