Microsoft xCloud: Everything we know

From supported games to the beta, here's what we know about Microsoft xCloud

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Microsoft remains committed to offering Xbox One and PC fans a variety of ways to play their favorite games, whether that be through physical discs, paid digital downloads, free Xbox Games With Gold titles, and the vault from Xbox Game Pass. One upcoming service, Project xCloud will allow players to enjoy their favorite games instantly, whether they are playing on a console, PC, or even a mobile phone. The service has the potential to completely change how we experience games — and you’ll be able to try it out very soon. Here’s everything we know about Microsoft xCloud.

What is Project xCloud?

Project xCloud is Microsoft’s video game streaming service, allowing players to instantly stream console and PC games to their device of choice using an internet connection. Similar to the system used by Google Stadia, you won’t download the games you play in Project xCloud. Instead, they’ll be streamed from Microsoft’s own servers, which make use of the Azure Cloud architecture that has been implemented in games like Crackdown 3 and Titanfall. There are 54 different Azure regions around the globe, which should provide stable service to users regardless of their location.

Project xCloud is not designed to replace traditional disc-based and digital gaming. Instead, Microsoft hopes for it to open up console-quality gaming to those who currently lack the necessary hardware to do so or can only play on mobile devices. It also means players will be able to enjoy a particular Xbox or PC game they’re interested in without having to purchase an entire system.

It isn’t clear yet what the quality limit will be on Project xCloud. In a blog post in March 2019, Microsoft CVP of gaming cloud Kareem Choudhry said that the company still values the console experience, as it allows for 4K gaming with HDR. It’s possible that this could mean Project xCloud will not hit these numbers, which would make its quality less impressive than Google Stadia.

How will Project xCloud work?

Project xCloud will use Microsoft’s Azure data centers’ hardware to render gaming experiences remotely, and the games will then be streamed to your device of choice. The only requirement is that you have a strong network connection so you will be able to play games at home, as well as while you are traveling. Each server blade has the internals of four Xbox One S systems, if the demonstration video Microsoft released is accurate.

The same cloud saving system currently used to make Xbox Play Anywhere – the cross-buy program for Xbox One and PC – possible will also be used in Project xCloud. This means that if you are playing a game at home and need to leave, you will be able to pick up directly where you left off.

During a demonstration on Inside Xbox in March, we got to see our first look at Project xCloud in action. Running on the Azure data centers’ servers, Forza Horizon 4 was shown streaming to an Android phone, with quality similar to that of the console game. The framerate appeared to be identical, allowing for an experience that was not pared down in any way to work through streaming.

It’s unclear how this quality will compare to the upcoming next-generation Xbox system or systems. According to 3D Realms VP Frederik Schreiber, the console will exceed the capabilities of Google Stadia. When we have concrete technical details on xCloud, it will be easier to make a direct comparison.

In order to optimize the experience for mobile players, Microsoft will offer multiple control options. These include the ability to use an Xbox One controller via Bluetooth – a feature all new Xbox One controllers have – and touch support will also be offered. Rather than using a one-size-fits-all control scheme for touchscreens, games will also get their own unique setups to best suit the actions players will be doing.

You won’t be limited to just a handful of Project xCloud enabled games, either. Microsoft plans to allow users to play their entire library of Xbox One games, as well as those Microsoft has released on PC. With more than 3,000 games available on Xbox One alone, it’s an enormous library, and developers won’t have to do anything on their end to make their games work with the Project xCloud service.

Pricing

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Thus far, Microsoft has not revealed pricing information for Project xCloud. Seeing as the recently-announced Xbox Game Pass Ultimate will set subscribers back $15 per month, we anticipate Project xCloud will cost around the same. PlayStation Now, Sony’s streaming service, costs $20 per month, so there is a chance the price could be slightly higher.

Microsoft has also not shared how – if at all – it will support game purchases. For those who want to play games the traditional way at home, you’ll have to wait and see if you will receive any credits or discounts for already purchasing games you plan to use in Project xCloud.

Beta

Microsoft will hold public trials for Project xCloud later in 2019. More information will be provided in the future on how to get into the trials and the exact dates when you’ll be able to do so. Prior to its official announcement, Google Stadia held its own technical test as “Project Stream” in late 2018.

Release Date

No final release date is yet available for Project xCloud. Because public trials are planned for later this year, however, we anticipate the full service being available in 2020. More information on this will likely be shared at Microsoft’s E3 press conference on June 9.

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