Project xCloud is the codename of Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass Ultimate Cloud Gaming Streaming Service, which brings together Xbox Live Gold, the Xbox Game Pass for console, and Xbox Game Pass for PC services into a single, far-cheaper subscription model. On top of that, you also get access to cloud gaming, which lets you stream a range of Xbox console games to an Android device.
Soon, Microsoft is set to expand Xbox Game Pass cloud streaming to the web, bypassing Apple’s dumb iOS store rules and bringing xCloud to PCs for the first time. However, what about some of xCloud’s current limitations?
Reports have suggested that Microsoft is planning to upgrade the Xbox cloud streaming servers from Xbox One architecture to Xbox Series X architecture over the course of this year, and we may have started to see some of the fruits of that labor. Trusted sources recently sent us this screencap from the Xbox streaming test tools for developers, which comes with a dev overlay for benchmarking network connectivity, as well as resolution.
Up until now, Hellblade and other Xbox cloud games were restricted to a maximum of 720p video streams. While this helps on bandwidth and responsiveness, 720p looks quite blurry. If you live close to a Microsoft data center and have a display resolution pushing QHD or higher (often the case with higher-end mobile devices), then you’re not really experiencing games as they were intended.
It appears as though Microsoft is already in the process of testing 1080p streams for xCloud, which would bring it in line with Google Stadia’s baseline “free” tier and other similar streaming services. The latest update to the test streaming app also supports direct console streaming, which also streams nicely at 1080p.
Above you can see the comparison in resolution quality when compared to the 1080p shot sent to us from a trusted source. Our xCloud testing app is crushing the resolution because I’m too far away from a Microsoft data center that supports this 1080p test, presumeably.
In any case, upgrading the stream capability of xCloud, coupled with the SSDs from Xbox Series X hardware should see Xbox Game Pass cloud streaming jump up in quality across the board. It won’t take anywhere up to a minute to spin up a server for you, as is currently the case, nor will it take minutes to actually load into the game.
Recently, Google Stadia announced it was winding down its home-grown content efforts and looking to downsize its Stadia efforts. Reports stated that Google was paying publishers tens of millions just to support the platform, which naturally, doesn’t seem too sustainable. Microsoft’s big advantage with xCloud is that they already have all the content since Xbox Game Pass cloud streaming is literally built on top of the Xbox console platform. As Xbox Game Pass picks up hardware upgrades throughout 2021 and beyond, the gap between Microsoft and its competitors will grow even further.
The new Xbox Game Streaming for Windows 10 leaked a year ago, but it has apparently improved a lot since then. The latest version tested by The Verge supports both Xbox Cloud Gaming (Project xCloud) and Xbox Remote Play, which lets Xbox owners stream any games installed on their consoles. Notably, this app will support game streaming from Microsoft’s new Xbox Series X|S consoles, something that isn’t supported with the old Xbox Companion app for Windows 10.
You can grab Xbox Game Pass streaming using Xbox Game Pass Ultimate and a device like one of the devices from our best xCloud tablets roundup, or using one of the phone attachments from our best xCloud mobile clips roundup.
Be sure to check out our earlier hands-on with xCloud for PC too at the video below.
According to The Verge, the latest version of the Xbox Game Streaming for Windows 10 that Microsoft is testing internally will also support touch controls on PCs, though that isn’t yet functional in the leaked version of the app. More and more cloud-enabled games now support touch controls on Android devices, and it will be nice to get the same touch experience on Windows 10 tablets.
We don’t know yet when Microsoft plans to make this Xbox Game Streaming generally available, but Microsoft is reportedly planning a gaming event later this month. “This event is about Microsoft’s vision for the future of gaming, so things like xCloud, Xbox Game Pass, and more ways to access Xbox,”The Verge’s Tom Warren said on Twitter. We’ll see what happens, but it’s really time for Microsoft to bring Xbox Cloud Gaming devices to more devices through the web and a dedicated Windows 10 app.
It is believed that Project xCloud, which currently runs on the older Xbox One S architecture, will be upgraded with Xbox Series X hardware later this year. This will not only allow for higher quality streams but should also significantly reduce xCloud load times. When this upgrade should happen is unknown, but it could roll out fairly quickly, as Microsoft has already begun testing 1080p streams.
The Verge’s Tom Warren also managed to get his hands on the unreleased xCloud app for Windows, which lets you stream Xbox games from the cloud or Series X|S consoles.
Recently, Microsoft began testing its browser-based xCloud solution, which could be used to circumvent Apple’s strict App Store guidelines and allow iOS users to finally get in on the Xbox cloud gaming action.