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Xbox chief details Project xCloud, free remote play tests beginning in October

Phil Spencer explains what to expect from Xbox's streaming service when it begins public tests in October.

Microsoft is demoing the new streaming service at its E3 booth.
James Martin/CNET

Along with its next-generation Xbox console, Project Scarlett, at this year's Xbox press conference at E3, Microsoft tossed out some snippets about its Project xCloud cloud-gaming service. While we didn't get any pricing, we did find out:

  • It will become available in October 2019
  • Console streaming will be a second aspect of it, letting you sling local Xbox games to another device
  • They had a first public hands-on at the show

The service, which will let you play on devices like phones and tablets by serving them up from more powerful, remote, console-like hardware, has been in testing internally for several months. And because it runs the same game code that's used by its Xbox One console family, as well as a well-developed distribution platform in Xbox Live, can work with the entire 3,500-game Xbox One library as well as the 1,900 titles in development. 

This contrasts with Google's competing Stadia, slated for limited rollout in November and broader launch in early 2020, which requires ports of existing games not developed with it in mind and will therefore have a much smaller, handpicked catalog at launch. The cloud and the ability to play AAA games on any device are the next frontiers for gaming.  

Now playing: Watch this: Microsoft announces Project Scarlett

Xbox chief Phil Spencer went a little more in-depth Monday on an episode of Inside Xbox, revealing how the new streaming service handles data.

"Project xCloud is us putting Xboxes in our datacenters and allowing people to access those," he explained. "We scratched our heads and said 'wait a minute, we have tens of millions of people who already have an Xbox One at home, what if they could turn their local Xbox into their own version of xCloud, so they can stream out of their home?'." 

Spencer explained that the Project xCloud features dropping in October are two-fold: You can preview the streaming service that uses Xbox's data centers "so that you can access Xboxes that we have enabled to play games from there" but also, you can turn your own Xbox One into a server, which will allow you to access it from your phone wherever you go. Spencer noted there would be "no charge for that" and both services are previewing this October. 

The local streaming from your own Xbox One seems to resemble Sony's remote play, available with the PlayStation 4, whereas the Project xCloud experience will use the power in the data centers to deliver flawless Xbox games to any device, more like Stadia.

It's no coincidence that these announcements arrive in conjunction with the company commencing its Xbox Game Pass for PC subscription plan, which Microsoft also talked about at length.