Microsoft has been testing its cloud-gaming platform, the technology that lets you play Xbox games on your phone, streamed from remote servers, for more than a year. Now we've come to the part where the free ride for testers ends and it's time to pony up for the privilege via a subscription to . And as frequently happens with many a clever project name, "xCloud" has been swept into obscurity; Microsoft considers the technology an integral part of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate and now refers to it generically as "cloud gaming" and "game streaming." We're going to keep calling it xCloud, though, at least until there's a less ambiguous shorthand for it.
How much does xCloud cost and when can I get it?
At the moment, you can only get it as part of the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate plan for $15 per month. (It's in the UK. Sorry, it's not available yet in Australia.) Microsoft says you'll have other ways to access it in the future, but hasn't said when, how or how much. I'm guessing a standalone subscription for streaming games you already own is at the top of the list.
Unlike competitors gaming. Microsoft's running a first-month-for-$1 (£1) offer that will likely continue, and a three-month free trial will be available through partners, .and , there's no free tier for Xbox's cloud
Some people consider the fact that Xbox Game Pass comes as part of the streaming deal makes it a winner, which is still ramping up on games, and , which is a bring-your-own-game platform. You can't stream all games in Game Pass Ultimate, just a select subset.
What devices can I play on and what are the requirements?
Any mobile device running Android 6 (Marshmallow) or better and has Bluetooth version 4 or later for a wireless controller, plus a connection with a bandwidth of at least 10Gbps -- on a 5GHz channel if you're on Wi-Fi. You can download the app from the Google Play Store or the
Keep in mind, though, that as with all cloud gaming it's about more than bandwidth. Microsoft doesn't specify minimum latency or jitter for a playable experience, and those make a big difference. It also depends on your phone's hardware, especially its Wi-Fi modem and power to decode the incoming stream.
XGS doesn't include streaming to PC like Stadia and GFN do, so it's not a solution for playing on low-power potato PC or playing Windows games on a Mac. You can play XGP games on a PC via-- also part of Game Pass Ultimate or available for $10/month by itself -- but those are installed and played on your local system.
But what about iOS? Can I play on my iPhone?
. There was a , but it's all gone now.
Microsoft isn't alone here. Apple doesn't let you play via Google's Stadia, Nvidia's GeForce Now, Sony's PlayStation Now or any cloud-gaming platforms because of its . Amazon's recently announced runs on iOS devices by circumventing App Store rules, instead running as a Web app. Apple recently to allow cloud gaming, but requires companies to create a separate app for every game in the catalog, which is only marginally less annoying. The whole situation has led some to consider .
Do I need a controller?
Yes. Only a few games like Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice and Gears 5 support touch controls at the moment. But you can use any Xbox-compatible wireless controller with it, you don't need to buy . No keyboard and mouse support, which is unsurprising given that it doesn't run on any devices you'd use with a keyboard and mouse.
How do I buy games?
You don't. You can stream many of the games in the.
On the upside, that includes Day 1 play of many new titles from Nintendo Switch or .. If you choose to buy a game, your membership entitles you to discounts on titles in the catalog. They all support crossplay with PC and console versions, as well as any crossplay already supported on other platforms, like the
What games can I play?
Microsoft says "100-plus games" will be available for play on mobile at launch. As of this writing, the beta has 173, many of them Xbox Game Studios titles. They include:
- Ark: Survival Evolved
- Bleeding Edge
- Costume Quest 2
- Crackdown 3 (campaign)
- Destiny 2
- F1 2019
- Forza Horizon 4
- Gears of War: Ultimate Edition
- Gears of War 4
- Gears 5 Ultimate Edition
- Halo 5: Guardians
- Halo Wars: Definitive Edition
- Halo Wars 2
- Halo: The Master Chief Collection
- Halo: Spartan Assault
- Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice
- Killer Instinct Definitive Edition
- Max: The Curse of Brotherhood
- Minecraft Dungeons
- The Outer Worlds
- Ori and the Blind Forest: Definitive Edition
- Ori and the Will of the Wisps
- Quantum Break
- ReCore: Definitive Edition
- Ryse: Son of Rome
- Sea of Thieves: Anniversary Edition
- State of Decay 2: Juggernaut Edition
- Sunset Overdrive
- Super Lucky's Tale
- Tell Me Why
- The Bard's Tale Trilogy
- Wasteland 2: Director's Cut
- Wasteland 3
- Wasteland Remastered
- Yakuza Kiwami 2
The list includes some titles that weren't in the beta, though, such as The Outer Worlds, so hopefully there will be some surprises. But, as with all of these services, games move in and out of the catalog. Those are not pleasant surprises.
Can I chat? What about streaming gameplay?
You can chat in-game with the phone's mic. To stream gameplay you'll need a third-party app; there's no in-game support. That's too bad, because you could probably get far better quality if you could render and transmit the broadcast stream via the server rather than locally on your phone.
If you stop subscribing, you keep your progress and achievements if you buy the game from Microsoft, but obviously lose the ability to play on mobile.