For the last year, Microsoft has been working on testing the xCloud gaming platform that runs, you guessed it, on the cloud. It lets you play your Xbox games through your phones using streaming from remote servers. The testing phase, and the freebie for the testers, is coming to a close and the market will have to start paying a subscription for the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate. Project names, no matter how clever, aren’t always meant to last, and xCloud has been superseded by the idea that the system is integral to the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, the whole thing now being called “cloud gaming”. Lori Grunin decided to stick with xCloud when she wrote about it for cnet, and we will too since it’s a handy name in lieu of anything easier.  

When can I get xCloud and how much will it cost? 

If you worked on the preview, it’s still free until Sept 11, with the official launch coming on Sept 15. Surprisingly, a beta version was made available to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscribers back on August 11 and in the long term, xCloud will sit in that package, with a total price of $15 per month. 

More points of access will come in the future, according to Microsoft, but details of when or the price haven’t been mooted as yet. 

You get a free tier on competitor models such as Google Stadia and Nvidia GeForce Now (GFN), but Microsoft hasn’t gone for that model with their cloud gaming. You do get the first month for a dollar, or pound, and that’s likely to last for a while and some partners like Samsung will be offering a three-month free trial. 

GET XBOX GAME PASS ULTIMATE

When compared to Stadia, it can seem like a pretty sweet deal to get the Xbox Game Pass to include the cloud streaming for gaming. Stadia and GeForce Now are only just getting their game offering going. 

Image credit: mobilesyrup.com

What devices and operating systems do I need?

If you’ve got a mobile device running Android 6 – Marshmallow – or higher, and have version 4 of Bluetooth to use the wireless controller, and an internet connection of at least 10Gbps and a 5Ghz channel for WiFi users, then you’re good to go. You can download the app from the Google Play Store or the Samsung Galaxy Store.

Since this is cloud gaming, you need to remember there’s more to your connection than just bandwidth. There’s no minimum latency spelled out, or anything about jitter to ensure you can enjoy playing, but these stability measures will make a big difference.  

XGS won’t let you stream games to a PC, unlike Stadia or GFN, so you’re not going to be able to play on your old, hot, and low PC. You can play XGP games on a PC via the still-in-beta Xbox Game Pass PC, but those are installed and played on your local system.

I have an iPhone, can I get this? 

The simple answer is “no”. Microsoft toyed with the idea, but no.  

They’re not the first company to eschew Apple, since you can’t get Stadia from Google, Nvidia’s GeForce Now, PlayStation Now from Sony, or any other cloud-gaming platform on your iOS devices. It’s down to App Store policies, which may see more people make the switch from Apple to Android.

Image credit: techspot.com

What about a controller, do I need one? 

Yup, there’s only a couple of games like Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice and Gears 5 that will let you play with a touch screen as it stands. Any Xbox-compatible wireless controller will do, you don’t need an official Microsoft controller. You also can’t use a keyboard and/or mouse, but you’d not expect it to since it’s not designed for hardware that needs a mouse or keyboard. 

What’s the purchase process like for games?

There is none. It’s a streaming service where you pick any of the games from the XboxGame Pass library and play to your heart’s content.  

You get access to the first day of play on lots of new games that come from Xbox Game Studios. When you buy a game, you get discounts on catalog titles along with your membership. Your console and PC versions are supported with crossplay plus any other crossplay across different platforms like PS4 and Nintendo Switch.

Image credit: cnet.com

What are the options for games?

There are going to be more than 100 games available for the mobile launch, so says Microsoft. As of this writing, the beta has 104, many of them Xbox Game Studios titles. There has been formal confirmation of 30 of the launch titles: 

Some on the list haven’t been available on the beta, like The Outer Worlds, so you may be in for some surprises. Just like other streaming services, games will come and go from the list, and you’re not going to be happy when they do. 

Are there chat features? How’s the streaming gameplay? 

With your phone’s mix, you’re able to chat in-game. For streaming gameplay, you’ll need a third-party app – you don’t get in-game support. It’s not the end of the world, the quality will be a lot better if you could render and transmit the stream through the server rather than just over your phone. 

How’s the cancellation policy?

When you cancel your subscription, you can retain your achievements and progress if you go buy the game off Microsoft, but you’re back to your console with no mobile gaming options. 

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