The streaming future isn't quite here yet, but it's definitely coming. From services like PS Now and Google Stadia, the titans of the gaming and tech industries are in a race to be the first and best streaming platform out there - and they're not alone. Microsoft is in the middle of its own big push into game streaming with Project xCloud. While the service remains in preview for now, it's expected to grow quite a lot this year, and will surely factor in heavily to the launch of the Xbox Series X.
With that in mind, we've gone ahead and rounded up all you need to know about the burgeoning platform, including what xCloud costs, what games you can play on xCloud, and how the heck it works anyway. Here's everything you need to know about Microsoft's Project xCloud.
What is Project xCloud?
In a sentence, Project xCloud is Xbox's rival to Google Stadia and PS Now. Unlike Xbox Console Streaming, which is more akin to PS4 Remote Play in that they both mirror your home consoles exactly as they are, dashboard and all, xCloud is a standalone platform with its own games library and doesn't interact with your console at all. Instead, it allows players to stream games from Microsoft's cloud. Currently, Project xCloud remains in preview and is available for players using a Microsoft account after they sign up for an invite.
What do I need to play Project xCloud?
The answer to this one will change over time, but we'll update this story as needed. For now, Microsoft lists four key things you'll need to successfully run xCloud as it stands today:
- Compatible mobile device: Android version 6.0 or greater, Bluetooth version 4.0+
- Compatible Xbox Wireless Controller with Bluetooth (controller mount optional)
- 5GHz Wi-Fi or mobile data connection 10Mbps down (also works on 2.4Ghz)
- Xbox Game Streaming App (Preview)
While the speed requirements seem low at just 10 Mbps, the better your speed, the more enjoyable your xCloud experience will be. In my experience will several different streaming platforms, anything over 35 Mbps (assuming you aren't splitting that bandwidth too much) is where you get the best connection with the best picture and most reliable controller input.
Is Project xCloud compatible with iOS?
That's a tricky one. While xCloud did come to iOS devices earlier this year, the Apple Testflight app allowed only 10,000 applicants to join the preview on iOS, and it filled up within a few hours. So if you're reading this now and didn't make it into the iOS preview, you'll sadly need to keep waiting. But that doesn't mean you'll be waiting forever. Xbox has made it clear that xCloud will eventually run on both iOS and Android devices. The company hasn't put a date on the full release yet, but it's hinted that big changes are coming in 2020.
How much does Project xCloud cost?
Price is one of the most attractive parts about xCloud right now because it's completely free. As the service remains in limited preview, Microsoft is not charging anyone to use it for the time being, as we're all essentially beta testing for them. Does that mean xCloud will eventually come with a price tag? Probably, though depending on what you're already paying for, you may not notice a difference.
That's because later this year, Xbox Game Pass will get xCloud support, meaning the popular subscription library will be streamable from the cloud. Might that mean a price increase for subscriptions to Game Pass or Game Pass Ultimate? Xbox hasn't said yet, but if not, anyone who already subscribes to Game Pass may get access to xCloud for no additional charge. We expect to have these questions answered more clearly when Microsoft hits a number of stages throughout 2020 as it ramps up the the Xbox Series X launch.
What games can you play on xCloud?
This is a list that is growing all the time. The preview began with around 50 games but in just a few months it's nearly doubled that, now sitting at 92 games total. The list includes first-party favorites like Forza Horizon 4, Gears 5, and Halo: The Master Chief Collection as well as third-party standouts such as Destiny 2, A Plague Tale: Innocence, and Devil May Cry 5. The full list can be found at Xbox.com. Once Xbox Game Pass gets xCloud support, that will add roughly 200 more games to the library - some of them are already in both libraries - so it's safe to say xCloud's game library is growing quickly.
Is Project xCloud worth it?
While it's free, it's totally worth signing up. This is especially true if, like me, you primarily play games on Xbox or Windows PC. With all your save data kept intact, an ever-growing library of first- and third-party favorites, and a reliable technical experience provided you meet the required specs, xCloud is a no-brainer for now. In the months ahead, it may look a lot different, though we'd hope only for the better.
We can't speak to final pricing just yet, so it's hard to measure its worth with such a variable involved, but Phil Spencer has been righting past wrongs of the brand for many years now, and as he recently said himself that it's streaming giants like Amazon and Google who he views as Xbox's primary competitors on the road ahead, we'd expect Xbox to price xCloud competitively and sustain it with great games for years to come. We're eager to see what Project xCloud looks like on day one when it's out of preview, but for now, for free, it's totally worth it just to see what game streaming is like.
Project xCloud has already changed the way I play games, like how it turned Sea of Thieves into a couch co-op game.