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Project xCloud: everything we know about Microsoft's cloud streaming service

Project xCloud
Image credit: Microsoft

Project xCloud is the codename for Microsoft’s cloud gaming service which has now officially launched as Cloud Gaming with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate.

Project xCloud leverages Microsoft’s existing data centers across the globe, literally loading up servers with the component parts of multiple Xbox One consoles. These are then used to run the games that are streamed directly to your mobile device of choice.

The service is currently bundled free with Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscriptions, meaning you can play over 150 Xbox Game Pass titles on your Android phone or tablet as well as your console and PC. This library will evolve over time and will expand further when Microsoft’s partnership with EA Play comes into effect later this year. 

Cloud gaming with Xbox Game Pass is still relatively new so we’ve gathered together everything we know about Microsoft’s cloud streaming service below for your perusal.

  • Hands on: don't miss our experience with Project xCloud

Project xCloud release date 

Project xCloud

Image credit: Microsoft

Project xCloud launched as cloud gaming with Game Pass Ultimate on September 15 2020. 

The cloud streaming service is now a part of Xbox Game Pass, included in Game Pass Ultimate subscriptions for no additional charge. 

At the moment as cloud gaming is still in beta it's only available in 22 “supported countries” which include Austria, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States. 

More countries are getting the service at a later date as it’s a multi-year roll out and Australia has been confirmed as getting a 2021 launch.

In terms of device compatibility, right now cloud gaming is only available for Android devices with Android version 6.0 and above. Support for iOS devices doesn’t appear to be coming any time soon due to Apple App Store policies which prevent cloud gaming services like Game Pass from operating on iOS devices. 

However, Xbox’s Phil Spencer seems determined to make it work, stating in a recent CNBC interview (via AppleInsider): “We’re committed to bringing Game Pass to all mobile phones out there, including Apple phones. We’ll continue the conversations and I’m sure we’ll be able to get to some resolution.”

Project xCloud news and features

Project xCloud

Image credit: Microsoft

Committed to iPhone

At the moment, xCloud is only available on Android devices but Microsoft is still committed to bringing the service to iPhone owners. In a recent interview with CNBC, (via AppleInsider) Phil Spencer stated “We’re committed to bringing Game Pass to all mobile phones out there, including Apple phones. We’ll continue the conversations and I’m sure we’ll be able to get to some resolution.”

Coming to Australia

Project xCloud isn't available in Australia yet but come 2021 it will be. Phil Spencer tweeted the news in response to a question from a fan, saying that the launch should be in "early 2021".

EA Play partnership

Microsoft has announced a partnership with EA and its service EA Play which will see 60 EA games brought to Game Pass for Ultimate and PC subscribers at no additional cost. Big EA franchises such as The Sims, Battlefield and Mass Effect will be coming to Game Pass “this holiday” and according to Microsoft some of them will be playable on Project xCloud at no additional charge. It’s quite possible that the streaming library could expand even further in the future given Microsoft’s recent acquisition of Bethesda. 

No iOS support

Though Microsoft was testing xCloud on iOS devices in early 2020, it's not looking likely that there will be an iOS launch any time soon. In a statement provided to Business Insider, Apple has seemingly confirmed that its App Store policies will prevent cloud-based game-streaming services, such as xCloud and Google Stadia, from operating on iOS devices.

According to Apple, "gaming services can absolutely launch on the App Store as long as they follow the same set of guidelines applicable to all developers, including submitting games individually for review, and appearing in charts and search."

Microsoft's xCloud beta included access to over 80 games, and in most cases those titles had already undergone review and age ratings under various countries' classification systems. Under App Store rules, however, it appears that each game would need to be re-submitted for additional review and approval by Apple which hinders Microsoft's Game Pass iOS hopes. 

Mobile gaming accessories

Microsoft is going all in on cloud gaming, announcing via an Xbox Wire post that it has a new line of accessories designed for Xbox mobile. The accessories include the Razer Kishi Universal Mobile Gaming Controller for Android phones, which will turn them into a Switch-like device as well as several other stand and controller solutions. 

Coming to Xbox Game Pass at no additional cost

In an Xbox Wire post, Phil Spencer has confirmed that Project xCloud will be launching on September 15 as a part of the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription tier. Those who purchase a Game Pass Ultimate subscription for $14.99/£10.99 will have access to Game Pass on PC and console, Xbox Live Gold and Project xCloud. 

This means you’ll be able to play all of the games on the Game Pass service on your PC, console and mobile devices. According to Spencer, “because Xbox Live connects across devices, you can play along with the nearly 100 million Xbox Live players around the world. So when Halo Infinite launches, you and your friends can play together and immerse yourselves in the Halo universe as Master Chief—anywhere you go and across devices.”

Because Xbox Live can connect across all devices, you’ll still have the option to play single-player or online multiplayer whichever device you’re using. As it’s a streaming service, Project xCloud does depend on a stable internet connection, but Microsoft has promised the it can run at 7-10mb/s.

Exclusives?

Microsoft is apparently potentially interested in securing some exclusives for its Project xCloud streaming service.

During a roundtable at XO19, Microsoft's Kareem Choudhry said (via Stevivor) that the company is having discussions with first and third-party developers but emphasised that these talks are still in their “early stages” and Microsoft doesn't “have any announcements to share” at the moment. 

If Microsoft did decide to move forward with this idea and secure strong exclusives for its streaming platform, it would certainly make the service an even more compelling proposition and stir up trouble for competitors like Google Stadia.

Project xCloud can already stream 3,500 games
Microsoft revealed on Xbox Wire that Project xCloud can already stream 3,500 games from the cloud with another 1,900 games potential titles on their way.  

According to the company, there are a number of games that are already compatible with the service from the Xbox One, Xbox 360 and original Xbox game library. In addition, Microsoft claims that any game published on the Xbox One could be xCloud-compatible without any extra work from developers. 

Streaming won't replace consoles
In a post on Xbox Wire, CVP of Gaming Cloud at Microsoft Kareem Choudhry described Project xCloud as "a vision for game-streaming technology that will complement our console hardware and give gamers more choices in how and where they play." 

"We’re developing Project xCloud not as a replacement for game consoles, but as a way to provide the same choice and versatility that lovers of music and video enjoy today," says Choudhry. "We love what’s possible when a console is connected to a 4K TV with full HDR support and surround sound – that remains a fantastic way to experience console gaming." 

Image credit: Microsoft

Image credit: Microsoft (Image credit: Microsoft)

A lot of servers
Microsoft has deployed xCloud servers to data centers across 13 Azure regions – including North America, Europe and Asia – and says that it will continue to build more centers as development continues. 

Developers running tests
Microsoft says developers like Capcom and Paradox are currently running tests on the servers, and has updated its developer kit to include cloud-specific APIs. In some examples provided by Microsoft, the new developer tools allow creators to make multiplayer matches in the cloud more seamless by moving all connections to the same server, and enables games to scale font size depending on the screen you're using.

Project xCloud price

Project xCloud is a part of Microsoft’s Game Pass Ultimate subscription tier, with no rise in price for the service. This means that you can get Xbox Live Gold, PC and console Game Pass access and Project xCloud access for a monthly fee of £10.99/$14.99.

xCloud vs PS Now vs Stadia

Knowing exactly how many games we can expect when the service launches (somewhere between 3,500 and 5,400) should give some credibility to Microsoft's new game-streaming service, as should the number and locations of Microsoft's Azure servers. 

Google Stadia may have released first, but its launch was held back by a pitiful lineup of games, and a pricing strategy that charges full RRP for titles on top of the monthly subscription cost.

Microsoft has already shown it knows how to populate a game subscription service, with Xbox Game Pass offering a brilliant selection of titles – and far better value for money than PS Now, despite the latter's bigger library.