Last year Microsoft announced it was working on Project xCloud, a new streaming service that aims to let you play big-name games on whichever device you want, whenever you want.
Project xCloud aims to leverage Microsoft’s existing data centers across the globe, literally loading up servers with the component parts of multiple Xbox One consoles, and using these to run the games streamed directly to your mobile device of choice.
Project xCloud has been announced for a public preview in the US, UK and Korea starting in October with four titles at launch – Halo 5: Guardians, Gears 5, Killer Instinct, and Sea of Thieves – and more to come as the trial progresses.
It has been beta tested by Microsoft employees for some time now and, according to Microsoft, can already stream 3,500 games from the cloud – with another 1,900 games potential titles on their way. The company promises it will scale out across 54 Azure regions (with data centers in some 140 countries) when the system is honed and ready.
Microsoft's cloud game-streaming service seems to be well into development, so we've gathered together everything we know about Project xCloud below for your perusal.
UPDATE: There's been a lot of news circulating about Project xCloud in recent weeks. First up, for a more in-depth discussion of the state of game streaming and xCloud's expansion, check out our interview with Project xCloud's Kareem Choudhry, corporate vice president, and Catherine Gluckstein, general manager, during a roundable at X019.
What's more, one of the biggest announcements from X019, is that Project xCloud is adding 50 new titles to its preview library, alongside plans to bring Project xCloud to PC next year. We've also got news that Microsoft will bring exclusives to the streaming service.
Project xCloud release date
Project xCloud doesn't currently have a release date, but we do know that public beta testing will begin in October for the US, UK and Korea and that Microsoft employees have already had access to a preview version of the service for some time.
During a roundable at X019 to discuss xCloud's expansion, it was revealed that Project xCloud's preview will also coming to Canada, India, Japan and Western Europe in 2020.
We're expecting XCloud to officially launch in 2020, perhaps to coincide with the release of the next Xbox.
Project xCloud news and features
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.
Preview program launches in October
For lucky gamers in the US, UK and Korea, you're already able to sign up for the preview program launching in October, although Microsoft has stated that it will be inviting a limited number of gamers to begin with and slowly expand the numbers as the program rolls on.
Four games will be playable during the preview, with more added as it progresses. This will include Halo 5: Guardians, Gears 5, Killer Instinct, and Sea of Thieves.
European players will get hands on with Project xCloud for the first time at Gamescom 2019 but it's unlikely we'll hear more solid details on Microsoft's streaming service.
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."
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 beta
A public preview has been confirmed to be launching in October for the US, UK and Korea, although the exact date is yet unknown. A limited number of participants will be invited to join the program to start with, although Microsoft will increase the numbers over time to help test the service and its performance.
Project xCloud price
Microsoft has not revealed a price for Project xCloud yet, but we expect the service will be subscription based much like PlayStation Now.
xCloud vs Now vs Stadia
Numerical data, believe it or not, is Microsoft's greatest weapon at this point. Its biggest rival, Google Stadia, has yet to announce any details about the streaming service, telling journalists that more details would be revealed soon.
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.
That last bit of information is so powerful, in fact, that even longtime rival Sony has said it would partner with Microsoft on building game-streaming technology. The pair recently announced a partnership, and say that it's primarily based around the shared development of Azure cloud technology – something Sony could use in the next iteration of its PlayStation Now service.
While details are still light right now about both Google Stadia and Project xCloud, we expect to hear more about both at E3 2019 or shortly after.