The idea of being able to stream console and PC-quality games to any mobile device or platform has been mostly just a dream for a while now. However, Microsoft announced over a year ago it was trying to make that dream into reality with a new Xbox cloud gaming service formerly called Project xCloud. In summary, it is supposed to be able to stream any game released for the Microsoft Xbox One console to smartphones and tablets. That means, in theory, Xbox game owners can play them almost anywhere.
The service is now officially live, as part of a subscription to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate for $14.99 a month.
Read more: Xbox Game Pass – Everything you need to know
Cloud gaming is certainly ambitious, but if any company can accomplish this task, it’s Microsoft. Let’s take a look at everything we know currently about cloud gaming-Project xCloud. We will also compare it to other current and upcoming game streaming services.
Editor’s note: We will update this article on a regular basis when more information is revealed about Microsoft’s Xbox cloud gaming-Project xCloud.
What is cloud gaming (Project xCloud)?
Project xCloud was the code name for Microsoft’s Xbox cloud game streaming service. The company briefly announced plans to offer such a service in June 2018 as part of its press event at the E3 trade show. We know the company has been working on technology to stream games for years. In September 2013, The Verge reported Microsoft showed off a demo at an internal meeting featuring the Xbox 360-exclusive game Halo 4. It was seen streaming from the cloud to both a Windows Phone-based Nokia Lumia smartphone and a Windows PC.
In October 2018, Microsoft revealed more information on its cloud gaming service, along with the Project xCloud code name. The announcement was accompanied by a video showing what Microsoft said was footage of live game streaming from this service. We saw players with Samsung smartphones and tablets playing popular games such as Forza Horizon 4, Gears of War 4, Halo 5, and Cuphead. The games were played with both Xbox One game controllers and actual direct control on touchscreens.
Controller and touch screen support
As we stated, the video showed gamers controlling the streaming games on smartphones via the Xbox One game controller, connected by wireless Bluetooth tech. However, Microsoft says it has also developed a “touch input overlay” to play Xbox One games directly on a smartphone or tablet’s touchscreen, without the need for a controller.
Now that Xbox cloud gaming has actually launched a number of games on the service supports touch screen controls.
- Dead Cells
- Gucamelee! 2
- Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
- Hotshot Racing
- Killer Instinct
- Minecraft Dungeons
- New Super Lucky’s Tale
- Slay The Spire
- Streets of Rage 4
- Tell Me Why
More games will likely be added over the coming months.
Official mobile gaming hardware for cloud gaming-Project xCloud
Microsoft has started working with third-party companies to help them create mobile gaming hardware accessories. Companies like 8bitDo, Gamevice, HORI, PowerA, Razer, and others will be involved. The first such product out of this new venture is the MOGA Mobile Gaming Clip for Xbox Wireless Controllers. This clip attaches to all official Xbox wireless controllers and holds smartphones up to 3.12 inches (79mm) wide. The clips have dual locking articulation points that let owners set up the right angle for playing mobile games via Project xCloud.
The MOGA Mobile Gaming Clip for Xbox Wireless Controllers is available for purchase now for $14.99.
Microsoft recently announced a number of other xCloud-approved Android game controllers and accessories. They include a new version of the Razer Kishi. The clip-on controls will turn your Android phone into a Nintendo Switch-style game console. It’s available for pre-order for $99.99.
What kind of hardware and games will the service support?
In May 2019, Microsoft announced it had put in its custom Project xCloud blades to data centers across North America, Asia, and Europe. It also announced that major game publishers like Capcom and Paradox Interactive were already using those Project xCloud servers to test their games. This allows those developers to test software without having to port them to other platforms. More data centers will house those server blades in the near future.
At E3 in June 2019, Microsoft announced that in addition to the remote Project xCloud service, it will suppport Console Streaming. Basically, if you own an Xbox One console, this service will allow it to be used as a local xCloud server. This will allow gamers to stream games from the console to their portable device anywhere that has an online connection.
How many games will the service eventually support?
The cloud gaming service launched September 15 with support for over 150 games. Microsoft claims that, eventually, the service will support every single Xbox One game that’s been published. It will also support other Xbox or Xbox 360 games that can be played on the Xbox One console. That’s more than 3,500 games with tons more currently in development. All of them can be played via cloud gaming. Developers will be able to let gamers access their Xbox One games via Project xCloud with no additional work on their end.
In addition, Microsoft has added support for streaming games to its main Xbox Developer Kit (XDK). That includes the company’s new “IsStreaming” API. It will allow any Xbox One game to “know” if it’s streaming from the cloud. Those games can then automatically make changes to make them better for gamers who use the streaming platform. That includes making changes to the UI for smaller smartphone screens.
When will Microsoft cloud gaming-Project xCloud officially launch and how much will it cost?
Xbox cloud gaming officially launched on September 15, 2020. It is included in the price of the company’s Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription, which costs $14.99 a month.
What devices will work with Project xCloud?
The service currently only supports Android smartphones and tablets. Xbox Support tweeted a list of device platforms that currently do not support cloud gaming, and these are:
- Chrome OS
- Fire OS
- Oxygen OS
- Android TV
- Android Auto
Microsoft adds that devices running “modified, alternate, or emulated versions of Android” will also not support Cloud gaming. Notably, it’s not clear why OnePlus’ Oxygen OS is listed here as it’s effectively an Android skin, akin to Samsung’s One UI. So presumably this particular listing was a mistake.
When the service launches, gamers on supported devices will be able to access the service by downloading the Xbox Game Pass app from the Samsung Galaxy Store, the ONE Store, or the Google Play Store. In 2020, the company will expand its service to include Windows 10 PCs.
Microsoft did a very limited test of xCloud on Apple’s iOS devices. The test only had 10,000 gamers, due to Apple’s own TestFlight restrictions, and only had one game, Halo: The Master Chief Collection. That test is now concluded and it appears the service will not be supported on iOS devices. Business Insider got a comment from Apple, which basically said that because each game on xCloud doesn’t go through Apple’s own review service, the app itself cannot be approved by the company.
However, Apple has since announced it would allow cloud gaming apps like Microsoft’s on the App Store. The bad news? Apple says every single game made available for cloud-based streaming must be listed in Apple’s App Store. They must also use Apple’s in-app purchasing system. That could prevent Microsoft from publishing the Xbox Game Pass app for iOS devices. More recently, Business Insider reports that Microsoft is developing a web-based version of its cloud gaming service for iOS devices. In theory, that could get around Apple’s App Store rules. That could launch sometime in 2021.
What games will be supported for the launch?
The service will include support for over 150 games at launch. Here’s the full list:
- A Plague Tale: Innocence
- Age of Wonders: Planetfall
- ARK: Survival Evolved
- Batman: Arkham Knight
- Battle Chasers: Nightwar
- Black Desert
- Blair Witch
- Bleeding Edge
- Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night
- Bridge Constructor Portal
- Children of Morta
- Crackdown 3: Campaign
- Darksiders Genesis
- Darksiders III
- de Blob
- Dead by Daylight
- Dead Cells
- Dead Island Definitive Edition
- Death Squared
- Deliver us the moon
- Demon’s Tilt
- Destiny 2: Shadowkeep & Forsaken expansion (September 22)
- DiRT 4
- Don’t Starve
- Double Kick Heroes
- Drake Hollow
- Dungeon of the Endless
- Enter The Gungeon
- F1 2019
- Fallout 76
- Farming Simulator 17
- Felix the Reaper
- Fishing Sim World: Pro Tour
- For the King
- Forza Horizon 4
- Fractured Minds
- Frostpunk: Console Edition
- Gato Roboto
- Gears of War 1: Ultimate Edition
- Gears of War 4
- Gears of War 5
- Goat Simulator
- Golf with Your Friends
- Guacamelee! 2
- Halo 5: Guardians
- Halo Wars 1: Definitive Edition
- Halo Wars 2
- Halo: The Master Chief Collection
- Halo: Spartan Assault
- Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
- Hello Neighbor
- Hollow Knight (Renewal)
- Hot Shot Racing
- Human Fall Flat
- Hypnospace Outlaw
- Journey to the Savage Planet
- Katana ZERO (Coming soon)
- Killer Instinct DE
- Lonely Mountains: Downhill
- Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite
- Metro 2033 Redux
- Middle Earth: Shadow of War
- Minecraft: Dungeons
- Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight
- Mortal Kombat X (Not available in Korea)
- Mount & Blade: Warband
- Moving Out
- Munchkin: Quacked Quest
- Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden
- My Time At Portia
- Neon Abyss
- New Super Lucky’s Tale
- Night Call
- Night in the Woods (Coming soon)
- No Man’s Sky
- Nowhere Prophet
- Ori and the Blind Forest: Definitive Edition
- Ori and the Will of the Wisps
- Overcooked! 2
- Pathologic 2
- Pillars of Eternity: Complete Edition
- Power Rangers: Battle for the Grid
- ReCore: Definitive Edition
- Remnant: From the Ashes
- Resident Evil 7 Biohazard
- Rise & Shine
- River City Girls (Coming soon)
- Sea of Thieves: Anniversary Edition
- Sea Salt
- Secret Neighbor
- Shadow Warrior 2
- Slay the Spire
- Sniper Elite 4
- State of Decay 2: Juggernaut Edition
- Stranger Things 3: The Game
- Streets of Rage 4
- Streets of Rogue
- Surviving Mars
- Tell Me Why Episode 1 – 3
- The Bard’s Tale IV: Directors Cut
- The Bard’s Tale Remastered and Resnarkled
- The Bard’s Tale Trilogy
- The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Tactics
- The Elder Scrolls Online
- The Gardens Between
- The Jackbox Party Pack 4
- The Long Dark
- The Lord of the Rings: Adventure Card Game
- The Messenger
- The Outer Worlds
- The Surge 2
- The Touryst
- The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
- The Escapists 2
- The Talos Principle
- The Turing Test
- The Walking Dead: A New Frontier – Episode 1 through 5
- The Walking Dead: Michonne – Episode 1 – 3
- The Walking Dead: Season Two
- theHunter: Call of the Wild
- Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales
- Totally Accurate Battle Simulator
- Totally Reliable Delivery Service
- Touhou Luna Nights
- Tracks – The Train Set Game
- Train Sim World 2020
- Two Point Hospital
- Untitled Goose Game
- Void Bastards
- Warhammer Vermintide 2 (Coming soon)
- Wasteland Remastered
- Wasteland 2: Director’s Cut
- Wasteland 3
- We Happy Few
- West of Dead
- Wizard of Legend
- World War Z
- Worms W.M.D
- Xeno Crisis
- Yakuza 0
- Yakuza Kiwami
- Yakuza Kiwami 2
Can I keep my Xbox and PC game settings on the cloud gaming versions?
Yes! All Microsoft Xbox cloud gaming supported games allow for cross-platform support for save game progress, which means you can play Gears 5 on your phone, save it, and keep playing where you left off on your Xbox One console or PC. Mobile games will also have cross-platform support for friends list, achievements, and controller settings on their Xbox and PC counterparts. There’s even support for co-op gaming, with one person playing a game like Sea of Thieves on a phone, while another plays on an Xbox console.
What countries support the service at launch?
Microsoft says that gamers in 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 will be able to access Xbox cloud gaming via an Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription.
Are there any current and future competitors to cloud gaming-Project xCloud?
1. Nvidia GeForce Now
The concept of a game streaming service, similar to how Netflix and Hulu stream videos and Spotify streams music, is nothing new. However, it’s proven very hard to launch. Nvidia GeForce Now was one of the first to make some serious headway in this market. It allows macOS, Windows, Nvidia Shield TV, and Android users to purchase and stream a selection of high-quality PC games to those devices. Users can even stream games they already own by signing into various gaming accounts like Steam, Origin, and more.
You can use Nvidia GeForce Now for free, but you can only game for an hour at a time. Nvidia also offers a premium subscription for just $4.99 per month that lets you game for six hours at a time. Unfortunately, that price is only valid until the end of 2020. Afterward, we will almost certainly see a price hike, though Nvidia does not say how much that would be.
2. Playstation Now
In addition to Nvidia’s efforts, Sony offers its PlayStation Now service. Launched in 2014, the service now has more than 650 PS2, PS3, and PS4 games to stream for a monthly fee. However, Sony cut support for PlayStation Now for a number of previously included devices. That included devices like smart TVs and the PlayStation Vita in 2017. It now only works on PlayStation 4 consoles and Windows PCs.
3. Google Stadia
After years of development, Google finally announced Google Stadia at the Games Developer Conference in 2019. The service launched on November 19, 2019. You can purchase and stream individual games on the service, or you can sign up for Stadia Pro and play a selection of games for free for $9.99 a month.
As of right now, it works with the Chromecast Ultra when connected to a TV, the Chrome browser, and a larger number of Android smartphones.
4. EA Project Atlas
Game publisher Electronic Arts revealed in June 2018 at the E3 trade show it was working on its own game streaming service, even showing live demos of it running on smartphones. EA had previously announced it had acquired the cloud gaming technology assets and personnel of the GameFly service for an undisclosed amount. EA announced last year that it had launched its own limited external trial of its game streaming service, under the code name Project Atlas. We still have yet to hear of an official launch date.
However, in September, it was announced that EA Play would become a part of Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass Ultimate later in 2020. That means that some EA games will become available via Microsoft cloud gaming.
5. Amazon Luna
Amazon has been working on an upcoming cloud gaming service for some time, codenamed Project Tempo. In September, the company officially announced the service, which it is calling Amazon Luna. It will launch later this year, but only via invites. It will give subscribers access to over 100 games at first. 50 of them will be playable for just $5.99 a month under a Luna Plus subscription. It will support playing those games at 1080p resolution with 60fps. It will add support for 4K gaming in the future. Luna will also have an optional Ubisoft channel, with access to older and current games from the publisher. That includes upcoming games the day they are released for other platforms.
Amazon Luna will be available for Windows and Mac PCs, along with iPhone and iPad devices, all via a web browser. It will also be available for Amazon’s Fire TV devices, with Android support coming soon. While it will work with a PC mouse and keyboard, and Bluetooth game controllers, Amazon will sell its own Luna Controller for the service as well. It claims that the controller will connect directly to its cloud servers when playing. That should cut latency down by 30ms. You can sign up to request early access for Luna at the link below.
Microsoft’s Xbox cloud gaming plans could be the biggest hope yet for game streaming technology. Microsoft certainly has both game experience with its Xbox division and a ton of cloud server technology development that will help in its plans to successfully launch the service formerly known as Project xCloud. However, we have seen promising game-oriented technology at Microsoft crash and burn before (we are looking at you, Kinect). It remains to be seen if cloud gaming will be a true revolution for the portable and mobile game industry or just another streaming service that fails to live up to its potential.