Update: May 1, 2020: Microsoft just announced that Project xCloud will be included in the future as an option for subscribers of the Xbox Game Pass. It allows users to play over 100 Xbox One games for one monthly subscription price. Pricing and more details on how Project xCloud will be included with Xbox Games Pass will be revealed later.
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 recently announced it was trying to make that dream into reality with a new service 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.
This 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 Project xCloud. We will compare it to other current and upcoming game streaming services. We will see if Microsoft can pull off the dream of gaming anywhere at any time.
Editor’s Note: We will update this article on a regular basis when more information is revealed about Project xCloud.
What is Project xCloud?
Project xCloud is the current name (likely a placeholder) for Microsoft’s 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 game streaming 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.
During the Inside Xbox episode on March 12, 2019, Kareem Choudhry, head of gaming cloud at Microsoft, gave us another sneak peek into Project xCloud. Live on stage, the exec brought out an Android phone connected to an Xbox One controller and Inside Xbox host Julia Hardy used it to play Forza Horizon 4. The game looked fluid and crisp — although there’s no telling what kind of behind-the-scenes trickery may have been employed to ensure a smooth demo.
Official mobile gaming hardware for 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 letd 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.
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 also launch something else. It’s called 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?
Microsoft claims when Project xCloud officially launches, it 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 Project xCloud. 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 and where will the Project xCloud public preview launch?
Microsoft first started sending invites for the Project xCloud beta preview in October 2019. Those trials initially rolled out in the US, the UK, and South Korea but have since expanded to more countries. If you live in the US and you own an Android phone or tablet, you can sign up for the public preview right now at the link below.
Microsoft partnered with SK Telecom In October 2019 to launch the Project xCloud public preview for select customers in South Korea. Since then, the service has more widely rolled out to SK Telecom subscribers. Those folks can sign up for the public preview at the link below.
You can also sign up for the Project xCloud preview if you are in one of several Western European countries. This includes the UK as well as Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, and Sweden.
The public preview will work with any 5GHz Wi-Fi or any mobile data connection with a 10Mbps download speed. However, T-Mobile customers may get some special treatment for xCloud in the US, and UK Vodafone users will get some extra special treatment as well. Microsoft says the deals with the carriers “are technical partnerships that will help us optimize the experience.” However, the preview will be made available for all carriers in those markets.
The Android phone or tablet has to run Android 6.0 or higher with Bluetooth 4.0 to participate in the preview. Users must also have a Microsoft account and a Bluetooth-enabled Xbox One Wireless Controller. It will also be helpful, but not required, to get a phone mount for the controller. Microsoft plans to expand support to more controllers for Project xCloud in the future. That will include game pads made by Razer and Sony’s PlayStation 4 DualShock 4 controller.
Finally, you will need to download the preview version of the Xbox Game Streaming app. The app is currently available to download from the Google Play Store. Keep in mind that you will need to be invited into the public preview to actually use the app.
Will the test expand to more countries?
Microsoft also previously announced the public preview of Project xCloud will expand to even more markets in 2020. They will include Canada, India, Japan, and possibly more countries in Western Europe.
What games will be a part of the public preview?
The public preview of xCloud started with four games. They included Halo 5: Guardians, the sci-fi shooter Gears 5, the pirate action game Sea of Thieves, and the fighting game Killer Instinct. Now, the public preview offers 90 different titles:
- A Plague Tale: Innocence
- ACE COMBAT 7: SKIES UNKNOWN
- Age of Wonders: Planetfall
- ARK: Survival Evolved
- Batman: The Enemy Within – The Complete Season (Episodes 1-5)
- Batman: The Telltale Series – The Complete Season (Episodes 1-5)
- Battle Chasers: Nightwar
- Black Desert – Standard Edition
- Bleeding Edge
- Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night
- Bomber Crew
- Borderlands: The Handsome Collection
- Brothers: a Tale of Two Sons
- Children of Morta
- Cities: Skylines – Xbox One Edition
- Conan Exiles
- Crackdown 3
- Darksiders III
- Dead by Daylight
- Dead Island Definitive Edition
- Destiny 2
- Devil May Cry 5 (with Red Orbs)
- DiRT Rally 2.0
- Dragon Age: Inquisition
- F1 2019
- Farming Simulator 17
- Felix The Reaper
- Fishing Sim World: Pro Tour
- For The King
- Forza Horizon 4 Standard Edition
- Forza Motorsport 7 Standard Edition
- Gears 5
- Gears of War Ultimate Edition Deluxe Version
- GoNNER – BLüEBERRY EDiTION
- Halo 5: Guardians
- Halo Wars 2: Standard Edition
- Halo: The Master Chief Collection
- Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
- Hello Neighbor
- HITMAN – Game of the Year Edition
- Just Cause 4: Reloaded
- Journey to the Savage Planet
- Killer Instinct
- Kingdom Come: Deliverance
- Kingdom Two Crowns
- Madden NFL 20
- Mark of the Ninja: Remastered
- MotoGP 19
- Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden
- Ori and the Blind Forest: Definitive Edition
- Portal Knights
- Sea of Thieves: Anniversary Edition
- Shadow of the Tomb Raider Definitive Edition
- Shadow Warrior 2
- Sid Meier’s Civilization VI
- Sniper Elite 4
- SOULCALIBUR VI
- State of Decay 2
- Tales of Vesperia: Definitive Edition
- Tekken 7
- The Bard’s Tale IV: Director’s Cut
- The Sims 4
- The Surge
- The Wolf Among Us
- theHunter: Call of the Wild
- Tracks – The Train Set Game
- Train Sim World 2020
- Unravel 2
- War Thunder
- Warhammer: Vermintide 2
- Wasteland 2: Director’s Cut
- WORLD OF FINAL FANTASY MAXIMA
- World of Tanks: Mercenaries
- World of Warships: Legends
- World War Z
- WRC 7 FIA World Rally Championship
- WWE 2K20
- Yakuza 0
- Yoku’s Island Express
In 2020, Microsoft says that its Xbox Game Pass service will support Project xCloud. Xbox Game Pass allows gamers to play over 100 Xbox One games for one monthly fee of $9.99.
When will the Xbox Console Streaming test begin?
Microsoft has started public testing of the Xbox Console Streaming feature of Project xCloud. As we mentioned earlier, this allows Xbox One owners to stream games they have downloaded and installed on their console to their Android smartphone.
To join in this test, you must own an Xbox One and live in one of the Xbox One-supported countries or regions. You then have to sign up for the Xbox Insiders Program if you haven’t yet done so. To sign up, launch the Xbox One console, and head to the Store section. Then search for the Xbox Insider Hub, download it, and run the app. You can then join the Xbox Insiders Program from the app. Testing for the Xbox Console Streaming feature is currently limited to Alpha and Alpha Skip Ahead Xbox Insider preview ring members.
The test will require a smartphone or tablet running Android 6.0 and above, and a Bluetooth-enabled Microsoft Xbox One controller. Your home internet network must also have either an Open or Moderate NAT type. Upload speeds on the network must be at least 4.75Mbps, with 9Mbps preferred. Latency speeds must be at least 125ms, with 60ms preferred. Finally, the Xbox One console itself must have a power setting of “Instant-on”.
When and where will Project xCloud officially launch and how much will it cost?
Microsoft has yet to reveal a specific launch date for the service beyond the public preview. It has said it might launch sometime in 2020. There’s also no word on how much the service will cost beyond the preview stage.
What devices will work with Project xCloud?
Microsoft’s public preview of Project xCloud only supports Android smartphones and tablets. In 2020, the company will expand its service to include Windows 10 PCs. The Verge reports it is also working on support for iOS devices, but Apple has yet to approve support.
Will Xbox Game Pass subscribers be able to access their games via Project xCloud?
Microsoft has indeed confirmed in a recent investor update that Xbox Game Pass subscribers will be able to access their games via Project xCloud. Xbox Games Pass allows subscribers to play over 100 Xbox One games for a low subscription price of $9.99. More details about the Project xCloud support, including whether or not it will be included in the price of Xbox Game Pass or if it will cost extra, will be revealed at a later time.
Are there any current and future competitors to 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 November 19, 2019, but it’s only available to those with a Google Stadia Pro membership and an official Stadia controller. The membership is $9.99 a month, but sometime this year, Google will allow users to download and use Stadia for free.
Unfortunately, all Stadia users need to buy each game individually, even if they already own it on another platform. Pro members will get access to a new free game each month, but they will still need to purchase every other title they want to play.
As of right now, it works with the Chromecast Ultra when connected to a TV, the Chrome browser, and a limited number of smartphones. This includes Pixel devices and select Samsung, Razer, and Asus handsets.
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 recently announced 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.
5. Amazon Project Tempo
Finally, Amazon also announced it’s working on both video game development and an upcoming cloud gaming service codenamed Project Tempo. Amazon’s streaming service was supposed to see an initial launch in 2020, but the company could potentially push it back to 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic. Amazon hasn’t revealed much more about Project Tempo yet, but we can assume the company has already put a decent amount of work into it.
Microsoft’s Project xCloud announcement 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 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 Project xCloud 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.
What are your impressions of Microsoft’s Project xCloud at this point? Do you think the company will be successful in bringing game streaming to the masses? Are there too many technical hurdles to overcome at this point? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!