Your tech news digest, by way of the DGiT Daily tech newsletter, for Friday, July 17.

1. Xbox Game Pass + xCloud = Netflix for gaming?

Microsoft has announced that its game streaming service is going public: Project xCloud will officially launch in September 2020.

  • The big news is that Microsoft is going to include the service with its Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription at no extra cost.
  • Right now, paying $15/month gets you the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription, and from September, it’ll also support Project xCloud, meaning no additional costs from the current subscription (Engadget).
  • Game Pass comes on both Xbox and PC, and the Ultimate tier is the one that includes both the console and PC version of Game Pass, along with Xbox Live Gold, which unlocks the ability to play console titles online, and is basically a necessary subscription for loads of games given the shift to big online worlds, Battle Royale, and so on.

Refresher:

  • Project xCloud, if you haven’t come across it, currently allows select Xbox players to play games on mobile devices, via cloud streaming.
  • And it’s not even in its final form: Microsoft’s Xbox chief Phil Spencer told The Verge that xCloud won’t be the final name.
  • It matters because Microsoft and Xbox are basically bringing close to a unified gaming subscription that can be used anywhere.
  • That’s being both generous and hopeful: the reality right now is that by September, gamers will be able to use Game Pass to unlock a library of 100+ games, and play them on a device like an iPhone using a controller.
  • And, Xbox confirmed that all first-party Xbox titles will launch on Game Pass the same day as their global release.

The difference-maker:

  • That’s different to Google Stadia, and Stadia looks a little troubled by this. Stadia has a free streaming tier but you have to buy games to play. Stadia Pro, at $10/month, has a selection of games included that you can claim, and you stream them immediately rather than download. But if you stop paying, you lose access to those games, and go back to games you’ve paid the full price for.
  • Many gamers are wary of paying a full $60 for a AAA game, locked down to Stadia only which requires great internet and a little patience depending on lag.
  • Nvidia’s GeForce Now streaming service is more like a straight conduit. You buy games from Steam or the Epic Games Store, and play them via GeForce Now, if you can. You can only play for an hour on the free service, while paying $5 a month gives you longer sessions and RTX ray-tracing acceleration for pretty games.
  • It’s closer to a ‘best-of’ world given the breadth of access but xCloud should take the ecosystem further.
  • What’s needed next is more devices. Stadia has an ace by working in Chrome on any device, along with Chromecast Ultra dongles, but of course Microsoft has a little platform called Windows and Windows 10 it hasn’t completely made the most of. Game Pass does run on PC but it’s vastly inferior to the Xbox experience for now.
  • Sony has the PlayStation’s PlayStation Now, which has come a long way since first introduced, but without the wider device availability options.
  • If Microsoft can run the xCloud-Game Pass hybrid on something like Samsung Smart TVs, or Roku dongles, or whatever gap closing device it can partner with, that would change the game.
  • This is all pretty theoretical, because allowing that kind of access may reduce the need to buy an Xbox console for the living room, which might limit how excited Microsoft is to open this new platform to all parties, competitive or not.
  • But we did see Samsung sneak a little gaming teaser ahead of Samsung Unpacked on August 5, after a partnership was confirmed earlier in the year.
  • Who knows, but Xbox looks to be pushing gaming in intriguing new directions, and getting super close to a Netflix-style catalog of games that can be streamed seamlessly, across whatever device you have handy.

Also: Microsoft discontinues Xbox One X, Xbox One S digital edition ahead of Series X launch, but the Xbox One S will continue to be manufactured for now (The Verge).


2. The Best of Android: Mid-2020 — Which phone has the best camera? (Android Authority). Great insight here in a really tight finish at the top. Dare I say, photo finish?


3. Here is the Lenovo Legion gaming phone in all its glory (Android Authority).


4. Sprint officially turns into T-Mobile on August 2 (Android Authority).


5. Twitter says 130 accounts were targeted as it released initial investigation findings (Twitter). The FBI has moved from aware of the situation to investigating (Reuters), while gun cybersecurity reporter Krebs On Security is on the chase, too, finding links to the guy who reset @jack’s account in 2019.


6. The US Army has a Twitch channel that it uses to fish for potential recruits with prizes and giveaways and the like. The problem is the giveaways are fake, and it all blew up last night (Kotaku).


7. Streaming oddities: Peacock is already losing movies a day after its full debut (Engadget).


8. A snapshot of 6,000 of the world’s public code repos on GitHub have been stored in the Arctic World Archive, forever, down below hundreds of meters of permafrost (GitHub).


9. You can watch Henry Cavill build a gaming PC. You probably might really like watching Henry Cavill’s arms build a computer, just saying (The Verge).


10. New details and images emerge of SpaceX’s Starlink user antennas and planned beta testing (The Verge).


11. Ultra-Black Vantafish beat Vantablack: Scientists have found that some deep-sea fishes absorb up to 99.956 percent of the light that hits them. That’s weird. (Wired).


12. This is very cool: Trending Google searches by US State between 2018 and 2020 (r/dataisbeautiful). Amazing to see how fast trends take off and disappear, or hang around.


13. “What is something free from the internet everyone should take advantage of?” (r/askreddit).


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