A New Challenger Appears: How Microsoft’s Project xCloud Hopes to Defeat Google Stadia

December 17, 2019

Cloud computing is supposed to be the future of gaming. Nonetheless, that future seems pretty far off with each new story about frustrated Google Stadia users.

Google’s stumbles don’t mean cloud gaming is a bad idea, though. It just means someone needs to do it better. And that’s where Microsoft comes in.

The house that built Xbox has been working on a form of cloud gaming known as Project xCloud. They believe this new tech will knock Stadia out and establish itself as the undisputed king of the cloud.

Is this project the real deal, or is this just another “cloud” of false promises? Here’s the full breakdown of everything you need to know about Project xCloud.

What is Project xCloud?

Before you can understand Microsoft’s hopes to beat Google, you need to learn what Project xCloud actually is.

This is the current name for Microsft’s foray into cloud gaming. As with other cloud gaming services such as Stadia, this tech allows you to play powerful, high-tech games on smartphones and tablets. That’s because the devices aren’t directly playing the game: they are streaming the game from a computer server.

What, then, makes Project xCloud different? Microsoft’s goal is to allow you to play Xbox One games on your mobile devices. If they get this right, you could enjoy playing things like Halo: The Master Chief Collection no matter how far you are from your living room.

Specialized cloud tech

The basic idea of cloud gaming is not very new. To help distinguish from the competition and improve gamer experience, Microsoft is using special Azure cloud technology.

Without getting into too many technical details, Microsoft has adapted Azure to create a specialized server blade. It is uniquely suited to handle Xbox hardware and theoretically offers gamers an optimal experience.

However, cloud gaming is only as good as your internet connection. Only time will tell if Microsoft can overcome the kinds of latency problems that Stadia users are experiencing.

Deep library

Another reason that some gamers are critical of Stadia is the relatively limited library of games. It’s tough to see Google as a real competitor to Microsoft or Sony when there is such a limited library.

That brings up the obvious question: how many Xbox One games will you be able to play on Project xCloud? According to Microsoft, all of them!

Currently, there is a preview of the technology that is limited to 63 games. But Microsoft claims that when the service officially launches, you will be able to play every single Xbox One game. Furthermore, you will be able to play any Xbox 360 game that is playable on Xbox One.

The only bit of bad news is that Microsoft hasn’t said anything about the pricing structure of this service. If gamers have to pay for games they already own, it may sour them on the xCloud experience. 

However, Microsoft has confirmed xCloud will be compatible with its Xbox Game Pass service. This means that for $9.99 a month, users will have access to a rotating list of about 100 titles.

Putting you in control

Obviously, all Xbox games were designed to be played with a controller. How will Xbox make the leap to mobile devices? By bringing those controllers along!

With the magic of Bluetooth, you will be able to use your existing Xbox One controllers to play games on mobile devices. But if you don’t have a controller handy, you can also control games with only the touchscreen.

Microsoft and third parties will also be offering special clips so that you can attach a smartphone to your Xbox One controller. At that point, you’re ready for mobile gaming!

Speed problems (and a possible solution)

The typical Achilles heel of cloud gaming is latency. If you don’t have a lightning-fast connection, you may get games that are slow or have poor control.

Microsoft has acknowledged that these are hurdles they are trying to address. One of the ways they are trying to address the issue is by optimizing compatibility for both 4G and 5G networks. They are also hoping to place Azure xCloud blades all over the planet in order to offer faster speeds.

One interesting solution is to let you host a server in your own home. Microsoft will let users transform their existing Xbox One into a home server. From there, users can stream the games they already own, making this a low-cost way to enjoy your entire existing game library.  

Sorry, Apple users

Waiting for some bad news about xCloud? Depending on your smartphone, here it is: there is currently no Apple device compatibility on the horizon.

Microsoft is developing Apple compatibility, but Apple has not signed off on this project yet. Until then, xCloud is destined to be an Android-only club.

When does Project xCloud launch?

If you’re interested in xCloud, your next question is likely “when does it launch?” To answer that question, there is some good news and some bad news.

The bad news is that the official launch date has not been announced. While we do know it is coming in 2020, any details beyond that are sketchy at best.

The good news is that you don’t have to wait to try it out. In fact, you can register for an xCloud preview right now!

Take Project xCloud for a test drive

Microsoft is currently taking applications for a Project xCloud preview. The public beta launched in October. To qualify, all you need is an Android device and an Xbox One controller. Fair warning: they only have so many slots, so not everyone will get in. Good luck!

What do you think about Project xCloud? Sound off in the comments below!

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