Recently, notorious Microsoft "leaker" Nawzil10 claimed Xbox were "beta testing" streaming to Windows 10 Mobile devices.
In a posting on Twitter, Nawzil10 submitted a purported screenshot of Forza Horizon 3 running to a Windows 10 Mobile device, claiming that Microsoft was beta testing Xbox game to Windows 10 Mobile streaming. Given Nawzil10's track record for posting false information, I did some digging of my own and discovered that no, Microsoft isn't working on streaming to Mobile devices at the moment. But they should!
While Xbox to Windows 10 Mobile streaming via the Xbox app is technically possible simply by the virtues of the Universal Windows Platform, Microsoft has yet to enable the Windows 10 PC-exclusive feature for mobile consumers. Xbox Platform team lead Mike Ybarra told me that, while the capabilities are there, Xbox game streaming to Windows 10 Mobile is not being worked on at the moment — a far cry from Nawzil's claim of the feature being "beta tested."
Still, you can get an idea of what this experience might be like using the Xbox Dev Companion app, available for Windows 10 PC and Windows 10 Mobile. The app allows you remotely control your Xbox, and because Windows 10 Mobile does support the Xbox One S controller's Bluetooth stack, it does work to some limited degree on mobile phones.
At least on a technical level, the Dev Companion works well with Xbox to Windows 10 Mobile streaming. It's responsive, with minimal lag, thoroughly playable when you disregard the scaling problems. It doesn't seem to work with all games, however, but controlling apps and the dashboard works fine. It probably just needs a tweak or two to allow the Xbox One S controller to access the games, so why doesn't Xbox enable it for everybody?
From conversations I've had with people who work at Xbox, I get the sense that the team just feels like it isn't a great experience. Even on a large phone like the Lumia 950 XL, HUD and UI elements are illegible on games like Battlefield 1, making it impossible to read the minimap and other important information. But the same wouldn't be true for all games.
Microsoft should enable Xbox to Windows 10 Mobile streaming anyway
Microsoft should enable Xbox to Windows 10 Streaming despite the squished HUD elements because in some games, such as INSIDE, don't really rely on any sort of on-screen UI displays. Even in more complex games, if you're familiar enough with the title from playing it on Xbox with a HD TV, a crushed UI wouldn't be such a big deal.
There are even peripherals you can purchase that allow you to mount a phone on top of an Xbox controller, such as the Utorcase mount, which can be 3D printed to fit all sorts of devices — including the Lumia 950 / XL. It would be a cool feature, niche, but cool.
Would you actually use it, though?
I suppose developing the feature fully for Windows 10 Mobile boils down to one thing: how many people would actually use it? Streaming to a laptop makes far more sense, as you'll have the screen size necessary to see all of those text, UI, and HUD elements. Continuum would help, but how many people have a permanent Continuum dock set for remotely accessing their Xbox at home right now? And even then, you're adding a lot of additional latency into the mix, which could further hinder the experience.
In a future of ubiquitous high-speed next-generation connectivity, streaming Xbox games to your mobile device via the Cloud may indeed be on the cards. UWP gives developers the tools to scale UI elements to compensate for different screen sizes, but admittedly, very, very few have taken the opportunity to do so.
Nintendo's new console, the Switch, will allow gamers to take their experiences with them on the move, in a device powered by similar architecture to Nvidia's Shield tablet. It would be nice to see Microsoft make more moves in mobility, considering it's in their mission statement, but it remains to be seen whether that's through UWP, cloud streaming, or remote access features as described above.
Do you want to play core games on your smartphone? Would a small tablet be more appropriate? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!