Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer says the ability to buy games and play through Xbox Cloud Gaming is still on the way

Xbox cloud gaming with touch
(Image credit: Windows Central)

What you need to know

  • Microsoft Gaming CEO spoke with Windows Central in a recent interview. 
  • During the interview, Spencer mentioned that Xbox is still working on the ability for users to play games they own through Xbox Cloud Gaming. 
  • The feature was last seen being slated to arrive later in 2022, with no update on timing since then.
  • Spencer says Microsoft is also exploring the ability to stream PC games. 

We still don't know when to expect it, but Microsoft hasn't given up on its plan to let users buy games then play them via Xbox Cloud Gaming. 

That comes from Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer himself, who spoke with Windows Central in an extensive interview covering topics like Xbox consoles and the future of Activision Blizzard. During the interview, Spencer also touched on the ability for users to play games they already own through Xbox Cloud Gaming

"Xbox Play Anywhere has been a long term part of our strategy, though I don't think we've made as much progress as maybe we could have over the years that's been out," Spencer says, adding that when traveling, he thinks a lot about the nature of taking a game library wherever you go. 

"We're looking at the ability to allow you to stream the games that you own," he says, though there's no details right now for when that might happen. Speaking more broadly about Xbox Cloud Gaming as a whole, Spencer says that there was a "pause" on new Cloud hardware being added, which led to users experiencing queue times around the launch of Starfield, though he notes that Microsoft is again deploying more blades to meet demand.

"We're also looking about what it means to stream PC games, we think that's an important part of our future in that space, Spencer explains. "I'm very bullish on where we can go with cloud, but it doesn't diminish the local run time experience that we want to have on Xbox consoles and Windows PCs. Every one of those games people want to stream, people also want to play locally. We have to build the tools for developers in order to build both."

When will Xbox Cloud Gaming support playing games you own?

Demand around games like Starfield led to queue times for Xbox Cloud Gaming. (Image credit: Windows Central)

Xbox Cloud Gaming is currently available for Xbox Game Pass Ultimate members, letting them stream the vast majority of games in the subscription service. Players can stream the the console games to a phone, tablet, PC, or an Xbox console, with Microsoft previously noting that most users in the U.S. opt to use Cloud gaming for testing a title before downloading it on their Xbox. 

With this promised feature, players could use Xbox Cloud Gaming to stream a game they own instead of being limited to the titles in the subscription library. 

Microsoft had previously stated this feature would be coming later in the year...back in July 2022. Since then, it's been partially leapfrogged by Sony's PlayStation, which now allows PlayStation Plus Premium subscribers to stream "select" PS5 digital titles they own. While it's not clear exactly what caused the delay for Xbox, speculation suggests Microsoft's Cloud gaming efforts have taken a back seat over the last year and half due to assiduous scrutiny by government regulators around the world. 

In the dramatic leadup to Microsoft finalizing the acquisition of Activision Blizzard, the FTC in the U.S. and the CMA in the U.K. presented concerns about (but not limited to) Microsoft's position in Cloud gaming once it acquired the maker of Call of Duty and World of Warcraft. During the Microsoft vs. FTC court hearing, documents and testimony presented by Microsoft suggested that Cloud gaming had been de-prioritized.

To obtain a restructured deal that the U.K. would approve, Microsoft later agreed to sell off the rights to Activision Blizzard cloud games to Ubisoft, in a deal that covers existing titles and anything produced under those publishers for the next 15 years.

Analysis: Putting your head back in the Clouds

As Microsoft is no longer contending with regulators examining its Cloud gaming efforts, we'll be seeing more features and support in the future, including this long-promised addition. Exactly when it'll happen is anyone's guess, but with things spinning back up, it's good to know it'll be when, not if. 

Samuel Tolbert
Freelance Writer

Samuel Tolbert is a freelance writer covering gaming news, previews, reviews, interviews and different aspects of the gaming industry, specifically focusing on Xbox and PC gaming on Windows Central. You can find him on Twitter @SamuelTolbert.