Xbox Cloud Gaming is seeing increased queue times as demand surges

Xbox Cloud Gaming queues
(Image credit: Windows Central)

What you need to know

  • Xbox Cloud Gaming gives users on mobile devices, some smart TVs, and tablets, access to hundreds of games via Xbox Game Pass. 
  • The games are streamed via the internet, and are subject to server availability as a result. 
  • Recently, some users in some regions have been reporting surging queue times, with some blaming Grand Theft Auto V. 
  • Read on for more details.

Xbox Cloud Gaming is one of Microsoft more potent innovations in recent years, granting players on mobile devices, low-power laptops, tablets, smart TVs, and other platforms access to the full Xbox Game Pass library. Using a connected Xbox controller (or even touch controls in some cases), Xbox Cloud Gaming is a way for millions of players who might not typically have access to or even want an Xbox Series X|S console to get access to modern AAA games. It's also become a popular way to access Fortnite on mobile devices, since Google and Apple anti-competitively banned the game for daring to introduce its own payment systems. 

Speaking of Fortnite, another major game was recently added to Xbox Game Pass' cloud library in the form of Grand Theft Auto V. Last time GTAV was added, the service saw a surge in popularity which resulted in occasional queues. Although it's unconfirmed if GTAV is directly responsible, many users on Xbox Cloud Gaming communities are blaming GTAV for this recent, much larger influx of queues, which is hitting Microsoft's cloud gaming systems in various regions. 

Even off-peak, I've found myself in situations where a cloud game can take anywhere up to 5 minutes to get going. Before writing this article, I sought to test it out for myself, and nabbed a 3-minute queue time followed by a further 3-4 minutes of "Sorry, this is taking longer than we expected" queue timing. Some users on reddit have reported queues of anywhere up to an hour though, which surely strikes me as a bug, but it's hard to know exactly what the situation is per region. If you've had issues with queues on Xbox Cloud Gaming, be sure to let us know in the comments. 

xcloud from r/xcloud

It has been suggested to me that some of the delay could be caused by how Xbox Game Pass handles game delivery on cloud these days — as the library has grown, Microsoft doesn't keep every single cloud game installed on the servers at all times, opting instead to spin up nearby servers on the fly with the specific game you requested.

Microsoft is also offloading some of the GPU cycles from Xbox Cloud Gaming to A.I. processing services when they're not in use as part of Microsoft's big ChatGPT / Bing Chat push. The AI processing may also be inducing queues, as servers flip priorities around. It's a downside, but it also crucially extends the business viability of the service in a world where Apple and Google won't allow Microsoft to monetize on their platforms. You'll notice that no games either from first or third-party developers on Xbox Cloud Gaming for Google Play have in-app purchases or DLC enabled. You can blame Google for that.

Analysis: A cloudy future?

(Image credit: Windows Central | Zachary Boddy)

I used to be quite bullish on cloud gaming as a way to game on the go, but the imperfect Wi-Fi conditions you often get outside of your home abode kind of ruins the proposition. Devices like the Steam Deck and ASUS ROG Ally that can run high-end PC games natively kind of neuters Xbox Cloud Gaming and other similar services in some cases, but these devices certainly aren't cheap. 

If there is a distant future where 7G LTE delivers stable permanent connections across the globe without any latency issues at low cost, Microsoft will be more than well placed to take advantage of that universe. Microsoft has benefitted from being on the cutting edge of cloud services before, hence its absurd $2.5 trillion dollar market cap. 

I can't believe im paying $16/month foe this from r/xcloud

Queues like the ones we're seeing present another pain point for the service, though, disregarding latency issues and Google and Apple's duopolistic and anti-competitive blocks on such services' business models. Microsoft right now has to decide how much silicon to allocate to Xbox Cloud Gaming, to offset queues like this, or allocate to native Xbox Series X consoles, since they all use the same AMD chips. Microsoft has struggled to get Xbox Series X consoles onto store shelves, giving Sony a huge 2:1 lead in the high-end console market race to Xbox's detriment.

Delivering Xbox Cloud Games directly to television sets as the firm has been doing with Samsung (and soon LG too, according to my sources) could give Microsoft huge new gaming markets in the future, but the battle over limited chip supplies is likely going to continue to frustrate that effort.

Jez Corden
Co-Managing Editor

Jez Corden is a Managing Editor at Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by tea. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his XB2 Podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!

  • Jason Rosenthal
    I noticed that 8 times out if 10 that when I launch a game from my pins then it will launch it from the cloud instead of the hard drive on my One X for the last month or so. I assume people aren't noticing and are overloading the system.
  • Iamdumbguy
    Pretty icky considering that MS Gold changes will push more people to the GamePass Ultimate tier to pay for services they won't use, or MS will refuse to support.