What you need to know
- Xbox Cloud Gaming is a service offered by Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, giving you the ability to stream Xbox games from Microsoft's remote servers.
- Palworld is one of the biggest trending games right now, and it is only available on Xbox and Windows PC right now.
- For those without a PC or an Xbox, Xbox Cloud Gaming on a smart phone or low-power laptop is a great option for those who want to play Palworld without buying extra hardware. However, the servers seem to be buckling under the stress.
Yesterday, a family member came over to visit, and suggested that we try out Palworld. As someone with a gaming PC and an Xbox, it's not often that I use Xbox Cloud Gaming these days unless I'm in a pinch, but this seemed like a great opportunity to give it a go. Rather than wait for the game to fully download, we could, in theory, get into the game straight away via the Samsung Gaming Hub on my TV, using Xbox Cloud Gaming.
Xbox Cloud Gaming is bundled with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, and lets you play a selection of hundreds of games from a remote Xbox-based server. You don't need to install the game, and your save files and progress from your Xbox console or Xbox app on PC will already be there. It's a great way to just quickly test out games, especially in time-constrained situations like mine above. However, play with Xbox Cloud Gaming (also known as xCloud), we could not.
Recently, it seems the success of Palworld has led to a cascade of queues against Xbox Cloud Gaming. Palworld has solid 8 million copies on PC within the space of a week, and while we don't have hard figures for the Xbox version, it is riding high on some of the most popular games lists on the store. It seems it might also be the culprit of extended queue times to access Xbox Cloud Gaming.
The Xbox subreddit /r/xcloud which is where most Xbox Cloud Gaming discussions take place right now has a monthly dedicated thread to queue complaints, since they became so abundant.
Trying to launch Palworld, Monster Hunter Rise, and Brotato all gave me an indetermined queue timer at my end. Some of my colleagues based in the UK and U.S. also experienced similar queues, ranging from anywhere between 15 and 30 minutes.
Microsoft views cloud as one way it can grow the Xbox ecosystem beyond the typical console or PC gamer, but it's hard to see how it will achieve it while queue times remain as debilitating as this.
Is Xbox Cloud Gaming long-term viable?
Microsoft is currently battling Apple for more pervasive access to iOS devices. Right now, Microsoft has to develop a webkit web version of Xbox Cloud Gaming for it to function on iPad and iPhone devices. Having multiple overlapping versions eats into margins, and given the power consumption costs of Xbox Cloud Gaming and lack of in-app purchases it has, it's difficult to imagine that it has particularly great margins (if it indeed has them). And while the web app is very good, being off the Apple app store makes discoverability more difficult. But given the queues, I'm not sure that discoverability is Microsoft's biggest issue right now.
With Xbox Cloud Gaming, there's certainly an issue of latency when compared to NVIDIA GeForce Now, at least in my location. NVIDIA GeForce Now and its in-house GPU tech gives them a considerable advantage for scaling up when compared to Xbox's AMD-powered cloud array, which relies on expensive components from AMD to compete. It also reduces the amount of inventory available to sell at retail, since it uses all the same chips as a standard Xbox Series X console.
Rumors of Microsoft exploring ARM64 chips over AMD x86 APUs for its next generation of Xbox consoles could be in line with reducing costs on future cloud server scaling revisions. But that's going to be of little comfort for today's small, but passionate community.
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Jez Corden 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 caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!