Hands-on with Microsoft's Project xCloud Xbox streaming app for Windows
Recently, we got our hands on the Project xCloud Xbox Game Streaming test app, offering us a glimpse at how the service works on PCs. As you might expect, it's gooooooood.
Microsoft is gradually rolling out Project xCloud across the globe, with Germany, Italy, and France recently joining the lineup. I tried xCloud for myself a few times at shows and in the UK, but this week was the first time I've been able to play from where I live in Germany, and I've been having a blast.
Additionally, we acquired the Project xCloud Xbox Game Streaming app for Windows 10, which is built for developers to test out their games on a remote connection. The app is based on the existing Project xCloud testing app preview users can sign up to test out, and it functions very similarly to the service on Android and iOS.
For a quick look at how Project xCloud handles in Western Europe, and some screens of the Xbox Game Streaming test app on PC, read on.
Related: How to join the Project xCloud preview
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Xbox Game Streaming app for PC
This app is intended for developer use primarily, for testing how games handle when playing remotely. The structure of the app is very similar to what we'll get when it launches for PC, which could be any day now.
Right now, the app is restricted to Xbox Game Streaming using a connected console as the server, although there is a menu for selecting Project xCloud Azure-based streaming instead, for when the service eventually goes live.
I ran the app on a Razer Blade 15 using my home Xbox One X, both devices connected to 5GHz Wi-Fi in my home. It seems to handle far better than the old Xbox PC app streaming, with minuscule latency problems.
There was often artifacting pixelization here and there, but this isn't really intended for public consumption and is probably not particularly well optimized. The fact that the resolution is locked at 720p, designed for phones and tablets primarily, does muddy the picture a fair bit on a HD PC screen. The trade-off is, of course, better latency.
The best part was that all my settings and connected consoles were already available to me as soon as I installed the app. It detected I was signed in with my Microsoft Account on Windows 10, then automagically pulled down the consoles I had previously connected to the xCloud preview app on Android. Project xCloud also syncs your saved games from your console to the remote servers, letting me continue my Gears of War Ultimate Edition playthrough with my brother, from anywhere, at any time. This is the kind of seamless gaming that I need in my life.
xCloud for PC could be huge
Project xCloud still harbors many unanswered questions. We know it'll be coupled with Xbox Game Pass, but we have no idea if it will include an additional fee on top of the existing price tiers. We don't know if the library will be fixed, or cyclical, like Xbox Game Pass itself, and we don't know if you'll be able to access any games you've purchased outright without using your home console as the server.
Where Project xCloud is most likely to shine is lower-end gaming PCs and laptops. Project xCloud will enjoy a truly massive potential userbase on Android, but the squished phone screen doesn't make for a very pleasant experience. Although developers will be able to scale their user interfaces to be larger on smaller displays, none have done so thus far.
I loved the fact that Xbox Game Streaming on my Razer Blade just worked, and for once, allowed me to play a AAA game without turning my laptop into a jet engine or hotplate. I have a fairly powerful RTX 2060 device, too. Users with low-power PCs like the Surface Go or the Pro X, with ARM-based architecture, should see even bigger benefits, gaining access to games those devices simply wouldn't be able to handle otherwise. Microsoft is better-placed than most to take on this tech, with more investment in first-party than ever, and an established cloud platform that is among the biggest on Earth.
Xbox Game Streaming
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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!
Some games are platform exclusives so you will have to go with the cloud stream service that supports your game. I will only be able to play Forza on xCloud.