Korea readies Xbox Project xCloud launch as SK Telecom bets big on 5G streaming

Xbox Project xCloud, SKT 5GX Cloud Game
Xbox Project xCloud, SKT 5GX Cloud Game (Image credit: SK Telecom)

What you need to know

  • Microsoft has committed to launching Xbox Game Pass cloud gaming on September 15 in Korea, the result of its Project xCloud game-streaming technology.
  • Local carrier SK Telecom has launched its first commercial centered on its partnership with Microsoft's Project xCloud and the new Samsung Galaxy Note20.
  • SK Telecom has committed to backing the platform through its 5G infrastructure while promising more Korean language titles moving forward.

Preparations remain underway for Project xCloud, Microsoft's Xbox game-streaming platform poised for September 15, bundled within its all-inclusive Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription. Serving full-fledged Xbox One games to mobile, its cloud gaming service aims to mobilize its existing Xbox success outside the living room. The initial rollout centers on North America, Western Europe, and South Korea, with the latter backed by local comms giant SK Telecom.

Microsoft suggests positive reception through early Korea tests, in a market historically dominated by mobile and PC gaming. With an aggressive 5G push in the region from SK Telecom and its exclusive Project xCloud operating partner for Korea, the platform sets up to push consumers to its high-speed service. Microsoft also launched its Xbox Game Pass subscription in Korea last April, with its Ultimate-tier service priced at ₩16,700 monthly.

Project xCloud now readies for launch, with a promise to further refine its technology while improving localization in the market. "We've been working closely with Microsoft to offer high-quality cloud gaming in Korea through Project xCloud," said Jeon Jin-soo, vice president and head of SK Telecom's 5GX Service Business Group. "Going forward, we will further enrich gamers' experience by making more games available in the Korean language and identifying promising Korean games."

SK Telecom also marks its imminent rollout with a new commercial, showcasing weight behind the service yet to be seen by other partnered carriers like T-Mobile and Vodafone. A now-three-way crossover gains the spotlight, with its previously announced bundle compiling the Samsung Galaxy Note20 flagship, three months of Xbox Game Pass, and PowerA mobile controller alongside 5G plans. The commercial is also set to broadcast on local television network, KBS.

Microsoft and SK Telecom have shown confidence in the region, among the first Project xCloud testers, with high engagement reports. From the numbers we know, SK Telecom stated Korean users spent 1.75 times longer with Project xCloud over the US and UK. Testers in the region were also three times more likely to return over their western counterparts.

"We're grateful for our continued partnership with SK Telecom as we launch cloud gaming as part of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate in South Korea. They were instrumental in delivering our Project xCloud preview through their leading 5G network technology," said Kareem Choudhry, Microsoft CVP of Gaming Cloud. "We look forward to a bright future with SK Telecom and the Korean gaming community."

Home consoles haven't traditionally guaranteed success in Korea, partially due to former Japanese import regulations, which stifled growth for Sony and Nintendo. That also saw Xbox struggle to make a name, favoring open ecosystems in PC and mobile, instead. The arrival of Project xCloud, backed by local giants SK Telecom and Samsung, could sweeten the deal as Microsoft sets sights on a new demographic for Xbox.

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Matt Brown

Matt Brown was formerly a Windows Central's Senior Editor, Xbox & PC, at Future. Following over seven years of professional consumer technology and gaming coverage, he’s focused on the world of Microsoft's gaming efforts. You can follow him on Twitter @mattjbrown.