What you need to know
- Microsoft has announced plans to bring its Xbox Cloud Gaming game-streaming service to Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S consoles this holiday.
- Cloud gaming brings Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S-exclusive experiences to older Xbox One hardware, including titles like Microsoft Flight Simulator and The Medium.
- Microsoft will allow Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S owners to try out select games via cloud streaming without the requirement to download the title.
Microsoft has outlined plans to bring Xbox Cloud Gaming, its remote game-streaming technology formerly dubbed Project xCloud, to Xbox consoles later this year. The platform holder detailed its expected rollout at its Gamescom 2021 conference on Tuesday, scheduled to arrive on Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S consoles this holiday via its Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription. Microsoft will also offer cloud gaming early to select Xbox owners via the Xbox Insider Program.
Cloud gaming comes to Xbox consoles with two primary focuses; playing Xbox games without waiting for downloads and playing Xbox Series X|S exclusives on older systems. The service will run games on Xbox Series X hardware, following backend server upgrades deployed earlier this year, delivering low-latency 60 frames-per-second (FPS) gameplay at 1080p resolution.
"We've been listening to our gamers and have heard their feedback loud and clear: they want to try new games fast without waiting for an install to finish," said Catherine Gluckstein, head of product and strategy for Xbox Cloud Gaming. "Xbox Cloud Gaming (Beta) on Xbox consoles lets you play new games faster than ever, optimizing space and saving you time."
Microsoft brings Xbox cloud gaming support to all consoles via the integrated Microsoft Store, providing a new opportunity to stream Xbox Game Pass titles without waiting for downloads. Microsoft states Xbox Game Pass Ultimate will boast over 100 cloud-enabled titles at launch, with cloud-specific iconography in the store for supported games.
The feature provides the next logical step beyond FastStart, an existing Xbox feature that prioritizes essential files during downloads, reducing the wait when first getting started. It's an ongoing challenge, especially for the latest console generation, with blockbusters like Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War now surpassing 200GB on new consoles. When expanding your Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S storage feels like a necessity, cloud gaming could ease the weight on hard drives.
Extending Xbox Series X experiences to older Xbox One consoles benefits those yet to migrate to its best Xbox consoles, enabling experiences currently impossible on aging hardware. Current exclusives include Microsoft Flight Simulator and The Medium, titles built with fundamental considerations for current-generation hardware, including new solid-state drives (SSDs) and CPUs. More Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S releases, including the upcoming Forza Motorsport and Senua's Saga: Hellblade II, are expected to join the service.
Cloud gaming will prove valuable through limited Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S availability, with stock constraints ongoing months after launch. The current global chip shortage has seen Xbox Series X, PlayStation 5, and high-end graphics cards in short supply, with the impact expected to extend in 2022. Cloud gaming could ease the transition with many existing Xbox One owners unlikely to upgrade this year, despite developers shifting attention to the latest hardware.
Cloud gaming won't mitigate the need for new consoles — Microsoft has repeatedly stressed its commitment to physical hardware. Dedicated gaming consoles deliver leading visuals, including support for 4K resolutions, high dynamic range (HDR), and other display standards. That's without touching on latency and overall network stability that can still impact your cloud experience. However, as outlined in our Xbox cloud gaming review, the service is already a viable platform on mobile and PC.
The rollout marks the latest expansion for Microsoft's streaming efforts, expanding the Xbox platform beyond traditional living room hardware. Cloud gaming remains readily available on mobile and PC, with talk of smart TV support and dedicated Xbox streaming sticks on the horizon.
Xbox Game Pass Ultimate (1-month membership)
Xbox Game Pass is one of the best ways to play, with access to hundreds of video games for a single monthly fee. The Ultimate-tier subscription is ideal for any avid gamer, geared to Xbox, PC, and mobile, including games, an online membership, and other exclusive perks.
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