Ever since it was announced, I've been excited about the promise of Xbox's Project xCloud game streaming platform. I made the switch from a primarily PC gamer to Xbox around 2014, and the idea of tapping into my lengthy backlog no matter where I am is tantalizing. However, even as Microsoft began testing xCloud on Android in 2019, I was left wanting for what I see as my perfect xCloud platform: iPad.
This week, my wish was granted: Microsoft began accepting iOS testers for xCloud. There are a fair few caveats with the start of testing on iPhone and iPad, however. The biggest glaring issue is that, at least for now, there's only one game available — Halo: The Master Chief Collection.
Microsoft says this limitation is due to an App Store policy, which makes sense; Apple is notoriously finicky with its App Store rules. Unlike on Android, the iOS preview is strictly limited to 10,000 users through Apple's TestFlight program as well. Finally, Microsoft limited this initial preview to just the U.S., UK, and Canada.
Despite all of the restrictions, Microsoft says it quickly filled spots for the preview program, and it's not hard to see why. While Android phones outnumber Apple's worldwide, iPhones and iPads have a massive presence in western countries. There was bound to be a pent up desire for xCloud on the Venn Diagram of Xbox fans who have an iPad or iPhone.
As for the iPad experience, it's been as fun as I expected, and framerates feel suitably smooth (around 30 fps if I had to guess), but there's still a long way to go. I've been in the xCloud beta on Android since shortly after it launched, and the iOS program feels just as polished. There are some of the same minor streaming hiccups as well, but it's a fun experience overall.
However, no matter how much I like setting my iPad up wherever and getting some gaming in, there's no doubt that Microsoft is going to have to expand the number of games available on iOS soon if it wants to hold testers' attention. It's not that I hate Halo: The Master Chief Collection. Rather, I had my fill of the game a long time ago.
Still, the iPad represents the perfect platform for mobile gaming for me, and I'm excited to finally be able to get some quick gameplay in on the go. The screen on my iPad Pro is the perfect size for a personal little gaming display, it's easy to carry around in a backpack, and I don't have to fumble with any cumbersome phone clips on my controller. It's a happy medium between the big screen in my living room and the one in my pocket.
So what's the platform I have my eye on next? Windows. Let's get it going, Microsoft.
If you want to enroll in the limited beta testing for Microsoft's game streaming service Project xCloud you need to go here first!
Make your phone and Xbox One controller an easy pairing
The idea is simple, but the execution with this licensed phone clip makes it a no-brainer if you're playing the Project xCloud preview.
An easy essential for Project xCloud testing.
Pick up Microsoft's signature controller is a streamlined and simple finish. Official entry-level controllers start as low as $44 via Amazon.