Xbox Cloud Gaming: everything you need to know about the Xbox streaming platform
Microsoft's in-development streaming service is already shaping up to be a powerful platform. Here's all there is to know about Xbox Cloud Gaming
Although Google Stadia is dead and survived only by its controller, cloud gaming isn’t going anywhere. Microsoft is betting big on streaming, and has already laid out ambitious plans for how it wants to transform gaming as we know it.
Xbox Cloud Gaming isn’t just a forgettable add-on service designed to ride the wave of the latest tech trend, it offers one of the simplest ways of playing some of the biggest games. Like any other cloud-based platform, it lets you play on your Xbox console, PC, phone or tablet directly over the internet.
You might even already have access to it. Xbox Cloud Gaming is included in every subscription of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, handing you another way of playing many of the best Xbox Series X games.
Keep your expectations in check, though. Xbox Cloud Gaming is still officially in beta, so isn’t the feature-rich platform you might expect of a Microsoft product. For now, it offers a handy way of streaming games and offers a tantalizing glimpse into the future of hardware-less gaming.
Even better, it’s compatible with both new-gen Xbox consoles and PC. So if you’re still weighing up the Xbox Series X vs Xbox Series S, or have your eyes set on a new gaming rig, don’t worry. You’ll be able to use them all to stream games through Xbox Cloud Gaming.
What is Xbox Cloud Gaming? ☁
Xbox Cloud Gaming is Microsoft’s gaming streaming service that works in conjunction with Xbox Game Pass. It allows you to stream much of the Xbox Game Pass library directly over the internet to an Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PC, as well as Android and Apple devices.
The platform is currently still in beta. For the most part, that makes little difference to us, the players, other than suggesting Microsoft plans to add even more features to the service in the future. It’s also only supported in select regions. See if it’s available in your country on the official Xbox region webpage.
What do I need for Xbox Cloud Gaming? 🎮
Xbox Cloud Gaming can only be accessed through an Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription, which costs $14.99 per month. Become a member of Microsoft’s gaming subscription service and you’ll automatically be able to jump into its streaming platform. Rather peculiarly, Fortnite is the only game on the service that doesn’t require Xbox Game Pass membership, so you can hop into Epic’s mammoth battle royale over the cloud completely for free.
Rumor has it that Microsoft is considering a cheaper, ad-supported Xbox Game Pass membership tier, but that unfortunately won’t give us a cheaper way of accessing Xbox Cloud Gaming. The budget option seems more like a replacement for Xbox Live Gold and is missing many of Game Pass’s standout features.
If you’re not already a member of Microsoft’s gaming service, pick it up for cheap with Xbox Game Pass code.
You’ll also need a strong internet connection to reliably stream the games. Microsoft says for the best performance you’ll need “rates of 10 Mbps on mobile devices, 20 Mbps on consoles, PCs and tablets, and 5Ghz WiFi or mobile data connection”. Fortunately, those aren’t unusually super high speeds, but if you can’t reach them expect to encounter higher latency and more frequent buffering.
Finally, you’ll need a compatible controller. Xbox Cloud Gaming doesn’t yet support keyboard and mouse, so the PC gamer’s peripheral of choice will be of no use here. Many of the most popular wired and wireless gamepads are compatible with the platform, though. Microsoft lists a few recommended controllers on its FAQ page.
How can I access Xbox Cloud Gaming? 🤔
One of the primary features of Xbox Cloud Gaming is its compatibility. There are several ways of accessing the platform and pushing it to its fullest potential.
🕹 Console: To use Xbox Cloud Gaming on an Xbox console, you’ll first need to open the Xbox Game Pass app. Any game marked with a small cloud icon in the bottom right corner can be streamed through the cloud. Once you’ve found something that takes your fancy, open the game and select the button labeled “Play” with a little cloud icon.
To make things easier, sort the Xbox Game Pass library by cloud gaming titles. Doing so will show you every game that can be streamed through the platform.
💻 PC: The easiest way of using Xbox Cloud Gaming on PC is through the official Xbox Cloud Gaming webpage. Sign in to your Microsoft account and you’ll be able to stream games directly through the browser. You can also download the Xbox app for Windows, if you’d prefer.
Since you’ll be streaming games over the internet, all the heavy lifting is done on Microsoft’s end. You don’t need one of the best GPUs or best gaming PCs to use the platform, only a strong enough internet connection. The games are rendered and run on Microsoft’s hardware, before they’re beamed to your PC, ready to play.
However, what you can play is somewhat limited. Xbox Cloud Gaming doesn’t currently support keyboard and mouse control schemes, so only those games in the Xbox Game Pass library that feature controller support are available. Not only does that knock many PC Game Pass titles off the platform – say goodbye to Age of Empires 4 and Total War: Warhammer 3 – you’ll need to connect a controller to your rig to use the service. Fortunately, we’ve whipped up a list of the best Xbox Series X controllers, which all work with the streaming platform.
📱 Phones and tablets: If you’re gaming on an Android phone or tablet, head over to the Google Play Store to download the official Xbox Game Pass app. If you’re an Apple user, you’ll need to play through your browser on the Xbox Cloud Gaming webpage.
Bear in mind that you’ll need to connect a Bluetooth controller, such as the official Xbox Wireless Controller, or pick up a dedicated mobile gaming controller like the Backbone One, to play games on your phone or tablet. Some titles on Xbox Cloud Gaming support touch controls, letting you play them using the touchscreen of your phone. But not all of them do, so don’t assume you’ll be able to spontaneously play any game you want without the appropriate hardware.
👍 Handheld consoles: As Xbox Cloud Gaming has become larger and more popular, various third-party peripheral manufacturers have started to support the platform. Logitech has released its Cloud Gaming Handheld – a dedicated streaming console that comes with the Xbox Cloud Gaming app preinstalled – and it’s possible to run Xbox Cloud Gaming on your Steam Deck by opening up the webpage in a web browser.
📺 Samsung TVs: In mid-2022, Microsoft launched a dedicated Xbox app for Samsung TVs. It functions much like the Xbox Game Pass app for phones, letting Samsung TV owners stream hundreds of cloud-enabled games directly through their television using Xbox Cloud Gaming. However, the app is only supported by certain 2022 and 2021 Samsung TVs, including Neo QLEDs and the Smart Monitor series, and newer models.
🛫 Xbox streaming stick: Eventually, we might also be able to use Xbox Cloud Gaming through the elusive and long-rumored Xbox streaming stick. The cloud-based device will plug into any TV and let you use Microsoft’s streaming service without needing to pick up a pricey console. Unfortunately, the project has been mothballed, so is likely years away from release.
What games can I play? 🕹
A huge variety. A big chunk of the Xbox Game Pass library is available for streaming, including new releases and old gems spanning a massive selection of genres.
You’ll find big-budget games like Halo Infinite, Forza Horizon 5, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, Deathloop, Doom Eternal, Gears 5 and Mass Effect Legendary Edition, but also tons of smaller double-A and indie games, such as Hollow Knight, Pentiment, No Man’s Sky, Outer Wilds and more. The range is huge and should offer something to players of every gaming persuasion. Browse the full list on the Xbox Cloud Gaming webpage.
Who is Xbox Cloud Gaming for? 👩👩👧👦
Xbox Cloud Gaming is a fantastic option for PC players who don’t have a top-of-the-line gaming rig. By streaming games directly to your system, you can bypass expensive hardware and still play many of the latest dazzling blockbuster games. As long as you have a stable connection, any old office computer will be good enough.
Xbox Cloud Gaming is also very handy for anyone who likes to game on the go. If you travel around or are planning on spending an extended period away from your main setup but still want to game, Xbox Cloud Gaming lets you access a bumper gaming library from your phone. Pack a Bluetooth controller in your backpack and you’ll be able to stream games to any old laptop with an internet connection, making it a fantastic gaming travel companion.
Its biggest drawback is the limited catalog of games available through the service. You won’t be hard-pressed to find something that takes your fancy, but you also can’t rely on the platform to offer everything you’re interested in; far from it. Consider Xbox Cloud Gaming a lovely add-on to your existing setup, but not a replacement.
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Updated: March 29, 2023