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
Google Stadia may be dead, survived only by its controller, but Xbox Cloud Gaming sure 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. It lets you play your games on an Xbox console, PC, phone or tablet directly over the internet.
The good news is you might even already have access to Xbox Cloud Gaming. It’s included in every subscription of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, handing you another way of playing many of the best Xbox Series X games.
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Keep your expectations in check, though. The platform is still officially in beta, so isn’t as feature-rich as you might expect of a Microsoft product. For now, it offers a handy way of streaming games on the go and offers a tantalizing glimpse into the future of hardware-free 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 for streaming.
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 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 $16.99 per month. Become a member of Microsoft’s gaming subscription service and you’ll automatically be able to jump onto the streaming platform. Rather peculiarly, Fortnite is the only game that doesn’t require an Xbox Game Pass membership, so you can play Epic’s mammoth battle royale over the cloud completely for free.
Again, it’s important to stress you’ll need to subscribe to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate. You don’t get access to Xbox Cloud Gaming with an Xbox Game Pass Core or Xbox Game Pass membership. If you’re not already a member of Microsoft’s gaming service, pick it up for cheap with our Xbox Game Pass Ultimate discount code.
You’ll also need a strong internet connection to stream games reliably. Microsoft says for 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”. 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 a keyboard and mouse, so the PC gamer’s peripheral of choice will be of no use here. Many of the best Xbox Series X controllers are compatible and Microsoft lists a few recommended controllers on an FAQ page. Many games also now support touchscreen controls when played on mobile.
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. Once you’ve found something that takes your fancy, select the game’s tile and click the button labeled “Play” next to a cloud icon.
To make things easier, you can sort the Xbox Game Pass library by cloud gaming titles to only show those games that can be streamed.
💻 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 11 if you 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, 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, you’re somewhat limited as to what you can play. Xbox Cloud Gaming doesn’t currently support keyboard and mouse control schemes, so only the 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.
📱 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 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 cloud-enabled games directly through their television using Xbox Cloud Gaming. However, the app is only supported by certain models, including Neo QLEDs and the Smart Monitor series, as well as newer TVs.
🛫 Xbox streaming stick: Eventually, we might 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, Ghostwire: Tokyo and Mass Effect Legendary Edition, plus tons of smaller double-A and indie games, such as Hollow Knight, Pentiment, No Man’s Sky, Hardspace: Shipbreaker 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.
You’ll soon be able to play games you own through Xbox Cloud Gaming as well. Microsoft’s CEO of gaming Phil Spencer responded to a user’s message on the Xbox Network and said that the functionality should arrive “this year”.
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.
It’s 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, 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 laptop with an internet connection or via 5G, making it a fantastic 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. Microsoft has promised that, hopefully, this year you’ll be able to access your entire library, but it’s best to consider Xbox Cloud Gaming a convenient add-on to your existing setup, but not a replacement.
Last updated: February 20, 2024