Microsoft’s xCloud Game Streaming Service Public Testing Begins in 2019

Posted on October 8, 2018 by Brad Sams in Games with 29 Comments

Microsoft has announced today Project xCloud, the company’s game streaming service that I have been writing about since early this summer and something the company has been working on for many years. Phil Spencer hinted that this type of service was coming soon at E3, and now we are learning more about it.

The idea is quite simply, being able to play any type of game on nearly any type of device. Microsoft showed off in the video below playing Forza on an Android phone but this is on the start of what will be possible with this technology.

And if Microsoft can deliver on this front, it will signifacntly change how we think about console gaming and will likely change how the market plays games as well. Imagine being able to play Xbox exclusive titles on a MacBook with nothing more than an Xbox controller and an Internet connection; for Microsoft, ProjectX Cloud will open up the gaming door to millions of more consumers.

The company is testing the service today with mobile phones and tablets paired to an Xbox Wireless controller but it is also playable with touch input as well. Public trials will start in 2019 but that’s about as concrete as a release date as we have right now.

Microsoft is building their own custom hardware for its Azure data centers; this isn’t a simple retrofit of racks to make them work with xCloud, but it’s a ground-up approach to building custom hardware specifically for this solution. Each blade in the rack houses several Xbox-console boards along with the other necessary equipment to make the streaming service possible.

Microsoft makes it clear in the announcement video that the company will not abandon the traditional console sales model, the streaming service is in addition to selling hardware as well.

The big if, and it’s a big one, is if the company can truly make a cloud-gaming streaming service viable for the mass-market. This has been the dream of many companies during the past couple of years but no one has been able to successfully deliver a product that has the latency and graphics that gamers demand.

This is clearly a big bet for not only Xbox but for Microsoft as a company as this utilizes the company’s Azure infrastructure to deliver the service.

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Comments (29)

29 responses to “Microsoft’s xCloud Game Streaming Service Public Testing Begins in 2019”

  1. bart

    Should have been Xcloud IMHO. Logical extension of Xbox franchise. Exciting nonetheless

  2. My Hell baby speaking

    Technical issues aside, for me personally this thing will have never existed unless Sony's catalogue of amazing games will be included. Sony I suspect to going to link to a competing streaming service (Google) if they decide to go the way of streaming, while Microsoft will become _the platform_ for Ubisoft's and EA's most innovative and entertaining annual AC reincarnations.

  3. sharpsone

    A worthwhile effort that could revolutionize the industry. I still believe something like this will be hindered by poor LAN access speeds especially over wifi. Could be remedied by 5g, wifi 6 and gig to your doorstep. It will be interesting to see how it plays out,but we're probably 2-3 years away until new network standards are readily available to the masses.

  4. jimchamplin

    Okay... lots of talk about gamepads and console games.

    How about PC games? How about I run the xCloud app on my iPad, connect keyboard and mouse, and the xCloud app lets me play the PC version of Overwatch? If I’m limited to console ports, it’s useless to me. Everyone I know plays on PC.

  5. waethorn

    Sure. Why not. Just don't expect your 30-hour savegames to persist through a software update.

  6. maethorechannen

    They mention how they have data centers worldwide. I hope that means it won't be US only.

  7. JamesMcwindows

    So another competitor joins the Frey of games streaming to your device of choice. Guess I'll add it to the long list of competitors and ask why this would be any better? How does this streaming service out preform Shadow pc (my personal favorite), liquid sky, vortex, paperspace+parsec, gforce now?

  8. bluvg

    When some obsess over displays and other local and network contributors to latencies, I'm very curious to see how well this works in reality. Even if average latency is acceptable, I think max internet latency would be killer for most, and that's before it hits home networking gear, much of which is of dubious quality. You can't buffer a game. But they must have network stats that show this is possible for a large enough market to make it worthwhile.

    I'm not a gamer, but one worry would be that they'd draw in a new casual gamer market at the expense of more serious gamers. Modern mobile devices have pretty impressive abilities now, also. Hopefully they see something I don't.

    • MutualCore

      In reply to bluvg:

      I would hope the xCloud app at least gives a warning to the consumer that they need minimum X mbps download speed to avoid latency issues. Then the consumer can decide if he/she wants to put up with a stuttering game.

      • bluvg

        In reply to MutualCore:

        You can have all the bandwidth in the world, but if you have high latency, it's not going to work. It takes both "bandwidth no less than" and "latency no greater than".

  9. MikeGalos

    " Imagine being able to play Xbox exclusive titles on a MacBook "

    Yeah. That could increase their market over just supporting Windows by, what, 5-10%?

    • MutualCore

      In reply to MikeGalos:

      Imagine being able to play XBox titles on iOS, Android, macOS, Apple TV, Roku, Chromecast, Fire TV in addition to XBox & PC! Microsoft can make so much additional revenue on xCloud by just expanding the clients to cover everything out there.

      • MikeGalos

        In reply to MutualCore:

        Not questioning that being cross platform is good. Just questioning why, unlike your comment, the breathless phrase was about the ability to play on a MacBook.

        If it was an Apple service available for Windows the comment would be about Apple filling a gap in Microsoft's product line.

  10. Noel

    Exciting times ahead. I no doubt will always prefer the full-fat console experience but many many people will be drawn to a cheaper device if the performance is good enough.

  11. Stooks

    " if Microsoft can deliver on this front, it will signifacntly change how we think about console gaming and will likely change how the market plays games as well"

    Maybe they can succeed where no one really has? So far these game streaming services are second too traditional methods in terms of quality game play and game selection. Immediate turn off for me.

    • maethorechannen

      In reply to Stooks:

      They've got the "play anywhere" thing going for them. The streaming quality won't be as good on your One X, but then it's never going to be and it doesn't matter because you can pick up where you left off on whatever is the device you have at the time - phone at Starbucks, Xbox in the living room and the PC elsewhere,

  12. dcdevito

    So by using custom XBox boards, is the assumption that devs won't have to change anything in the games? If so then they're already a leg up on Google's project - no?

  13. jprestig

    This is pretty exciting. With Google having announced their service, the race is on.

  14. Illusive_Man

    The backend stuff is great...where are the games though? Am I expected to play Forza Horizon 13 and Halo 10? Xbox needs more content, plain and simple.