Earlier this week, Microsoft announced that xCloud, or “cloud gaming” will become available to Android users on September 15th – if they are paying for Game Pass Ultimate. The service will allow you to play more than 100 Xbox games on nearly any new-ish Android phone or tablet.
While you can technically play xCloud games without a controller, the reality is that you want a controller. There are several options out there from clips that attach to a controller to more unique solutions like the Razer Kishi.
Razer sent one of these to me earlier this week and while I typically wait a couple of weeks for a review, this product is relatively simple and straightforward. After spending about 4hrs using the device, this is likely the best way to play xCloud.
Here’s how it works: the two Joy-cons controller ends sperate which allows you to place your phone in-between them to create a Switch-like experience. And in practice, it works quite well.
When you de-couple the two controllers that conveniently latch together in a small package for carrying in your bag, there is a flexible ribbon with a large piece of plastic that sits against your phone to help stabilize the controller. One end of the phone connects into a USB-C port while the other fits into a rubber slot to securely hold the phone in place. One challenge is that the plastic on the back will block any fingerprint readers that are on the back of your phone which can make authenticating a bit more challenging.
Once attached, your phone will recognize the device (make sure to download the Razer Kishi app too) and off you go – no setup other than putting your phone into the device.
There is an additional USB-C port on the outside of the device that allows for pass-through charging and the best part, this is not a Bluetooth controller. The benefit of this is that input is instantaneous, no low-latency Bluetooth lag. This is key as it removes one hurdle of the xCloud experience that could make the gameplay not feel ‘local’.
In use, the controller works well but it is not perfect: the left side of the controller is quite comfortable but the right side, with the analog stick being lower on the device, it is not as ergonomic. This isn’t a deal-breaker but something you should know before buying.
The buttons themselves are not too tactical which depending on your preference is either a good thing or bad thing. I prefer a hard snap when engaged but overall, the Kishi experience is quite good. And with all the Xbox navigation buttons on the controller, this makes the experience feel a little bit closer to traditional console gaming.
In fact, this is probably the best way to play xCloud right now. I much prefer this setup to using a traditional Xbox controller as this feels like a portable Xbox console we all dreamed about 10 years ago.
Keep in mind that xCloud, in my opinion, is best utilized with single-player experiences. While you can play multiplayer games, FPS multiplayer highlights latency more than titles like Ori – Ori plays exceptionally well and is a great title to use to demonstrate xCloud.
The biggest downside is the price, at $99, it’s not cheap. The best way to think of the Kishi is that this is the ‘Elite’ controller experience for xCloud. Much like Microsoft’s high-end controller for the console is a premium offering, this is the high-end controller for xCloud.
For those that are willing to pay the premium, you will be happy with the hardware and for anyone who is serious about xCloud gaming, this will be an essential accessory.