Or as Microsoft calls it: Cloud Gaming (Beta) with Xbox Game Pass
Earlier I already started working with one early version of Project xCloud, but since September 15, anyone can get started with the service. High time for a revision. Can xCloud convince now?
Whenever I write about xCloud, I have to look up what the official name actually is. Here it comes: Cloud Gaming (Beta) with Xbox Game Pass. Aah, how that rolls off the tongue. The relief is therefore great when Microsoft surrenders itself to the xCloud branding, and drops the long version for good. Another oddity is that the service is labeled as ‘beta’. In itself that is not surprising since cloud gaming is still in its infancy, but when will cloud gaming be finished? The thing with new (streaming) technology is that it is never finished. The technology has to work faster and faster, on more devices, with slower network connections, etc. For that reason I still see Stadia as a beta and not as a finished product.
The cloud gaming service we deserve
Anyway, those are just details. I already wrote about this in a previous opinion piece the arrival of Amazon Luna and what that means for cloud gaming in general. Then I wrote that I put my money on xCloud for all cloud services, because of the revenue model behind it. With Stadia you still have to buy games (or play the limited free games you get with Stadia Pro), with Luna you have to subscribe per channel and PlayStation, well, they don’t actually participate. Joost should know what PlayStation is planning with PlayStation Now.
I still fully support that optimistic view of xCloud. Microsoft is fully committed to Game Pass (Ultimate), and I am convinced that xCloud will be an important move to get even more people to subscribe to Game Pass. Just picture it: you are a hardcore PlayStation fan and have never touched an Xbox or Windows gaming PC. But, you still look with (justified) jealousy at solid exclusive franchises such as Halo, Gears of War in Power. As a PlayStation fan, all you have to do is subscribe to Game Pass Ultimate and you can experience those exclusives on your smartphone! In addition, xCloud is also being rolled out on more and more devices, so it will won’t last long before you have an xCloud application for computers, smart TVs and even a browser version. With xCloud, Microsoft will be able to welcome many new gamers to the Xbox ecosystem. A great move. In terms of model, Microsoft thus earns 10/10 for their ambitions with xCloud.
Another great asset of Xbox is their cloud saves. Every Xbox game supports cloud saves, so you can easily switch between xCloud and your console. During the day you play on your console, in the evening you start the game via xCloud and your save files are automatically synchronized. It seems “obvious”, but the fact that you get this cloud storage for free from Microsoft for free, is certainly not something we can take for granted.
It works, but …
In optima forma, xCloud works very well. By ‘optima forma’ I mean that you have an almost flawless internet connection. I got the best experience right next to the router (or access point). A good move was also to switch my network to a 5 GHz version instead of the slower 2.4 GHz version. The advantage of 5 GHz is that it is more stable and works a lot faster than 2.4 GHz, but the range is getting smaller. Still, 5 GHz (especially at the moment) is an absolute must for xCloud. Later on, the technology will probably become more efficient, so that you can also play on slower networks without any problems, but the early adopters will have to present an excellent internet connection.
That is why I am so curious about the rollout of xCloud for Windows computers. Then it is very easy to connect to a wired network (ethernet) and you can judge the technology much more honestly. When you now judge xCloud, you are largely judging your own internet connection. Therefore, for reference, a look at my internet connection, via a speed test that I did from my Android phone:
As you can see, I have a pretty decent internet connection, but even with that internet connection there is a palpable input delay. In such a case, it helps to play with a controller that you connect directly to your smartphone (such as the Razer Kishi), you avoid the extra input delay that you would otherwise get by using a bluetooth connection. It won’t make much difference, but every little bit helps. Because of that input lag, one game is definitely better suited than another for cloud gaming. Bee Power it is still very difficult to keep your car under control (although it went much more smoothly than with my first hands-on) and shooters are also still very difficult.
A platformer is a lot better, but with a pretty spicy game like Ori and the Blind Forest it doesn’t make you happy when you die because there was a hiccup in the stream. At the moment it is therefore difficult to recommend xCloud as a way to play games from start to finish, but it is certainly a nice solution (and variation) to grind on in your bed, for example. No Man’s Sky or to casual Golf with Your Friends of Totally Accurate Battle Simulator to play.
It would also be nice if games could start up a bit faster. Now it takes about 30 seconds for Game Pass to start your session. That is of course not dramatically long, but after that the game itself has to load. So you end up spending quite a bit of time on loading screens. It would also be nice if a session were kept longer. That’s how I was or playing and I switched to WhatsApp for about 10 minutes. When I returned to Game Pass, my session was closed and I had to restart everything.
Making a judgment about xCloud is difficult for several reasons. On the one hand, you want to assess the concept, but on the other, you also have to assess the technology that largely depends on your internet connection.
The technology is certainly not perfect at the time of writing, but purely in terms of model, xCloud is truly a brilliant move, both for Microsoft and for consumers. In addition, xCloud is evolving at lightning speed. At the moment there is only a beta version on Android smartphones, but the service will soon make its way to iOS devices and eventually Windows computers.
The way in which Microsoft makes gaming accessible to everyone and puts aside their stubbornness to also offer their exclusives to everyone (and not just people who bought expensive hardware. We’re looking at you, PlayStation) deserves all credit. Of course, there is still room for improvement from a technical point of view, but since it is a new technology, it will be a long-term effort. However, I am confident that Microsoft will continue to bet on xCloud and show us some great things.
|Great concept||Technically not flawless (input delay)|
|Microsoft’s ambition is clear||Requires very strong internet connection|
|Compatible with all Game Pass games|
|Included with Game Pass Ultimate|
Are you going to use xCloud often in the future? Let us know in the comments!
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