Microsoft's Project xCloud: Explained
Microsoft's Project xCloud seems to be a response to Google Stadia. How will this new competitor in the cloud-based gaming race fare?
Microsoft has always been determined to expand our ability to play our favorite Xbox games. We started on just the Xbox, then Microsoft let us play our favorite Xbox titles on the PC. Now, Microsoft is looking to let us stream any of their games directly to our chosen device as long as it has a good internet connection. This is clearly Microsoft's answer to Google Stadia.
What is Cloud Gaming?
Since Project xCloud seems to be Microsoft’s response to Google Stadia, we'll look at the core concept behind cloud-based gaming. The idea is to bring lag-free gaming onto a PC or Android mobile device as if you were playing on a console, but you're instead playing directly through the company’s high-powered data servers and streaming the content instantly. This is excellent news for gamers who don't have the disc space to download digital games onto their system or hate having to keep track of their physical game discs.
Of course, this means you're going to need a reliable internet connection to stream games to the device you want. While this eliminates the need of relying on your own hardware for games, the tradeoff is that users will definitely experience performance issues if their internet is not up to par.
Play Without A Console
Have you ever been interested in playing an Xbox or PC game but couldn’t justify purchasing a whole system? You no longer need to own an Xbox or PC to play exciting titles on a tablet or phone. However, Project xCloud is not intended to replace an Xbox or any future Xbox systems, which will provide a much more immersive experience.
No hardware means no upfront multiple-hundred dollar cost of buying a brand new console. Sounds great, but companies with cloud-based gaming services instead come with the cost of a monthly or yearly subscription service. Fortunately, that means you get access to a large library of content playable immediately off of devices that you already own. The cool part about this news is that you don't have to worry about saves as your save data is stored on the streaming company’s servers as well.
As long as your internet connection is stable, you can play console-quality titles without owning an Xbox. That's an excellent accessibility option for those who haven't been able to play with their Xbox friends because they haven't owned a console. It's already confirmed on the Xbox's Project xCloud FAQ page that you do not need an Xbox console, only an Xbox controller with Bluetooth support.
Unfortunately, Google Stadia’s announcement failed to garner the hype that the tech giant had hoped for, but will Project Xcloud from Microsoft redeem the concept of cloud gaming?
Project xCloud Will Be Very Mobile-Friendly
An early look at Project xCloud showed an Xbox controller with a phone clip that held a phone horizontally for gaming. However, those who don't own an Xbox controller shouldn't worry, as Microsoft has confirmed touch support for some games. This means that these Microsoft games are not going to rely on one universal touch screen remote, but rather, the games will rely on a unique touch screen scheme suitable on multiple device types for that specific game.
Microsoft is taking it even further for the mobile market by announcing a controller that will be specific for mobile Project xCloud users. There are not many details on this controller yet, but other companies such as 8BitDo have been working on their own controller for Project xCloud, with a small design that is optimized for smartphone use.
Free For Xbox Game Pass Ultimate Subs
Fortunately, Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscribers, who already pay a $14.99 a month subscription, will get to use Project xCloud for free. Microsoft has already confirmed that over 100 Xbox Game Pass games are available on the xCloud when it releases in September.
Microsoft has also hinted at the possibility of certain games being available on Project xCloud when the Xbox Series X launches later this year. This would mean that players would have the ability to play brand new titles without having to shell out the money for Microsoft’s newest console.
Developers Won’t Have To Do Anything
Project xCloud isn't going to put an additional strain on developers. They don't need to go back and make their games mobile-friendly as the games will be streaming from Microsoft's servers directly onto the user’s device. While there are only a handful of exciting games available on Project xCloud for now, there are plans to allow access to over 3,000 games on Xbox One's enormous library.
The preview for Project xCloud started with only around 50 games, but now it is at 100 with some exciting titles such as Halo: The Master Chief Collection, Gears 5, and Destiny 2. We are curious to see just how much will be available once Project xCloud releases in September.
Project xCloud Versus Google Stadia
With the disappointment coming from the announcement of Google Stadia, Microsoft is primed to capture market share in the new cloud gaming market. However, it seems the one common denominator that's going to stop many people has nothing to do with either Microsoft or Google, but with an individual's internet connection.
It won’t be surprising to see negative reviews from Project xCloud users who have spotty internet complaining of any lag that they experience. These services sound like they’re intended for those with the best internet packages. It is all very dependent on an individual’s WiFi/Ethernet connection and won’t be the same for everyone. However, the frame rate for different games is rumored to be whatever the frame rate for that game would have been on the Xbox One S.
However, Microsoft has been capping their streams at 720p to keep a user's data usage under 3GB an hour for those who have previewed Project xCloud, Google claims that users will be able to run Stadia games in 4K resolution at 60 FPS. However, Google’s Stadia requires extra work from developers who needed to improve their games on the Stadia. Microsoft is not requiring any additional work from developers for Project xCloud.
The fact that Microsoft has been slowly working on Project xCloud for the better part of a decade gives us confidence that its release will be well-calculated. Microsoft should learn from Google Stadia's mistakes and make sure not overpromise and then under-deliver for their entry in the cloud-based gaming race.
Related: Want to learn more about cloud gaming? Click here to read our article on Google's Stadia Connect Event