Microsoft is planning to launch its game streaming service, currently known as Project xCloud, free to its paying Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscribers in September. The xCloud service will allow Xbox players to play games on mobile devices or even start a game on their consoles and resume it on their phone or tablet. Xbox Game Pass Ultimate combines Xbox Live access, an Xbox Game Pass subscription, and, starting in September, xCloud game streaming into a single $14.99 monthly subscription.
Microsoft is promising that more than 100 Xbox Game Pass titles will be playable on a phone or tablet when the streaming service launches. Microsoft isn’t detailing which countries will be supported at launch just yet, though. The company has been building out its Azure data centers across the US and in parts of Europe with Xbox One S blades to stream Xbox games through xCloud. Microsoft will upgrade these servers to Xbox Series X hardware in 2021.
Xbox Game Pass Ultimate will be the only way to access xCloud streaming at launch, but it won’t always be limited to Microsoft’s top subscription tier.
While everyone accessing xCloud game streaming in September will do so through a phone or tablet, Microsoft isn’t detailing which devices will be supported just yet. The software maker has been involved in ongoing discussions with Apple over App Store policies that have prevented Microsoft from testing xCloud with the same features as the Android version. Microsoft started testing xCloud on iOS devices earlier this year, but the test has been limited to a single Halo game.
Project xCloud won’t even be the final name for Microsoft’s game streaming service. Beyond the launch plans, Microsoft has greater ambitions with xCloud that go beyond just streaming to mobile devices.
Microsoft is planning to use xCloud as a vehicle for enabling people to quickly try out Xbox games. That could involve you logging into an Xbox console and seeing a friend playing a game and quickly joining in before your full download has completed, for example, or simply clicking a link from Facebook Gaming in the future.
Some rival streaming services, like Nvidia’s GeForce Now, have run into trouble with publishers by offering their games to stream without their permission. Microsoft hasn’t run into any similar problems with publishers yet. That doesn’t guarantee that every Xbox Game Pass game will necessarily be available on xCloud game streaming, but it certainly sounds like the vast majority will be. A lot of game developers have benefited from increased sales, thanks to Xbox Game Pass, especially indie developers who see the immediate benefit of access to more than 10 million subscribers.
Microsoft is now planning to show more games coming to xCloud during its Xbox Series X games event next week, and we should get more solid launch details about the service in August. Microsoft has been building toward this xCloud launch for the best part of a decade, ever since the company first demonstrated Halo 4 running on a Windows Phone back in 2013. After nearly a year of publicly testing xCloud, September will mark the first big step toward Microsoft’s ambitious plan to reach billions of gamers around the world.