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Features | 18 Nov 2019

Microsoft’s Project xCloud game streaming service now offers 50 games to play

by Alan Lu, Editorial & Content team

Streaming video games from the cloud to mobile phones could be the future of gaming, particularly over superfast 5G networks.

Many members of the public were able to try out Microsoft’s xCloud game streaming service for the first time at the tech giant’s Xbox Fanfest 2019 event last week at the Copper Box Arena in London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. Vodafone UK is a technical partner with Microsoft on the project, advising on how best to stream games wirelessly to mobile phones.

In September, Vodafone and Microsoft announced that Vodafone UK customers would be among the first to try out xCloud and play some of the latest blockbuster Xbox One games on their Android devices.

Now Microsoft has expanded the roster of games available to 50, with new titles such as Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Forza Horizon 4, and F1 2019 joining existing favourites such as Halo 5: Guardians, Sea of Thieves and Gears 5. All 50 will be available free to anyone who has successfully applied to be a part of the xCloud public beta test phase.

Smartphones are more powerful than ever, but they would still struggle to play such graphically and computationally demanding titles if the games had to be downloaded onto the device.

With xCloud, the games run on Microsoft’s immensely powerful servers in the cloud, rather on your phone itself, with your phone effectively acting as a remote display and controller. The intense real-time communication needed to make this work requires a very fast, low-latency internet connection – such as Vodafone’s expanding 5G network or fibre home broadband.

At the Xbox Fanfest 2019 event, Brian, a 23-year-old from the West Midlands, was impressed after playing a few rounds of Halo 5 and Forza streamed onto a Samsung Galaxy S10.

“The way it works – it’s just so seamless. I wasn’t expecting that,” he said.

While xCloud’s fidelity and responsiveness are impressive, it might seem unnecessarily complicated when you could just sit down in front of your Xbox in your living room. But not only are family TVs often in constant demand in bustling households, people leading busy lives may only have brief snatches of time to play games or may not want to devote the space and expense needed for the latest gaming hardware. It’s in situations like these where the convenience of xCloud – being able to dip into your favourite Xbox games wherever and whenever you please – becomes evident.

Microsoft has now extended Project xCloud beyond Android to include Windows PCs. That might seem odd given that Windows has a rich catalogue of games stretching back decades. But many people don’t own PCs powerful enough to play the very latest games, which require very powerful graphics cards. Microsoft is hoping the ability to play the latest and greatest titles on your cheap-and-cheerful laptop via xCloud will be a compelling offer.

The prospect of playing the latest, most graphically demanding Xbox games wherever and whenever you want, on a device that doesn’t cost a fortune, certainly has this writer rubbing his hands with glee.