Supported Samsung TVs: 2022 Smart TV models
Price: $15 per month for Xbox Game Pass Ultimate
Number of games: 350+
Controller support: Almost any Bluetooth
Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, Microsoft’s game subscription service, already supports gaming PCs, non-gaming PCs, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Android and iOS — and in a few months, it will add “Samsung Smart TVs” to that list.
This summer, Xbox Game Pass will join Samsung’s gaming hub, and based on what I’ve seen so far, it should work extremely well.
I recently met with Samsung and Microsoft representatives for a hands-on demo of Xbox Game Pass on Samsung Smart TVs. Microsoft has more details about the program in an Xbox Wire post, but the basic gist is this: Samsung Smart TVs have carved out a special space for gaming apps, called the Gaming Hub. This summer, Xbox Game Pass will join the Gaming Hub, and stream games directly to Samsung TVs. It’s a way to play hundreds of Xbox games on a big screen with absolutely no need for a console.
All told, I had about half an hour to play around with the various games on offer. Not every single Xbox Game Pass is ready for TV streaming just yet, but by time the service launches this summer, the Samsung Smart TV library should be exactly the same as what you would find streaming on Android, iOS or a Web browser.
During my meeting, I played small chunks of Forza Horizon 5, Halo Infinite, Gears 5, Ori and the Will of the Wisps and Minecraft Dungeons. These games represented a wide swath of genres, from atmospheric platformers to intense first-person shooters.
When I first got the controller in my hand, I expected some lag or latency, especially since game streaming on a TV represents a long and complicated daisy chain of wireless technology. There’s an Xbox server somewhere miles away, which communicates with your TV, which communicates with your controller, which communicates with your fingers — and then then whole process goes in reverse. If the response isn’t almost instantaneous, games can feel anywhere from “sluggish” to “unplayable.”
However, the whole experience was nearly flawless — and I say “nearly” only because the interface for launching and quitting games still needs a little work. From the moment I started up Forza Horizon 5, drifting across Mexican deserts, to the moment I put down the controller after lobbing a chunk of TNT at a group of pixelated zombies in Minecraft Dungeons, the Xbox Game Pass app worked precisely as it was supposed to. I didn’t notice any lag or stuttering, and the graphics looked about equivalent to what you’d find on an Xbox Series S.
According to the Microsoft representative, the Samsung TV was using a standard wired Ethernet connection and streaming at a steady 1080p resolution and 60 frames per second, which is as good as Xbox Game Pass streams get.
Xbox Game Pass on Samsung TVs: What you need
If there’s a significant flaw or downside to the Xbox Game Pass app on Samsung Smart TVs, I didn’t see it during my demo. However, it’s worth pointing out that I only streamed a few minutes of each game. The real test will be to see how the games hold up over long play sessions. It will also be instructive to see whether wireless connections yield similar results, since not every entertainment center is within arm’s reach of a router.
Furthermore, this functionality won’t be available to every Samsung Smart TV owner. At present, only 2022 TV models will have the Xbox Game Pass app available — and TVs from the first half of the year will have to wait for it to arrive via a firmware update. If you purchase a new Samsung TV this summer, though, it may come with the functionality ready to go.
You’ll also need a subscription to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, which costs $15 per month. The $10 standard Xbox Game Pass subscription won’t cut it, as Samsung Smart TVs can’t download Xbox games — and could probably not run them, even if it could.
On the bright side, you can use just about any Bluetooth headset or controller you want. That includes the PS5 DualSense, in case you’ve ever dreamed of playing Halo Infinite with a Sony peripheral.
Xbox Game Pass on Samsung TVs: Outlook
From what we saw, Xbox Game Pass on Samsung TVs looks great so far. We imagine that individual performance will vary significantly, depending on bandwidth, Internet setup, distance from server and a thousand other inscrutable factors. But whatever its shortcomings may be, the fact is that come this summer, you won't need an Xbox console to play Xbox games directly on a TV. Wherever the future of console games is going next, this feels like a big step in that direction.
Whether gamers will embrace Xbox Game Pass directly on smart TVs is another question. Gamers who already have an Xbox don't really need this functionality; gamers who prefer to buy titles à la carte probably won't go for the Xbox Game Pass subscription.
We also simply don't know whether there's a huge, untapped market of people who want to play big-budget games, but who don't want to invest in a console or PC. Perhaps this summer, we'll finally get some better data to settle the question. In the meantime, here are the other updates we know are coming to Xbox Game Pass in the near future.