That’s because sources familiar with Microsoft's Xbox plans have told The Verge (opens in new tab) that testing is underway for a web version of xCloud — Redmond’s Xbox game streaming service. Not only will that enable gaming on a basic laptop, but it could also open up xCloud on Apple’s iPhones and iPads.
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Apparently, this testing is taking place ahead of a public preview. We’ve seen Microsoft do the same with xCloud on Android devices, which allows games to be streamed to Android devices through the latest Xbox Game Pass app. To have access to xCloud, you need an Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription.
While xCloud was intended to allow you to stream Xbox games from Microsoft’s own cloud servers, as well as from your home console over a cellular broadband connection, it’s only delivered the former capabilities so far.
There is something very impressive about being able to play an Xbox game like Halo: The Master Chief Collection on an Android phone connected to an Xbox Wireless Controller. But there's clearly more to come from xCloud.
Xbox gaming on the Web
A web version of xCloud should build upon that, with a simple in-browser launcher allowing you to stream a selection of games — providing you have a controller to connect to your PC, laptop or compatible tablet.
The Verge noted that there appear to be limitations to web-based xCloud streaming in that the service will only work with Chromium based browsers like Google Chrome and Microsoft's own Edge browser. That would mean xCloud streaming wouldn’t work on Apple’s Safari browser, though we’d be surprised if Microsoft didn't find a way to make that work over time.
And given Apple has limitations on the streaming services it will support on iOS and macOS, delivering xCloud through a browser would overcome those App Store restrictions, though it might attract Apple’s ire.
The promising thing here is a lot of Xbox first-party games come to Game Pass. So if you've been struggling to get your hands on an Xbox Series X or the less-powerful Xbox Series S, then xCloud could have you covered.
Given xCloud currently uses servers based on Xbox One S hardware — it’s due an upgrade this year — we doubt the web version of xCloud will deliver proper 4K gaming in the immediate future; gaming natively on a console is set to be the preferred method for some time yet. But it could be a stop-gap for people waiting for Xbox Series X to become easier to buy.
According to The Verge, the web version of xCloud could enter a public beta this Spring, likely arriving before Xbox Seires X restocks reach the same level as demand for Microsoft's new games machine.