Xbox Series X/S and Xbox One will soon get cloud gaming

Xbox Game Pass
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A few months back, Microsoft promised that Xbox cloud gaming would make its way to Xbox consoles. While that day has not yet arrived, we now at least have a solid release window: holiday 2021. Before the end of the year, Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S and Xbox One owners will be able to stream full games to their consoles rather than having to download individual titles. Eventually, this feature will also let Xbox One players experience Xbox Series X/S-exclusive games.

Information comes from Microsoft's Gamescom 2021 presentation, summarized in the official Xbox Wire blog. Cloud gaming on consoles has been in the works for a while, but now we have hard details on how the service will work. 

First and foremost, like cloud gaming on Android, iOS and Windows 10 devices, cloud gaming on Xbox consoles will require an Xbox Game Pass Ultimate membership ($15 per month). The program will start by offering more than 100 games; the subscription service offers more than 300 overall, but the rest will probably come later. Any Xbox cloud gaming title will have a small cloud icon in the lower-right corner. We know that Ori and the Will of the Wisps, Minecraft Dungeons, Sea of Thieves, Destiny 2 and Forza Horizon 4 will be part of the program.

Microsoft explained that each game will aim for 1080p resolution and 60 frames per second, which is the same target as Xbox Cloud Gaming (Beta) for PCs and mobile devices. The program will also be available to Xbox Insiders this fall, so if you've beta-tested any Xbox features in the past, you may get a chance to try this one out early as well.

However, one of the most interesting Xbox cloud gaming console features won't come right away. Microsoft highlighted the program's potential to play "Gen 9-only Xbox games like Microsoft Flight SImulator and The Medium on your Xbox One." This means that Xbox One owners will be able to play Xbox Series X/S-exclusive games, provided they don't mind streaming rather than downloading. However, this functionality probably won't come until 2022, at the earliest.

Tom's Guide has tested Xbox cloud gaming in its myriad forms, including for Android, iOS and Windows 10. Generally speaking, we were pleased with the Android and Windows 10 performance, but thought the iOS functionality left something to be desired. Still, the whole Xbox cloud gaming program is still in beta, so it's not going to be perfect for a while yet. We imagine that console streaming may also have a rough start, then improve over time.

We'll have a more thorough writeup of Xbox cloud gaming on consoles later this year. In the meantime, you can try the feature on your PC or smartphone.

Marshall Honorof

Marshall Honorof is a senior editor for Tom's Guide, overseeing the site's coverage of gaming hardware and software. He comes from a science writing background, having studied paleomammalogy, biological anthropology, and the history of science and technology. After hours, you can find him practicing taekwondo or doing deep dives on classic sci-fi.