Project xCloud has been in a beta preview for a few months now, but only allows games to be streamed from the cloud to Android phones and tablets. However, that looks like it will change with the service set to arrive for Game Pass users on Xbox One and Windows 10 machines.
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With 10 million Xbox Game Pass subscribers, Microsoft has a vast audience to tap into, so bundling xCloud into the subscription service is one way to get more people on its cloud-powered game streaming project. And it could potentially bring the concept of a "Netflix for games" into mainstream use.
“Later this year our cloud game streaming technology, Project xCloud, will come to Game Pass—so you and your friends can stream and play the games you love together on your devices,” said Xbox boss Phil Spencer.
While the Project xCloud beta is currently limited to around 50 games, notably Halo: The Master Chief Collection and Gears 5, it could eventually let people stream an extensive list of Xbox One, Xbox 360 and even original Xbox games thanks to Game Pass. And since these games will stream over the cloud, storage space on an Xbox One console or Windows 10 PC won’t be taken up by hefty downloads.
There’s also the neat trick of syncing game saves across the services, meaning you can pick up where you may have left a game while playing on an Xbox One X and then carry on playing it remotely on an Android phone over a 4G connection. We’ve tried this in the xCloud preview and it works very well, though a good internet connection is needed for smooth performance.
Xbox Game Pass is almost certainly going to be extended to the Xbox Series X. That could mean that game streaming will come to Microsoft's new console, and that next-gen games could possible be streamed to PCs and mobile devices eventually. That versatility and game selection could give Microsoft a big advantage over PS5. Sony does have its own game-streaming service in the form of PlayStation Now, but Project xCloud could win in terms of sheer versatility and game selection.
“We’re also inspired to deliver you our fastest, most powerful console ever that will set a new bar for performance, feel, speed and compatibility when it releases this holiday; as well as a library of games from our 15 Xbox Game Studios and thousands of development partners around the world,” said Spencer.
Microsoft has said that all first-party games for its Xbox arm will also be made available for Windows 10, which would also suggest that such games will come to Xbox Game Pass and thus be part of xCloud game streaming. So before the year is out there’s a chance you could end up streaming Halo Infinite to your Android smartphone, which is a tantalising prospect for people who want high-end gaming on the go.