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How to try Project xCloud on iOS (if you still can)

project xcloud
(Image credit: Microsoft)

Now that Google Stadia (read our full Google Stadia review) and Nvidia GeForce Now are in full release, the next big game-streaming frontier lies in Microsoft’s Project xCloud. This novel service will allow gamers to stream Xbox titles to their smartphones directly from the cloud; no Xbox required. Up until now, the service has been in beta on Android devices, which has left iOS users wondering when their turn will come.

The answer is “now” — or, more accurately, Feb. 12. That’s when Larry Hryb, aka Major Nelson, director of programming at Xbox Live, wrote a blog post proclaiming that the xCloud beta on iOS had officially begun. There’s only one catch: So many people wanted to get in on the action, that the iOS beta is already at capacity. If you haven’t signed up already, you’ll have to wait until the next round of testing (if there is one).

In case Microsoft decides it needs more streamers, here’s what you need to know: The beta is open to U.S., UK and Canada residents who possess a Microsoft account, an iPhone or iPad (iOS 13.0 or later, as well as Bluetooth 4.0), an Xbox One controller and a 10 Mbps wireless connection. Assuming you possess all of those things, you can try to register for an xCloud Preview account, then follow some prompts to install TestFlight on your iOS device. This will allow you to use pre-release software, as Apple doesn’t allow third-party installations like Android does.

For those who successfully registered for the beta, there are a few limitations to keep in mind. First of all, the only game available will be Halo: The Master Chief Collection. Android users have access to more games, but Hryb explained that Apple’s app store policy restricts how much Microsoft can host on TestFlight. Furthermore, the TestFlight preview doesn’t include Xbox Console Streaming, which lets you stream games you’ve installed on your Xbox to a smartphone, rather than relying on games in the cloud.

Finally, while Microsoft recruited 10,000 volunteers for this project, it may not need them all for the beta’s total duration. Or, it may require more volunteers than anticipated, so if you haven’t signed up yet, doing so couldn’t hurt. If you do get an invite, though, don’t be shocked if your access suddenly gets cut off. Microsoft is probably just as eager to get through the beta and open up the service as you are.

Project xCloud has incredible potential as a game-streaming service, since it takes advantage of the Xbox One’s excellent game library, and could work in conjunction with the comprehensive Xbox Game Pass. This would give players the freedom to stream or download more than 100 games as they see fit, on a variety of platforms they already own.

As for how well Project xCloud works in practice, we’ll have to wait and see. The service should get a full release sometime later this year.