Project xCloud Hands-on: Is Xbox Streaming the Future of Games?

LOS ANGELES - Google isn’t the only major player looking to take gaming to the cloud — with Project xCloud, Microsoft will soon let you stream a myriad of Xbox One games to your phone or tablet no matter where you are. I got my hands on the new streaming platform at E3 2019, and despite some stumbles, xCloud shows some exciting promise.

Of the three games I played on xCloud (which was running on an Android phone attached to an Xbox One controller), Halo 5: Guardians felt the smoothest. I barely noticed any latency as I flew around in a Banshee and shot enemies out of the sky, and the game’s slick sci-fi visuals looked accurate to the Xbox One version with minimal fuzziness.

Gears of War 4 and Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice were a mixed bag. While Hellblade’s sharp cinematic visuals translated pretty well over Wi-Fi, I felt some fairly significant lag as I moved my camera around in both games. This was especially frustrating in Gears, a heavy third-person shooter that demands precise aim and smooth movement. I eventually got used to the latency and could see myself using xCloud to knock out a few campaign missions, but would definitely avoid it for online multiplayer sessions.

When it launches, xCloud will be available in two variations. The Project xCloud service will let you stream games from Xbox’s data center (a la Google Stadia), presumably for some kind of subscription fee. Alternatively, you can use Console Streaming to stream games from your own Xbox One to your phone or tablet. The latter option will release in preview this October. When I asked Xbox's Corporate VP of Gaming Mike Ybarra whether or not the non-console version of xCloud will come with a monthly fee, he said that the company will have more to share later this year.

Overall, my experience with xCloud felt comparable with my time with services like Google Stadia and Shadow. I’m still not convinced that the future of gaming is in the cloud, but it seems like a handy option for when I want to chip away at a few non-competitive games on the go.

Credit: Tom's Guide

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Michael Andronico

Mike Andronico is Senior Writer at CNNUnderscored. He was formerly Managing Editor at Tom's Guide, where he wrote extensively on gaming, as well as running the show on the news front. When not at work, you can usually catch him playing Street Fighter, devouring Twitch streams and trying to convince people that Hawkeye is the best Avenger.