What is Project xCloud? The short of it is that xCloud is the upcoming streaming service from Microsoft's Xbox team. It's currently available in a closed beta status, and allows you to stream games to your Android smartphone.
There's a varied collection of titles to choose from. Both new and old. If you want to learn more about Project xCloud, this guide aims to break it down for you with more detail.
What is Project xCloud and when is it available?
Project xCloud is Microsoft's cloud gaming platform that allows users to play games from a curated Xbox catalog.
It works by streaming the games from Microsoft's servers (which are a massive collection of Xbox units) on your device of choice. Which at the moment is limited to just Android smartphones, in addition to iOS with a little more limitation.
The service is currently available right now. So if you already have an xCloud account you can login and play games on your phone anytime you like. It is worth noting though, that Project xCloud is currently in a beta status.
A closed beta status at that. Meaning you still need to signup to be part of the beta and may not get chosen. Microsoft has stated though that it will be continuing to add more people to the beta as the year goes on and it gets closer to an official launch.
That being said, you'll want to signup for the Project xCloud closed beta if you haven't already done so. You can start that process by following this guide here.
Though xCloud is still in beta, it will officially be launching in September as part of a bundle with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, as confirmed this morning by Xbox Head Phil Spencer. At no extra charge no less. There was no mention of a standalone version of xCloud in Spencer's announcement. Though chances are there will be a standalone offering that isn't part of the Game Pass bundle.
Where is Project xCloud available?
At the moment Project xCloud is only available in a few different regions around the globe.
Microsoft is doing this to help narrow the scope of users that have access. For the time being, Project xCloud is only available in the US, the UK, South Korea, and Canada.
At this time Microsoft has not shared any plans on when it will expand the preview to new regions. That said, it will officially announce when new regions are being added.
In the meantime, you're still better off signing up as soon as possible so you get notified when your region is added in. That is if it isn't already.
How much does Project xCloud cost?
This is the best part about Project xCloud over other services. It's completely FREE. You read that right. Free.
Now, keep in mind that the service is free because it's still just a preview. Eventually, Microsoft will end up charging for Project xCloud. Or whatever it ends up being called when it launches as a product that the company wants to sell you on.
For now, though, you won't pay a penny to access it. You do need to have the proper equipment. And it might cost you money for that. Project xCloud itself however will cost you nothing.
So if you have the device to play it on and a gamepad to use, then your only worry is actually being accepted into the preview. If you happen to make it in, you have a growing list of games to play at no cost. Which is fantastic.
When xCloud launches in September it will still be free if picked up in the Game Pass Ultimate bundle, as it will be included. If there ends up being a standalone version of xCloud there has so far been no stated cost.
What devices are compatible with the xCloud preview?
Virtually anything running on Android is the shortest answer here. And, it's not really far off the mark.
You can use Project xCloud on an Android smartphone or tablet as long as it meets the basic requirements. The first of those basic requirements is that the phone needs to be running on Android 6.0 or later.
This means if your device isn't on Marshmallow (it should be as most devices have been for years) the service won't be accessible. The other thing your device needs is Bluetooth 4.0 support or later.
That's really it. If your device meets those two things, you can play games through Project xCloud. And it does work with both phones and tablets. Whereas similar services, like GeForce NOW, only work with phones at the moment.
This gives Project xCloud a nice little advantage. As the tablet could definitely make for a better experience because of the bigger screen.
What are the supported gamepads?
While the list of supported gamepads is not as big as with GeForce NOW, it's not limited to just one gamepad.
Optimally you might want to use the Xbox One controller, as these are Xbox games you're playing and they might work best with that. You can use others though. The Razer Junglecat is a supported gamepad, for example. As is the more recently launched Razer Kishi.
You can also use the DualShock 4 as Microsoft added support for it earlier this year. It may also work with other Bluetooth gamepads, but Microsoft hasn't confirmed this.
Officially, xCloud actually supports the smallest number of controllers of the four cloud gaming platforms that are out there. As both Stadia and GeForce NOW officially support more than three gamepads, and Shadow basically supports any peripheral you can think of as long as it's Bluetooth.
The good news for most people, is that they likely already have an Xbox One controller or a DualShock 4. The only catch with the Xbox controller is that it needs to be a Bluetooth model and not all of them are.
What games can you play on xCloud?
Many, many games. Some of the heavy hitters include ACE COMBAT 7, Halo 5: Guardians, Borderlands 2, Destiny 2, Forza Motorsport 7, and Gears 5. Those are just a handful.
Altogether there are now 87 games in Project xCloud. Some of them are new and some of them are not. But, all of them are no doubt fun to someone as everyone has different tastes.
87 games is also too many games to list out here, so you can view them all from the included screenshots in this particular segment.
Also worth noting is that some of the newer games are titles which retail normally anywhere from $40-$60. So again, this shows that xCloud has some pretty insane value. We'll continue to state this. If you aren't signed up for the preview, and you like playing games, do yourself a favor and sign up.
It's also highly likely that the number of games on xCloud will increase as time goes on. Microsoft has confirmed that this is a multi-year project. Which leaves a lot of room for more games to be added as it continues to test the service and add more players into the mix.
Can you stream games over mobile data?
Surprisingly, yes. You can play games over mobile data if you're so inclined. There is an option for this in the settings menu. Though you'd be forgiven for having missed it if you never really poked around the app much.
Simply tap on the icon for your profile in the bottom navigation tab and a toggle for mobile data will be one of the first options you see.
You can turn this on or off at your leisure, but if you anticipate using xCloud from time to time outside of the home when there's no WiFi, you may want to keep it on. Just be aware that it will eat up a lot of data in the process.
So be prepared for that in regards to your cell phone plan. Interestingly, xCloud is really the only service that allows the use of mobile data to stream games. At least officially.
You can use both GeForce NOW and Stadia with mobile data but it requires a workaround. The only way to get those services to work with mobile data instead of WiFi, is to first set up hotspot sharing on another device.
After that you can connect your Stadia or GeForce NOW phone to that other device via WiFi. Since it's using mobile data from that first device, you don't really need a proper WiFi connection. Again though, it may not provide the best experience if the data isn't very fast. Furthermore, if the connection is weak.
xCloud won't necessarily be any better at streaming games over mobile data. However if you're using the service on a 5G phone in an area where you actually get 5G upload and download speeds, then it may work really well.
Are there any additional features?
Not really. The only features that could really be considered features are the availability to play over mobile data, as well as the ability to appear offline.
The second one could be useful if you want to play games without being interrupted. Since this is tied to your Xbox account, your friends can still see you online if you're streaming games via xCloud. Which means they can message you.
And as any gamer likely knows, sometimes you just want to play a game without interruptions. This is what that toggle is for.
Eventually, xCloud may get more features added. At the current time though Microsoft hasn't said anything about adding more in. If they do pop up, they might not be added until the service has been launched.
What are the requirements to use the service?
The list for this is pretty small and mostly lenient. You do need to have these four components to play, but there is some variability to them.
You'll need to have a smartphone or tablet that can run the app, which needs to have Android 6.0 and Bluetooth 4.0. You will also need to have a compatible controller, whether it be an Xbox One Wireless controller, or a DualShock 4 or any of the supported Bluetooth gamepads. Of which there aren't many currently.
Of course you also need internet. If you're playing via WiFi then you will need to be connected to a 5GHz internet connection. If you're playing via mobile data, then your connection will need to have at least 10Mbps download speeds.
This isn't too hard to achieve as many major metropolitan areas have speeds that are way faster than that. And to be honest the faster the better. You don't want to be shooting for the bare minimum here where cloud gaming is concerned.
Lastly, you need to have the game streaming app installed on your device, and have an Xbox account that was accepted into the preview program. Meet all of those requirements and you're good to start playing games.
What are the benefits of xCloud?
In general? Games, virtually anywhere. Over other services? Again, games. And it's free.
Much like GeForce NOW was free when it was still in beta, xCloud is free for users right now because…. it's in beta. The obvious reason is because Microsoft wants to continue testing things. And it obviously doesn't see the point in charging for something that isn't fully baked.
When the time is right, it will no doubt set up a pay model that works for it just like it has with Game Pass. The biggest benefit of course is the large game list.
Since the service is free and the games are free, you have a huge list of games to play. Arguably, the game library on GeForce NOW is bigger. But only if you have purchased games. With xCloud, you have 87 games at your fingertips and you don't have to buy any of them.
Another benefit is the ability to play over mobile data properly. Meaning you can toggle on the capability or toggle it off without needing to connect your phone or tablet to another device's hotspot.
You may not have the best experience if the mobile data connection isn't very strong or fast, but it's there nonetheless.
xCloud also works with Android tablets in addition to Android phones. GeForce NOW and Stadia only work with phones when it comes to the mobile device compatibility. Phones are definitely more portable, but the bigger screen on a tablet no doubt provides a better gaming experience visually.
What are the downsides?
There aren't many really. You could argue that a fair portion of the games are older. But, you don't have to pay for them right now so that's really a non-issue.
There's no reason to complain about free games, especially if they're good. One downside is that the preview is closed access. You need to signup and you may not be accepted right away. In fact it could be more than a month before you get the email granting you access.
It's also possible that the streaming quality may not work that well. This depends mostly on your connection conditions, but there are times where that doesn't matter. Gears 5 for example didn't work well for me on my 5GHz connection with a 350Mbps download speed.
The only other notable issue is that there aren't many gamepads that are supported. Officially the service works with the Razer Junglecat, the Xbox One wireless, and the DualShock 4. This will expand over time more than likely, but right now you're limited to just those options.
Is Project xCloud right for you?
Unless you absolutely hate being able to play AAA games for free, then yes. Project xCloud is perfect for any gamer. At least for right now.
Once Microsoft begins to charge for it, then consumers will need to weigh out whether or not it's better than other competing options. If they only end up choosing one. Some users will have all the available options, in which case it'll be perfect for them too.
In its current state though, it's right for you as long as you have the necessary requirements met. Which aren't very stringent to begin with.
The bottom line is if you like games, Project xCloud is absolutely worth looking into. Even more so if you have an Xbox One and currently use it.