Project xCloud, the streaming service announced by Microsoft during E3 2018, is finally here, in some form at least. Microsoft announced during today’s Inside Xbox special today that it has begun accepting sign-ups, which you can do here. It’s actually fairly easy too, as long as you’re in one of the three supported regions (US, UK and South Korea). Simply use the sign-up page to opt-in with your Xbox account, and use the linking process is done and the beta goes live, you can start gaming with a limited series of titles. So far, only Android devices running Android 6.0 will be supported for the beta, with the additional requirement that your phone supports Bluetooth 4.0 to enable some other features.
And much like Google Stadia, xCloud bills itself as an answer to the question, “What are the billions of gamers with only mobile phones to do if they want to experience console gaming?” Project xCloud is a cloud-based computing platform designed to take any number of games and stream them directly to any supported device, be that a console, PC, Smart TV or smartphone. The experience sounds strikingly similar, and it is, to Stadia. Although whereas Stadia offers both a structured “Pro” variant with monthly access to free games, as well as a choice-based option. By comparison xCloud still has not revealed anymore details about its pricing structure. It seems likely though that the service will offer both an à la carte and monthly option.
There is no set ending date for the xCloud public preview. Instead, Microsoft plans on continuing trials until it feels that the service has been given significant stress-testing and feedback. The beta is open to users in select regions now, with registration open for beta access in US, UK and South Korean regions as of now.
Microsoft Azure, the global cloud network built into more than 140 countries, will form the core backbone for xCloud, with specialized hardware within those same datacenters to form the core component of xCloud’s game streaming. Microsoft has partnered with T-Mobile to allow its LTE backbone to help augment the service for mobile users too. It will be very interesting to see how the bandwidth and data usage challenges that Google Stadia faces will be dealt with by Microsoft. It could be possible that they implement a more bandwidth-friendly option and use that as a marketing point. If Microsoft can offer decent resolution and FPS rates with less than the 25 Mbps overhead of Stadia, then they might have a pretty good edge.
While we don’t know when the beta will end, or when the full featureset will launch, we can expect more news soon. Microsoft says it’s going to share even more information at its X019 fan event in November.