Microsoft’s bid on mobile gaming via the cloud will be in the public eye soon, at least in the US, UK, and South Korea.
Registrations for Project xCloud have opened, and Microsoft says players will be phased in slowly during the public preview. The preview will launch with four Xbox One exclusives: Halo 5: Guardians, Gears 5, Killer Instinct, and Sea of Thieves, with more games to be added later. At least for now, no one needs to buy or own anything other than an Android-capable phone or tablet, which is currently the only platform that will carry the Microsoft Game Streaming app. The app will be available in the weeks to come, and all the games will be streamed online over the cloud.
“The preview will continue until customers are consistently reporting a great, fun experience, and the technology meets our internal quality standards,” said Kareem Choudhry, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of Project xCloud in a blog announcement.
Questions linger on whether there’s enough wireless Internet infrastructure (or customers) in the US to support this or Google’s own bid for cloud-based gaming, Stadia. Games like Gears 5 and Halo 5 produce 4K images running at 60 frames per second, a high demand for CPUs within consoles, let alone streamed – a process that must register user inputs, transmit that data to a cloud server, render the resulting action, compress that data, transmit it back to the user and decompress it.
That fact is probably why the project is also previewing in South Korea, the nation with the fastest Internet speeds in the world, and where most of its biggest city is bathed in high-speed WiFi. As of last month, South Korea had the fastest global average of mobile Internet speeds, and by 2015, the nation achieved an Internet penetration rate of 90 percent.
In early September, Microsoft announced a partnership with Korea conglomerate SK Telecom to deliver 5G-based gaming through Project xCloud. In the US and the UK, xCloud partners are T-Mobile and Vodafone respectively. Microsoft stresses that these are only “technical partnerships” to assist with optimization and that any carrier service will work.
The only requirements to participate in the preview: A phone or tablet running Android 6.0 or higher with Bluetooth 4.0, a Microsoft account and a Bluetooth-enabled Xbox One controller.
Paired with the growing success of Xbox Game Pass (a monthly subscription lets you download select games a la carte), and the introduction of the disc-less Xbox One S, Microsoft is betting on an all-digital gaming future. Gears 5 was offered for free at launch for XBox Game Pass subscribers, giving the service its biggest success with 3 million players on the game’s opening weekend.
Kotaku Editor in Chief Stephen Totilo tried the xCloud service wirelessly at the Electronic Entertainment Expo this year and found that Halo 5 “ran fine” and seems viable as a way to check in on a game when you’re away from a console, but not enough to ditch your home box quite yet.
© The Washington Post 2019