Xbox Cloud Gaming: Can Microsoft Get It Right?

By Shaan Khan

When the gaming world was wrapping its head around the potential of Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality after experiencing the Oculus Quest or playing Pokémon Go—Google suddenly soaked up gamer’s attentions by bringing Cloud Gaming technology into the spotlight of the masses with Google Stadia.

Today, many tech reviews brand Google Stadia as underwhelming and dampened the excitement for Cloud Gaming. So, where did Google Stadia go wrong and how does the upcoming product of Xbox Cloud Gaming give gamers newfound hope?

Cloud Gaming

Firstly, in terms of technology, picture Cloud Gaming as ‘The Netflix of Video Games’. Through an app or web browser on any compatible smart device such as smartphones and tablets, you will be able to stream video games that you can play! Not just watch like you would on YouTube or Twitch.

Video games with high graphic fidelity that can’t run natively on most smart devices will be streamed from powerful PCs or consoles that we don’t need to own, to the smart devices that we do own!

It cancels out the need to spend a large sum of money on high-powered hardware, but now cloud gaming unlocks the ability to play any game we want on a single device.

Some other benefits include:

  • Portability – Games that once required you to play while stationary on heavyweight hardware can now be played on lightweight devices you can take anywhere without being tethered to cables.
  • Power Efficient – Unlike Cloud Gaming, other portable devices such as laptops and The Steam Deck that play graphically-intensive games natively will be taxing on battery life and need to be put on charge constantly—raising your household electricity usage in the process.
  • Cost-Effective – Video games are advancing every year; this means expensive high-end hardware that run them need to keep up in power. In the long run, your smart devices will last longer as gaming devices because you don’t need to worry about having the optimal native hardware to run them—in theory, all these future games can be streamed onto existing smart devices.

That covers the basis of the technology, but history dictates that the service from Cloud Gaming providers matters most. Including the current landscape of internet technology.

The Past Mistakes of Cloud Gaming

To be ‘The Netflix of Video Games’, Google Stadia had to execute the business model and service of Netflix. At first, it seemed plausible. Google Stadia required you to pay a monthly subscription to use the Cloud Gaming service as Netflix does—the problem was that you also had to pay full price for the video games.

This business model was flawed since once you pay a monthly subscription fee for Netflix, you have access to an extensive catalogue of movies, anime and tv series to watch at no extra cost—this is what people wanted for Cloud Gaming.

To make matters worse, the library of games Google Stadia provided was limited. The same issue was present with competitors entering the Cloud Gaming scene, where you must buy a game before streaming it or have access to a limited library for a monthly fee.

The Pros of Xbox Cloud Gaming

The past options for Cloud Gaming turned people away from the technology until news on Project xCloud began to surface—the first rumours of the soon-to-be confirmed service by Microsoft called Xbox Cloud Gaming.

Xbox already provides an exceptional monthly subscription service called Xbox Game Pass, where you pay a small monthly fee to access a large catalogue of games that no other platform could compete with.

Now it’s confirmed that Xbox Cloud Gaming will be integrated into the Xbox Game Pass. So not only do you have access to native games you can download, but also games you can instantly stream at no extra cost of the monthly subscription fee!

Xbox Cloud Gaming or simply ‘Xbox Game Pass’ is precisely ‘The Netflix of Video Games’ and more. With the growing popularity of the service, Xbox even releases brand new triple-A games onto the subscription service—it’s the equivalent of a blockbuster movie going from Cinemas to Netflix on Day 1.

Other additional benefits to Xbox Cloud Gaming include:

  • Touch Control Support – Xbox has provided developers with cloud-aware APIs for touch-native experiences. Critics have praised the touch controls, especially the latency, and it is a viable alternative to using an Xbox controller or keyboard and mouse, which both are available, too.
  • Synced Saves – Accessing a game across Microsoft platforms, both natively and via the cloud, will continue your progress by allowing you to sync saves.
  • Microsoft Ecosystem  Xbox games can now be played between desktop PCs, consoles and smart devices. Your content can seamlessly hop between whatever platform you choose to play on throughout the day, offering convenience and is the pure definition of ‘pick-up-and-play-anytime-anywhere’.

Who is Xbox Cloud Gaming for?

Xbox Cloud Gaming is still in the beta testing phase, where certain users can choose to participate and experience the service not in its polished state to offer feedback for improvements.

A big hurdle all Cloud Gaming services face is internet connectivity. There needs to be a stable internet connection between host and user for the stream to be smooth and high quality. So if you choose to try out Cloud Gaming, make sure you have stable and fast internet.

Since the service is in its early stages, not all developers have utilised Xbox’s cloud-aware APIs to incorporate touch controls in their games. This could be an issue for some users with high expectations for touch controls. 

Finally, Cloud Gaming is for people who want a future of less bulky hardware that crowds their living spaces but comes at the cost of not having ownership of games and hardware.

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