Microsoft has started testing their Xbox Game Pass Cloud Gaming (formerly Project xCloud) service through a plain old web browser, The Verge reports. The closed beta is currently limited to Microsoft employees ahead of a public preview, but lays the foundations for an expansion fo Xbox Game Pass to support streaming to PC, Mac and Linux, as well as iPhones and iPads.
Functionally similar to xCloud for Android tablet and phone, the web version lets you browse a library of games with the ability to resume recently played games. You’ll have access to all the games enabled for Cloud Gaming via Xbox Game Pass Ultimate. The two requirements are a Chromium-based web browser – Microsoft Edge and Google Chrome are compatible – and a controller in order to play.
While reaching PCs is great, and will allow Microsoft to try and draw owners of lower-powered PCs to the subscription service, letting them play Xbox games that would otherwise require a high-powered gaming PC, the real target in the crosshairs is iOS. Through 2019 and 2020, Apple rebuffed Microsoft’s plans to add Cloud Gaming to their Xbox Game Pass app on iOS, refusing to accommodate game streaming services like Google Stadia, Project xCloud and Amazon Luna in the app store. Apple said Microsoft would need to submit individual games for review, a process that Microsoft labeled a “bad experience for customers.”
This left Microsoft to focus first on Android, where a dedicated app is allowed, but they have now followed in Amazon Luna‘s footsteps and will offer the service as a web app. The move was announced last September, with Microsoft promising Cloud Gaming will come to PC and iOS in Spring 2021. If testing has just started, it’s a sign that the company is on track to meet that target.
Microsoft have steadily broadened the reach of their game streaming service over the last two years, bringing it to more countries, testing on various platforms, and eventually bundling Xbox Game Pass cloud gaming in September for all Game Pass Ultimate subscribers.
One potential area that will hold the service back in the long run is the quality of the streaming itself. The server blades powering the service are all based on Xbox One S hardware, limiting the game streams to 720p and 30 frames per second. While Stadia and Luna both tout more powerful servers with 1080p and 4K streaming, Microsoft will have to start rolling out Xbox Series X-based servers before they can compete in terms of visual fidelity and performance. That won’t happen any time soon when they need every chip they can get to shove into consoles!
Microsoft will have been buoyed with the announcement from Google that they are closing Stadia’s internal game development studios, and will instead simply offer games from third parties. This has cemented the feeling that Stadia cannot and will not compete directly with PlayStation and Xbox, and also that Microsoft can grab a commanding lead in the realms of game streaming, especially when they also have ambitions to expand to smart TVs and streaming sticks.
Source: The Verge