xCloud, now Xbox cloud gaming: Games, pricing and more you need to know

Lori Grunin/CNET

Microsoft has been testing its xCloud cloud-gaming platform, the technology that lets you play Xbox games on your phone, streamed from remote servers, for about a year. Now we’ve come to the part where the free ride for testers ends and it’s time to pony up for the privilege via a subscription to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate. And as frequently happens with many a clever project name, “xCloud” has been swept into obscurity; Microsoft considers the technology an integral part of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate and now refers to it generically as “cloud gaming.” We’re going to keep calling it xCloud, though, at least until there’s a better shorthand for it.

How much does xCloud cost and when can I get it?

People who signed up for the preview can keep playing for free until Sept. 11; though the official launch is Sept. 15, in a surprise move Microsoft opened the beta up to current Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscribers starting Aug. 11. Ultimately, it will be part of that plan for $15/month (£11/month. Sorry, not available yet in Australia). 

Microsoft says you’ll have other ways to access it in the future, but hasn’t said when, how or how much. I’m guessing a standalone subscription for streaming games you already own is at the top of the list.

Unlike competitors Google Stadia and Nvidia GeForce Now (GFN), there’s no free tier for Xbox’s cloud gaming. Microsoft’s running a first-month-for-$1 (£1) offer which will likely continue, and a three-month free trial will be available through partners, such as Samsung.

Some people consider the fact that Xbox Game Pass comes as part of the streaming deal makes it a winner compared with Stadia, which is still ramping up on games and GeForce Now, which is a bring-your-own-game platform.

What devices can I play on and what are the requirements?

Any mobile device running Android 6 (Marshmallow) or better and has Bluetooth version 4 or later for a wireless controller, plus a connection with a bandwidth of at least 10Gbps — on a 5GHz channel if you’re on Wi-Fi. You can download the app from the Google Play Store or the Samsung Galaxy Store.

Keep in mind, though, that as with all cloud gaming it’s about more than bandwidth. Microsoft doesn’t specify minimum latency or jitter for a playable experience, and those make a big difference. 

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My impressions of Microsoft X-cloud after one week


XGS doesn’t include streaming to PC like Stadia and GFN do, so it’s not a solution for playing on low-power potato PC or playing Windows games on a Mac. You can play XGP games on a PC via the still-in-beta Xbox Game Pass PC, but those are installed and played on your local system.

But what about iOS? Can I play on my iPhone?

Nope. There was a brief beta flirtation with it, but it’s all gone now. 

Microsoft isn’t alone here. Apple doesn’t let you play via Google’s Stadia, Nvidia’s GeForce Now, Sony‘s PlayStation Now or any cloud-gaming platforms because of its App Store policies. The whole situation has led some to consider if Xbox Game Pass is a good enough reason to switch from iPhone to Android


The Razer Kishi is one of the controllers developed specifically for mobile gaming, and there’s a version for xCloud.

Lori Grunin/CNET

Do I need a controller?

Yes. Only a few games like Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice and Gears 5 support touch controls at the moment. But you can use any Xbox-compatible wireless controller with it, you don’t need to buy a specific model endorsed by Microsoft. No keyboard and mouse support, which is unsurprising given that it doesn’t run on any devices you’d use with a keyboard and mouse.

How do I buy games?

You don’t. You can stream many of the games in the Xbox Game Pass subscription library

On the upside, that includes day one play of many new titles from Xbox Game Studios. If you choose to buy a game, your membership entitles you to discounts on titles in the catalog. They all support crossplay with PC and console versions, as well as any crossplay already supported on other platforms, like the Nintendo Switch or PS4.


Xbox Game Streaming on the xCloud-specific PowerA Moga XP5-X.

Lori Grunin/CNET

What games can I play?

Microsoft says “100+ games” will be available for play on mobile at launch. As of this writing, the beta has 104, many of them Xbox Game Studios titles. Microsoft only formally announced 30 of the launch games:

The list includes some titles that weren’t in the beta, though, such as The Outer Worlds, so hopefully there will be some surprises. But, as with all of these services, games move in and out of the catalog. Those are not pleasant surprises.

Can I chat? What about streaming gameplay?

You can chat in-game with the phone’s mic. To stream gameplay you’ll need a third-party app; there’s no in-game support. That’s too bad, because you could probably get far better quality if you could render and transmit the broadcast stream via the server rather than locally on your phone.

Cancellation policy

If you stop subscribing, you keep your progress and achievements if you buy the game from Microsoft, but obviously lose the ability to play on mobile.

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