Xbox Cloud Gaming is now on consoles

Most, but not all of the 100+ titles currently available on Xbox Game Pass are compatible with Cloud Gaming. Available games are marked with a cloud icon in the lower right corner of the title card. (Photo by Thomas Wilde)

As part of this week’s slow scrolling of major Xbox announcements, Microsoft said on Wednesday that’s it Cloud Gaming Service Now available on Xbox One and Series X consoles | S in 25 regions, including the United States.

Microsoft has previously announced that Cloud Gaming will arrive on consoles at some point this year, but hasn’t given a specific date.

The new feature allows Game Pass Ultimate subscribers to play a wide variety of games directly from Microsoft’s cloud servers without downloading or installing anything. Cloud-compatible games – apparently most, but not all, in the current Game Pass lineup – are labeled within the app with a cloud icon.

Xbox owners should be aware that the service may not be available at console startup if the new 650MB system update is not installed. I noticed that my Series X doesn’t automatically start updating at launch and I have to manually enable it through the Settings menu. If you’re a Game Pass Ultimate subscriber and you don’t see any Cloud Gaming options, you might be in the same boat. Once that’s sorted, however, compatible games have a new Play button in their settings screen.

As a useful side effect for Xbox fans who haven’t been able to defend Series X | S, Cloud Gaming allows Xbox One owners to play cloud-compatible current-generation exclusive games, such as medium and Recompile, on their old hardware at X quality resolution | Full S. More Xbox exclusives are expected to join the Cloud Gaming roster in early 2022, including Year 2021 Microsoft Flight Simulator.

Another advantage of Cloud Gaming over a service like Xbox Game Pass is the “try before you buy” aspect. Under the previous system, you still had to download files locally to play Game Pass titles, but Cloud Gaming lets you join a new game in less than a minute.

To play Game Pass games out of the cloud, look for the Play button in the settings UI. (Photo: Thomas Wilde)

There’s an immediacy to the process that really helps the Game Pass’s intended purpose Xbox VP Sarah Bond calls “discovery engine”; You can surf in and out of the game in seconds. If the standard Game Pass is a restaurant, Cloud Gaming turns it into an all-you-can-eat buffet.

The downside, as with any other cloud-based gaming initiative, is massive bandwidth. Even if you intentionally revert your stream quality to 1080p or lower, any prolonged use of Xbox Cloud Gaming will land you directly in any data caps you may have. If you are working with wireless, unstable or residential internet service, Cloud Gaming goes from useless to disadvantageous.

That same bandwidth consumption also makes Cloud Gaming an unreliable choice for games with always-online functionality, such as Outriders or State of Decay 2. You can still play them, but in my experience latency will likely be a factor.

The implementation of Cloud Gaming on the Xbox console completes a wide range of compatible devices including iOS, Android, and web browsers. According to Microsoft’s head of product, Catherine Gluckstein, Xbox Cloud Gaming is now available for more than a billion devices worldwide.

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