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Xbox Cloud Gaming (formerly known as Project xCloud and colloquially referred to as xCloud) is Microsoft’s Xbox cloud gaming service. Initially released in beta testing in November 2019, the service later launched for subscribers of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate on September 15, 2020. Xbox Game Pass cloud gaming is provided to subscribers of Ultimate at no additional cost.
Cloud gaming is available in the following 26 countries: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States. By 2020, Microsoft plans to add more countries over time. As of November 2020, Microsoft started receiving applications from users to participate in preview testing in additional countries.
The ideas for the cloud service came within Microsoft around 2016, around the same time that Kareem Choudhry developed the Xbox 360 backwards compatibility for the Xbox One. As his team developed this solution, Choudhry also had the idea if they could provide these games without having need of a console, and got Spencer’s go-ahead to start a small team to determine the feasibility of cloud gaming. The technology was deemed successful enough at around the time of Xbox Game Pass’s introduction that Microsoft assembled a larger team to build up the cloud gaming platform.
Microsoft teased the service at E3 2018 and formally announced Project xCloud several months later, in October 2018. They demonstrated the service in March 2019 with the racing game Forza Horizon 4 playing on an Android smartphone with an Xbox One controller. Xbox head Phil Spencer used a private server during this time to test games on a remote connection. The service entered its home testing phase in May 2019, when it could be used outside the lab environment. It entered public testing later in the year and was unveiled at E3 2019.
Microsoft said that its Xbox content library will make its service more appealing than competitors such as Stadia. The hardware at launch used Xbox One S-based blade servers, but began to transition to Xbox Series X-based servers in June 2021. Each server initially had four customized Xbox One S-based units for the 2018 teaser, but this was doubled to eight per server in a 2U enclosure for the service’s launch in 2019. Compared to the standard Xbox One S, power consumption has been reduced by 30% through processor-specific power tuning. Video output is set for 120 Hz to reduce latency.
Trials of the service began in October 2019, and as of November 2019, the service hosts 50 games, with support in testing for Apple Inc.’s iOS mobile devices, and for Sony Interactive Entertainment’s DualShock controllers.
On February 12, 2020, Project xCloud launched on Apple’s mobile operating system in a preview version.
On May 5, 2020, Project xCloud came to Spain (Europe) in preview (Video on live).
Microsoft released Xbox Cloud Gaming across 21 countries in North America and Europe, as well as in South Korea, on September 15, 2020 for select Android devices, with support for more than 150 games at launch.
Xbox Cloud Gaming was released in its beta form for Windows users on August 9, 2021 as a perk of the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription, though also required users to be registered in the Xbox Insider program. It was officially released as part of the Xbox app for Windows on September 14, 2021, alongside with Remote Play support from Xbox consoles to a Windows computer. Microsoft introduced a Clarity Boost feature for Windows users through the Edge browser that provides client-side visual improvements to the streamed content.
Microsoft began rolling out testing of Xbox Cloud Gaming for Xbox One consoles on test channels in October 2021, allowing users on those consoles to play Xbox Series X/S games.
The internet speed requirements for Xbox Cloud Gaming’s service is as follows: