With the ever-growing popularity of streaming services offering easy access to thousands of movies and TV shows, it seems understandable that eventually, gamers would have the same option for their favourite video games, right? Enter Xbox cloud gaming which offers a platform to instantly stream games to various devices via the cloud.
No need to download huge files, all you need is an internet connection to sign up and gain access to a huge library of titles all for the price of a monthly subscription. Here is our guide on everything you need to know about Xbox cloud gaming.
Xbox cloud gaming is a way of accessing Xbox games without having an Xbox console. It’s Microsoft’s way of granting access to its regularly updated library of titles by making them available on devices you’re highly likely to own already. The idea is you’ll be able to stream games and play them anywhere without having to buy and download them individually.
As part of a subscription service, you can choose games, jump in when you feel like it and have your save game data stored in the cloud so that any progress you make carries over to whichever device you’re using.
Xcloud is the name of the early access preview version of what would later become Xbox cloud gaming (beta). It runs as a free addition to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate. Live gameplay video is sent to a compatible device whilst controller button pushes are sent to the server at the same time, essentially emulating a game that’s loaded onto the user’s device. It’s worth noting that not every game can be played via the cloud, but the selection is vast.
Streaming from the cloud can be done in a handful of simple steps
Download/Open the Xbox Game Pass app (note this is different from the Xbox companion app)
Sign in to your Microsoft account (with an active Ultimate Game Pass subscription).
Connect your choice of controller (not all games require a controller to play).
Choose the cloud tab.
Select a game you own or a game from the Game Pass library and tap play.
The first thing you’ll need to access Xbox cloud gaming is a Game Pass Ultimate edition. At £10.99 a month, it’s one of the pricier subscription services, but it beats paying for a single game that you might not even enjoy once you start playing. This top-tier plan also includes a PC Game Pass in addition to the standard game pass, as well as access to cloud gaming. Next, you’ll either need a compatible device on which you can install the Game Pass app, or you can access xbox.com through your internet browser.
While a handful of games allow users to play on touchscreen controls, the majority are optimised for a controller. You can connect a controller by connecting it through USB or Bluetooth 4.0. The Xbox wireless controller is as good as you’d expect, but there are also third-party options that work well. You could even use PlayStations dual shock 4 control pad if that’s all you have.
Not to be confused with cloud gaming on Xbox, remote play offers the ability to stream games from your Xbox directly to a phone, tablet, or PC. For this, you will need to own an Xbox console, as it renders games from your Xbox via an internet connection to other devices. This is handy when your TV isn’t available, or if you’re out of the house.
Conveniently, the device you are using and the console don’t need to be on the same Wi-Fi network. A bonus is that an Ultimate Game Pass subscription is NOT required, just an app on your chosen device and an Xbox account, which is a convenient and often overlooked feature that is so easy to use.
Microsoft has offered many ways for gamers to access the Xbox Cloud, including laptops, tablets, IOS and Android. Of course, if you have an Xbox One (S) or Xbox Series X/S you can use cloud gaming, but in that case, it would be better to just download the game entirely to your console and experience it at its best. These are some of the devices Xbox cloud gaming is available on.
iPhone – iPhone XR, iPhone XS, iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, iPhone 12/mini/Pro/Pro Max
iPads – iPad Air 3rd/4th Gen, iPad Pro 11, iPad Mini 5th Gen, iPad 8th Gen
Windows – Surface Go, Surface Go 2, Surface Pro 6, Surface Pro X, Surface Pro 7+, Surface Laptop, Surface Laptop 3, Surface Book 2.
Android – All devices running Android 6.0 or later shouldn’t have any trouble with cloud gaming.
Please note this list is not exhaustive as Xbox is constantly working to add new device options.
Whether you’re a PC gamer, console ‘die-hard,’ or casual player, there are a few price options you can choose from.
Starting at £7.99/month you have the standard console Game Pass. This grants you access to the Xbox library of games including Day One releases, online play and membership discounts. Cloud gaming is not available on this price plan.
Then you have the £7.99 PC Game Pass, which is the same as the console version except for PC gamers, with the addition of EA Play – an extra library of Electronic Arts titles not available on the standard console Game Pass.
And finally, the £10.99 Ultimate version grants you everything the PC and Console Game Passes offer plus cloud gaming. So if you planned on venturing into Xbox streaming then this is the plan you’ll need.
If you’re unsure about paying £10.99, Microsoft has offered a rather generous all-access trial option to UK consumers of just £1 for three months, perfect if you’re on the fence about committing. If it’s not for you, then a few simple clicks and you can cancel before any recurring payments kick in. Just don’t forget to cancel it.
It is recommended that a high-speed internet connection is used for the optimal play experience when using Xbox streaming. You’ll want at least 10Mbps data connectivity or a 5Ghz Wi-Fi speed as a minimum to ensure a solid connection. If you have a faster internet speed, you’ll feel a smoother, stronger connection with low latency.
If you're unsure of the best broadband to get for gaming, you can read our full guide on the topic and see if it's time to upgrade. Then, have a browse through our best broadband deals to see if it's time to upgrade or switch.
A frequent problem with cloud gaming is latency, which refers to the speed at which data travels between its source and its destination. If latency isn’t low enough games can become unplayable. For example, higher latency will either take your game longer to react to your button presses or your screen will stutter.
Here are some tips on how to improve your internet speed.
The closer you are to the router the better, line of sight is ideal.
Remove anything that might interfere with the signal.
Avoid VPNs, as these add an extra server the signal must travel through.
Pause apps/devices that might eat away at your bandwidth
Use optimised Wi-Fi. 5GHZ is recommended but an ethernet connection is always superior
Microsoft has its own remote servers dotted around the globe. This helps them reach far and wide but also keeps signals strong and stable. The immediate result is video signals and button pushes travel a shorter distance to its receiver resulting in a more responsive feel. Xbox Game Pass Ultimate is available in over 30 countries, here are just some of them.
Australia, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Poland, Portugal, South Korea, Taiwan, the United Kingdom, and the United States. For a full list of regions you can visit the Xbox website.
Microsoft has spent years now acquiring various independent and established game development studios to bolster its already impressive variety of titles available. In their library, you can find fan favourites like Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, Overwatch, Elder Scrolls, Doom, Forza, Halo, Fallout, Madden, NHL, and Need for Speed to name but a few.
Then there’s an abundance of independent games that can accommodate most gaming palettes. Check out Xbox for a better look at the titles currently available.
Fortnite, one of the most-played games in the world right now, is available of course. In fact, you don’t even need to install it or have a paid membership. All you need to do is to go to xbox.com on your web browser and sign in with your free Microsoft account to play Fortnite.
This is a fitting example of just how Xbox cloud gaming works. No need for the actual game, just access to Microsoft’s servers and within minutes you are streaming. As is the way with free-to-play games, you can spend extra money to access further aspects of the game, but essentially it is available for free on Xbox cloud UK.
GeForce Now by Nvidia has been available since 2015 and, much like its competition, offers access to games through cloud streaming to devices you may already own.
Amazon’s cloud streaming platform currently is available only in the US and is an add-on option to an Amazon Prime account. Still in its infancy, we will have to wait a while until we can try it in the UK.
One of the most attractive aspects of Xbox cloud gaming is that you don’t need an Xbox console to play. What is the compromise though? You are bound by the strength of your internet connection. A bad connection equals an unpleasant gaming experience, and even with the best bandwidth available, all games played via the cloud will have restrictions.
For example, screen resolution is capped at 1080p so you can’t experience gaming in 4K. HD Audio is also not an option and high graphics modes and framerate boosting modes will not be available either. You can’t record clips or live-stream your own gameplay and the much-lauded quick resume function is disabled. In fact, you’ll have longer loading times.
Here are some pros and cons of cloud gaming compared to downloading and installing on a console:
Cloud gaming gives gamers access to large libraries of video games, while platforms like Twitch, one of the best game streaming sites, lets you stream gameplay to followers.Read our guide to cloud gaming