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Xbox Cloud Gaming: everything you need to know

Xbox Cloud Gaming is a great additional feature that comes at no extra cost to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscribers. You can enjoy a ton of Xbox Game Pass-featured titles on the go, either on your smartphone, tablet, PC, or even Xbox console. If you're weighing up Xbox Game Pass versus Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, then, Xbox Cloud Gaming may tip you over the edge, in a good way.

Previously known as Project xCloud, access to Xbox Cloud Gaming only has a few barriers to entry to overcome. You must subscribe to the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate tier, have a strong internet connection, and have a supported device to play the games on. If you meet all these criteria, then you can start gaming without the need for an Xbox Series X or Xbox Series S console, or even an Xbox Wireless Controller.

If you’re interested in the benefits Xbox Cloud Gaming can offer you; then, we’ve prepared a guide breaking down everything you need to know about the cloud-based service. We’ll also explain why it’s a feature you definitely shouldn’t sleep on, especially as it can be accessed through your Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription on the newest Xbox consoles at no additional cost.

And there are more than a few reasons why you definitely should give Xbox Cloud Gaming a try, as it can be a worthwhile alternative to simply downloading games to your console or buying one of the best gaming PCs. For one, save data seamlessly carries between platforms, meaning that when you start playing via the cloud, you'll be able to pick up exactly where you left off.

Handing your console off to someone else? If your game is supported by Xbox Cloud Gaming, it’s immediately accessible, allowing you to resume it on another device without losing any progress. 

Read on, then, to find out everything you need to know about Xbox Cloud Gaming, its requirements, and the benefits and features it can provide in comparison to a more traditional console experience.

Xbox Cloud Gaming: cut to the chase

  • What is it? Xbox's cloud gaming platform that's playable on Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, mobile devices, and PC.
  • When is it out? Out now
  • What will it cost? $15 / £10.99 / AU$15.95 per month, the cost of an Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription

Xbox Cloud Gaming: what you'll need

Four video game characters in a row, including Halo's Master Chief and Doom's Doomslayer

(Image credit: Microsoft)

As mentioned above, access to Xbox Cloud Gaming first requires an Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription. At $14.99 / £10.99 a month, it’s a bit pricier than the base subscription tier, but the extra cost does benefit you by granting access to Xbox Cloud Gaming as well as the PC Game Pass service.

You’ll also need a device that supports Xbox Cloud Gaming. These include both Android and iOS smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy S22 or iPhone 13. But Xbox Cloud Gaming will also work on tablets like the iPad, iPad Pro 12.9, and Microsoft’s own Surface Go devices. For smartphones and tablets, you’ll also need the Xbox Game Pass app, letting you access and stream supported games with a few taps.

A brief list of supported devices can be found on Xbox’s website. But in general, if you have any modern laptop, or a smartphone or tablet running either iOS or Android, you should be able to play games via Xbox Cloud Gaming. Xbox Cloud Gaming titles can also be played or PC, via the desktop app or your favorite internet browser, including Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, and Firefox.

During the Meta Connect 2022 event, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella joined Mark Zuckerberg to confirm that Xbox Cloud Gaming is coming to Meta Quest 2 and Meta Quest Pro. Unfortunately, these games remain a flatscreen experience, you can't suddenly jump into a VR mode for Forza Horizon 5. As such, the platform's slowly expanding to new horizons and you can hook up your Xbox controller. It also means Meta Quest may beat PSVR 2 for one simple reason.

Don’t have a supported portable device? Fear not as you can also play games from the cloud right from your Xbox Series X|S console, too. Although in this case, we’d suggest just downloading your desired games instead as you’ll be able to play beyond the limitations of Xbox Cloud Gaming, such as its inability to stream at 4K resolution.

Touch controls are supported on devices with touch screens, but you can also make use of controllers connected via USB or wirelessly over Bluetooth, including the Xbox Wireless Controller, Razer Kishi Mobile Game Controller and even Sony’s Dualshock 4.

Microsoft also recommends a high-speed internet connection for optimal play when using Xbox Cloud Gaming. You’ll need down speeds of at least 20 Mbps and a 5GHz Wi-Fi connection for an entry-level cloud gaming experience. Of course, faster speeds will provide a more solid connection to your streamed game, which will lower latency and diminish oddities like screen tearing and the occasional blank screen.

Xbox Cloud Gaming: stream quality and performance

Xbox Cloud Gaming played on a Samsung smartphone

(Image credit: Shutterstock / Allmy)

Streaming via Xbox Cloud Gaming means you get to play supported games instantly on your chosen device, with no need to download the game to your device’s storage. That instant delivery doesn’t come without its costs, of course. 

To keep a consistent performance, Xbox Cloud Gaming streams at a 1080p resolution up to 60fps. That means you won’t be able to stream games at a higher 1440p or 4K resolution, but 1080p is more than serviceable on the smaller screens you’ll likely be making use of for Xbox Cloud Gaming. While a 1080p cap makes Xbox Cloud Gaming streaming more manageable for your bandwidth, you’ll still want a speedy connection for a consistent experience.

Thankfully, should you meet the criteria for a smooth streaming experience, you’ll find that games played via Xbox Cloud Gaming offer sharper visuals and far better load times than the same games played on last generation’s Xbox One. Load times, especially, are comparable to the remarkably quick Xbox Series X|S SSDs. 

Xbox Cloud Gaming: what can I play?

Xbox Game Pass

(Image credit: Microsoft)

You’ll be able to play a huge variety of games featured in the Xbox Game Pass library with Xbox Cloud Gaming. Not every game on the service can be streamed, but by using the app, you’ll be able to access a dedicated “Cloud” subsection that’ll list all the games you can play via the Xbox Cloud Gaming service.

The range of titles available to play via Xbox Cloud Gaming is also pretty vast. From big-budget first-party titles like Forza Horizon 5, Gears Tactics, and Halo Infinite all the way down to some of the best indies around, like Hollow Knight, Ori and the Will of the Wisps, and The Outer Wilds.

You’ll also get to stream some of the best third-party games available on Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S, including Dragon Quest 11, Mass Effect Legendary Edition, and Mortal Kombat 11. There’s plenty to play on Xbox Cloud Gaming and you can find the full list of games here. You can even play them straight from your browser, provided you have a supported controller connected to the device. 

Xbox Cloud Gaming: final thoughts

Xbox Cloud Gaming provides a very solid alternative to downloading games to storage. It's among the best game streaming platforms available today, especially when stacked up against competing services like Nvidia GeForce Now, and (the soon to be defunct) Google Stadia.

You won’t be streaming games at 4K anytime soon, but what Xbox Cloud Gaming loses in image quality, it more than makes up for in connection stability, quick load times and a wide range of supported devices and controller setups. Another upside is that you don't need to own the very best Xbox to fully enjoy cloud gaming. That means that even the Xbox Series S' specs can enjoy a cloud gaming experience equal to that of the Xbox Series X.

There are some notable barriers to entry, of course, like having to subscribe to the relatively expensive Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, as well as having a fairly speedy internet connection, but if you meet the criteria, then Xbox Cloud Gaming could be your passage to experiencing the very best Xbox Game Pass games whether you’re at home or out and about.

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