Microsoft’s highly anticipated Project xCloud game streaming service, which lets users play high-powered Xbox games like Halo on their smartphones, will be available to the public for the first time starting in October.
Microsoft is kicking off public trials of xCloud in the U.S., U.K. and South Korea. The preview will start small, on Android devices only, with a limited number of participants and then grow over time.
“Public preview is a critical phase in our multi-year ambition to deliver game streaming globally at the scale and quality of experience that the gaming community deserves and expects,” Kareem Choudhry, Microsoft corporate vice president of xCloud wrote in a blog post. “It’s time to put Project xCloud to the test in a broader capacity, with a range of gamers, devices, network environments and real-world use-case scenarios, and this is where you come in.”
The upcoming Project xCloud preview will start with Gears 5, Halo 5: Guardians, Killer Instinct, and Sea of Thieves—then expand with more games over time. #InsideXbox
— Xbox (@Xbox) September 24, 2019
The service is powered by Microsoft’s Azure data centers on specially designed servers built from Xbox components. Users don’t need to own any games, or even a console, to use xCloud. All they need is a phone or tablet running Android 6.0 or higher with Bluetooth 4.0, a Bluetooth-enabled Xbox One Wireless Controller and a Microsoft account.
T-Mobile is Microsoft’s “exclusive U.S. technical partner” for xCloud. That means the two companies will work together on the project and rely on T-Mobile’s LTE network, and later its 5G network. However, you don’t have to be a T-Mobile customer to sign up for the trial, as users of all carriers are eligible.
Microsoft first unveiled the ambitious streaming project last year and pledged to start previews in October. Microsoft hasn’t said when it will roll out the service widely, emphasizing that it will take its time to perfect what could be a revolutionary gaming service. The company is taking a deliberate pace to avoid disappointing early users with lag and the other challenges associated with cloud gaming.
“The preview will continue until customers are consistently reporting a great, fun experience and the technology meets our internal quality standards,” Choudhry wrote. “As is typical of our preview programs, we plan to begin with focused groups in the early stages for stability purposes and then to expand over time.”
As console sales decline, Microsoft is setting itself up for a gaming future where it doesn’t need to rely on hardware. That opens the company up to a much larger audience of people who either can’t or don’t want to plunk down hundreds of dollars every few years for the latest console.
Microsoft has doubled down on digital gaming by investing more in its Game Pass subscription service, bundling it with Xbox Live. The expansion of Xbox Live to Android and iOS shows that Microsoft is bringing its gaming offerings to other platforms.
The tech industry is embroiled in a race to master cloud-based game streaming. Google will launch its Stadia game streaming service in November in 14 countries.