No console? No problem! How Xbox Cloud Gaming lets you play anywhere
It sounds a lot less like a secret weapon from a straight-to-DVD action movie than the original Project xCloud name, but Microsoft’s Xbox Cloud Gaming is such a game-changer it could’ve genuinely come from Q Branch. The streaming service lets anyone with an Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription stream a massive number of titles just about anywhere, from your games console to your smartphone, tablet or smart TV.
With no downloads to wait around for, and often faster loading times than your console’s SSD, cloud gaming has plenty of benefits. However, it also has to contend with input latency, has a more limited resolution than if you play directly on your console, and can be quite demanding on network bandwidth. Has Microsoft managed to avoid any tech gremlins and deliver a seamless experience? What do you need to get Xbox Cloud Gaming up and running? And how much will it set you back? Here’s everything you need to know.
What devices support Xbox Cloud Gaming?
Naturally Xbox Cloud Gaming plays nicely with Microsoft’s consoles. Whether you’ve got an Xbox Series X, Series S, or Xbox One sat under your telly, you’ll be able to play using the dedicated app. From any screen, press the Xbox button on your controller to open the guide, then select My games & apps > See all. Then choose Full library > Xbox Game Pass. Select a game with the cloud icon on it and you’ll be thrown straight in – assuming you have an Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription, that is.
To play on a PC or laptop, you’ll need to download the dedicated Windows app, or play in a browser via the Xbox Cloud Gaming website. There are also (slightly more convoluted) methods to get this to work on non-Windows-based handhelds such as the Steam Deck.
Android phones and tablets can download the official Xbox Game Pass Mobile app from the Google Play Store, while iPhone and iPad owners must play through a web browser.
If you own a Samsung smart TV from 2020 onwards, it should also have access to the Xbox Cloud Gaming app. We’re still waiting for Microsoft and Samsung’s exclusivity deal to wrap up, so owners of other TV brands are currently out of luck.
If you aren’t playing through a console, you’ll need to pair your controller to your device over Bluetooth. You don’t actually need an official Xbox controller; Xbox Cloud Gaming should recognise PlayStation 4 and PS5 controllers, as well as those designed for Google Stadia, Amazon Luna and Nvidia Shield. Other third-party controllers might be supported too.
Still not sure if you’re covered? Microsoft has a pretty thorough list of supported devices on the official Xbox website.
Xbox Cloud Gaming price
Xbox Cloud Gaming is officially still in beta, and only available as part of an Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription. At the time of writing, one of those will set you back $17 / £13 / €15 per month.
For your cash, you also get access to the Game Pass library, online multiplayer access for all games, an EA Play membership (EA’s version of Game Pass, basically) and discounts on certain full-price titles.
- Get Xbox Games Pass in the US
- Get Xbox Games Pass in the UK
Do I need fast internet and Wi-Fi?
Anyone who’s ever tried to stream a football match on a train will know how inconsistent it can be. One minute your team’s on a flowing counter-attack and the next things have juddered to a halt. By the time the picture has caught up the ball’s up the other end of the pitch. Now imagine that when you’re in control of the players. The big enemy is latency: the time it takes for the game to register your button presses. If that’s not instantaneous it quickly becomes unplayable, particularly anything involving multiplayer.
Microsoft is more than generous when it comes to games available through Xbox Cloud Gaming. There are big hitters including Halo Infinite, Forza Horizon 5, Gears Tactics and Sea of Thieves, but it’s not just Microsoft’s own studios that are featured. Third-party games are out in full force, with Assassin’s Creed, Doom Eternal, Gotham Knights and No Man’s Sky all making the cut.
As an EA Play membership is included in the cost of a subscription, you can play entries from the Dead Space, Battlefield, Mass Effect and Need for Speed series – to name just a few. Indie titles are well represented too, with Hollow Knight, Gris, Limbo, Tunic and more.
Even new flagship titles such as Lies of P and Bethesda’s Starfield were available on the service from launch, meaning you could try before you buy (or simply stream the whole thing if you weren’t fussed about being limited to 1080p).