Project xCloud Preview: A Cloud-based video game streaming service done right

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For the past few weeks, we’ve been quietly testing Project xCloud, the premier streaming service utilizing Microsoft’s Azure cloud system, which seems it could shape the future of Cloud-based streaming and how gaming content is delivered.

When it comes to talking about streaming services focused on gaming, you may already know that they’re hitting rough patches from time to time. Every single one of them is hit with their own dilemmas such as Google Stadia having a shortage of games and how much data that it tends to use in a single session.

Even Sony’s cloud-based streaming service, PlayStation Now, has hit its very own snags from time to time, sometimes finding itself hit with games that fans can’t download and or play when they want to or even party chat for that matter while streaming some of those very games.

For Sony, it’s not just about achieving usability, it was about allowing fans to have access to older titles from their previous generations while moving forward. Now, Microsoft is looking to challenge all their adversaries and the naysayers, offering them a way to capitalize on the video game streaming trend through Project xCloud, a program that would see Xbox Live and Xbox Game Pass users to enjoy their games wherever they are, whenever they want to.

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Project xCloud does require a moderately strong connection to get the most out of the games you will play.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve spent quite a bit of time with Microsoft’s Project xCloud beta, playing it when and where I can with as minimal attachments as I could. So far, I’ve simply used it on a Samsung Tab S2 and my Samsung S10+ with a Bluetooth capable Xbox One controller alongside being signed up for the Xbox Insider program.

From there, I quickly took note of the fact I would benefit from being on a 4G LTE connection or our network in the house. This is simply because Project xCloud does require a moderately strong connection to get the most out of the games you will play. Besides that, it just simply required me to download the Project xCloud app on my device, login to my Microsoft account, and off I went.

Currently, there are quite a few games to play, deciding to focus on games that require a strong and stable connection to get the most out of your online play, I decided to start things off with Halo: The Master Chief CollectionSea of ThievesAce Combat 7: Skies UnknownGears 5DayZ, and even Soul Calibur VI. Since all of these games require precision timing, stable online connections, and insanely smooth framerates, they became my poisons to choose from.

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xCloud is almost seamless, making games feel as if you are on a PC that surpasses that of the Xbox One or Xbox One X’s hardware capacities

Starting things off, I want to discuss one important thing before we talk about how steady the connections were on both Sprint’s 4G LTE or our Suddenlink 200mbps/25mbps connection at the house. So, let’s talk about performance when it comes to using Project xCloud. Surprisingly enough, this will be a massive talking point moving forward, and you need to know exactly why this is such an important element.

During the sessions of every game, it’s worth noting that the games ran absolutely smooth, load times never exceeding more than 5-6 seconds in a single game, sometimes, taking slightly longer based on xCloud’s time to buffer and load the game. The initial load does take a minute or two to get things going, but after that, xCloud is almost seamless, making games feel as if you are on a PC that surpasses that of the Xbox One or Xbox One X’s hardware capacities.

When it comes to internet stability, however, is the most important feature of a streaming service in itself. Stability is extremely important, allowing you to get the best out of your overall experience. The picture quality, responsiveness, and stability all are determined upon whether or not the connection itself is stable. Due to how much fighting games and shooters rely on these key elements, I decided to put stability to the test with Halo: The Master Chief Collection and Gears 5.

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Button presses felt almost instantaneous, never once really feeling any form of latency between an Xbox One (Bluetooth enabled) controller and my phone or my tablet

During my time, I noticed that the games remained rather stable, never lagging, never hitching, never disconnecting, and load times were abundantly faster than I’d experienced when playing on an actual Xbox One. I noticed that button presses felt almost instantaneous, never once really feeling any form of latency between an Xbox One (Bluetooth enabled) controller and my phone or my tablet.

The only time that changed was going to Sprint’s 4G LTE service, which to say the least, isn’t the greatest in rural Oklahoma. Since it does seem Microsoft still has Project xCloud in the works, it is worth noticing that I’ve seen heavy improvements to how the service works, lowering image quality in favor of performance if the initial connection begins to taper off in some form or another.

For the most part, however, it ran rather well, never stuttering, seldom warning me about an “insufficient” connection while on 4G LTE, making this a great alternative to purchasing a full-blown Xbox One X. Microsoft does offer something unique that I did enjoy testing along the way: The ability to play games directly from my Xbox One or to use those that Microsoft offers on the xCloud.

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Project xCloud to use a minimal amount, which put it in at just under 348MB an hour on a mobile connection and roughly 400MB an hour on my home WiFi itself.

This made playing games like Mutant Year Zero quite entertaining although I wish there was a way to make the text a bit larger while I’m playing. That aside, xCloud is actually not hard to enjoy and Microsoft is taking the steps in the right direction in order to ensure that their users get the most out of their streaming service.

When it comes to data usage, I was concerned about how much the service itself would actually use during the course of my time on a 4G LTE connection. Since most mobile plans offer limited data, I decided to take the real test on data consumption and push it to its limits.

What were the results? Well, not what you would expect after the recent rumors about how much Google Stadia uses in a single hour. My connection, surprisingly enough, wasn’t hindered or chipped away in a single hour of use. Instead, I found Project xCloud to use a minimal amount, which put it in at just under 348MB an hour on a mobile connection and roughly 400MB an hour on my home WiFi itself.

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If xCloud keeps down the path it is, cloud-based gaming could actually be the future for those unable to afford future gaming hardware or even have access to it

This is substantial in using their service and ensuring it to be user-friendly. With Stadia already finding itself in a bit of trouble along the way, its growing pains will seemingly benefit what Project xCloud has to offer, which to say the least, is a lot. Microsoft is already bolstering a strong library in its early stages, which shows that they are invested in what they are doing and that they believe in what they are doing.

The downside, we have no idea how much it will actually cost, what Microsoft plans to do in the future with their program and if Xbox Series X titles will be included in what they have to offer. At this time, it does seem like it might require an Xbox Live Gold membership and ownership of the DLC, the games, or an Xbox Game Pass subscription along the way.

For now, however, Microsoft is changing how I feel about streaming services and they are slowly winning naysayers like myself over with their carefully listening to their fans. If xCloud keeps down the path it is, cloud-based gaming could actually be the future for those unable to afford future gaming hardware or even have access to it.


Editor’s Note: Our article is strictly based on the current build of Project xCloud for Android devices. The performance and content offered are subject to change in the future.


About the Writer(s):

dustin_batgr_prof

Dustin is our native video game reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the borders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPG’s, Anime, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable.  You can find him over on Twitter or Facebook where he interacts with his followers quite a bit!

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