Microsoft xCloud would we hold the future champion of cloud gaming

Microsoft xCloud would we hold the future champion of cloud gaming?


On a testing phase in the US for a few months, the Microsoft xCloud cloud gaming platform has been available in France in closed beta since the end of April 2020. 

Microsoft xCloud
Microsoft xCloud 

We are still in the early stages of the service, which still has to evolve, but we offer you to judge what it deserves This new video game solution right now. Spoiler alert: It is very promising.

Cloud gaming according to Xbox

As a reminder, Cloud Games is a technology that can play video games on any screen without any power requirements. All calculations are performed on remote servers, sufficiently equipped to provide powerful graphics and performance. 

The visual and audio presentation is then displayed on the player screen. So it is necessary to have a stable and fast internet connection. To find out more about this, we can only advise you to read our large file dedicated to cloud games.

So Microsoft has moved to this market, which is very popular with its Xbox brand. The competition is already present with PlayStation Now, Google Stadia, or even GeForce Now (Nvidia). 

It will also increase, and Amazon and Apple also have ambitions in this area. Not to mention Shadow Cloud computing offerings.

So we were eager to see what xCloud had to showcase. Microsoft is a major player in both the video game industry and the cloud industry, and expectations are necessarily high.

Initially, the service is limited. It only works on Android smartphones, and you must have Xbox One Bluetooth compatible controller to play. 

The touch screen cannot be used for controls. The player with the console on hand, we must find a place to put his smartphone to play comfortably while enjoying a good viewing angle. 

If the D system solution consists of placing the diagonal phone on support placed on a table in front of you, we advise you to choose to purchase a smartphone holder for the controller (see photo below), which is more practical and convenient to use. 

You can find it on e-commerce websites, while a supported model, PowerA MOGA Mobile Gaming Clip, is available at 17.99 euros directly from Microsoft Store or Amazon.

After that, xCloud should be much more ambitious, and Microsoft's goal is to expand the Xbox ecosystem as widely as possible on all media. iPhone, then all other screens, should be tracked from the computer to TV. 

Microsoft xCloud
Xcloud

The tests are done internally, but this should not happen for a long time for televisions. One can even imagine playing xCloud using the Xbox console, even if one of the main goals is to allow the dispensing of devices: instead of waiting for the game to download and install before the game can be played, the user can start enjoying it instantly via xCloud during installation.

But we haven't arrived yet, so let's take a closer look at what the service offers right now.

How to access xCloud?

First, you must register at this address. To do this, you must have an Xbox account or a Microsoft account with an Xbox Gamertag. Then, you have to take your pain in patience and wait to receive an email indicating that you have been selected to join the beta program in France. 

Microsoft warns access is distributed drop by drop with each new wave of invitations.

Once your account has been chosen to be part of the test, you can download and install the Xbox Game Streaming (Preview) app from the Play Store. It's the same app that lets you play games installed on your Xbox One on your mobile. 

The smartphone must be running a version of Android 6.0 or higher and offer minimum Bluetooth 4.0 compatibility.

Then you have to pair the Xbox One controller to your Android smartphone. It's extremely simple, just keep pressing the connectivity button on the controller located on the upper edge, between the LB and RB keys and next to the micro-USB port. 

The Xbox button then flashes and you can search on your phone for the controller that should have appeared in the list of devices available for a Bluetooth connection.

Now, you are ready to try xCloud. The service works in both 4G and WiFi but requires strong speeds to take advantage of a good experience. Redmond recommends a downlink bandwidth of 10 Mbps as a minimum, but it is best to aim up if possible. 

In general, it is preferable to connect fixed fibers over the 5 GHz frequency band for constant flow and quality. To give you an idea, we played xCloud at 5GHz WiFi at 90Mbps and 14ms on average (according to nPerf connectivity test measurements).

A particularly generous catalog of free games

  • ARK: Survival Evolved
  • Absolver
  • Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown
  • Battle Chasers: Nightwar
  • Black desert online
  • Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night
  • Borderlands 2
  • Borderlands: The Handsome Collection
  • Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons
  • Conan Exiles
  • Crackdown 3: Campaign
  • Darksiders III
  • Dead Island: Definitive Edition
  • Devil may cry 5
  • F1 2019
  • Forza Horizon 4
  • Gears 5
  • Gears of War: Ultimate Edition
  • Halo 5: Guardians
  • Halo wars 2
  • Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice
  • Hello Neighbor
  • HITMAN
  • Just Cause 4
  • Killer Instinct
  • Madden NFL 20
  • Mark of the Ninja: Remastered
  • Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden
  • Ori and the Blind Forest: Definitive Edition
  • Overcooked
  • Puyo Puyo Champions
  • RAD
  • ReCore: Definitive Edition
  • SOULCALIBUR VI
  • Shadow of the Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition
  • Sniper Elite 4
  • Sea of ​​thieves
  • State of Decay 2
  • Subnautica
  • Tales of Vesperia: Definitive Edition
  • Tekken 7
  • TERA
  • The Bard's Tale IV: Director's Cut
  • theHunter: Call of the Wild
  • Vampyr
  • Warhammer: Vermintide 2
  • West of Dead (BETA)
  • World of Final Fantasy Maxima
  • World of Tanks: Mercenaries
  • World of Warships: Legends
  • World War Z
  • WRC 7 FIA World Rally Championship
  • WWE 2K20
  • Yoku's Island Express
The number of titles is quite high (around fifty), the genres represented are varied and the icing on the cake, everything is free for now. 

Microsoft xCloud  50 game play
Microsoft xCloud  50 game play

Microsoft has not yet communicated in what form xCloud will be marketed. We can expect either a separate subscription, probably without having to pay for the games in the catalog or direct integration into the Xbox Game Pass. 

Many of the productions playable on xCloud are also included in the Game Pass subscription.

Simple and efficient interface, with the Xbox tab

Regarding the user interface of the cloud gaming service on smartphones, we have known the discreet and fun interface of Stadia and that GeForce is now much more attractive and much less attractive. 

It must be said that xCloud plays here in Stadia Square, and has even surpassed it. It's impossible to get lost in the app, there are very few menus and sub-menus. Everything is very simple and works very well. You can quickly find the content you are looking for while launching the latest games on the homepage. 

Below is a list of all available titles in alphabetical order. To avoid scrolling when we already know the game we want to launch, we can click the magnifying glass in the upper right to type the name of the game that interests us.

Within the application itself, navigation can be done at two levels, as desired. Either with the touch screen, in the same way, that we use the usual smartphone, or with the console. 

It goes without saying that it is more practical by touching the screen of your mobile device directly. Even when the latter is linked to controller support and therefore it is not directly at hand, we find ourselves holding the pillow with one hand and playing the smartphone with the other for some seconds.

Microsoft xCloud  project
Microsoft xCloud  project

When the game is launched, on the other hand, everything is done using the joystick, whether to navigate menus or in stages of play. 

Titles are not developed to support touch controls. However, by touching the screen, you can access the few options that the xCloud overlay provides, which are very confidential. 

By clicking on the three little dots in the upper left, a menu opens that allows you to mute the sound and send comments to Microsoft (the beta is intended to collect comments from users) and exit the game. 

To return to the main screen of the application. On the right, the icon indicates the quality of our connection. In the event of a decrease in speed, the message "Your network may be experiencing problems" may appear, preparing for a lower quality or performance of the broadcast. 

Finally, the Xbox button at the top and middle opens up a well-known interface for Xbox One players. You can see unsecured successes, create a group, or manage their invitations.

One thing that can be a little disappointing is the aspect ratio. The game itself is locked in 16: 9, as on TV or PC. However, our smartphones abandoned this screen format a few years ago to adopt a longer aspect ratio, ranging from 18: 9 to 21: 9. 

As a result, we are not taking advantage of its full potential of the beautiful AMOLED 19.5: 9 screen without a notch or punch Xiaomi Mi 9T Pro That was tested. Black bars appear on the side, as are some videos that do not support this lengthy format. On the other hand, the overlay exploits the entire length of the screen.

Performance, fluidity, lag ... does xCloud work well?

After selecting the title one would like to play, awaiting screen for setting up the game is displayed. In a few seconds (less than a dozen), we're already at the heart of the action, taking a ladder on his AAA production phone that would harm many computers. Once in there, the gameplay experience is exactly the same as on another smaller screen. 

To maintain specific immersion and not being distracted, incoming notifications are not displayed. When you leave the game for only another app to pause, check WhatsApp messages, or others, short download time is necessary when returning to the game. 

It's very short, but it can be annoying for someone who has the habit of switching between his apps, even during a gaming session.

As for the graphics, they are very good. As long as you have an Internet connection at least. It is always frustrating to see a mix of pixels covered in the image for half a second because the bandwidth was experiencing a transient stagnation. 

This is why it's best to avoid playing in 4G, as the mobile network is generally experiencing more frequent jumps than the home network. We did the test in WiFi and 4G and there is no picture between the two, WiFi is much better. 

If 4G offers you a better experience than your WiFi network, you may want to consider excluding the possibility of playing cloud games until the fixed internet improves. 

There is no point in mentioning 5G yet, it has not yet been commercialized in France which will only reach its full potential in many years.

Microsoft xCloud  project
Microsoft xCloud  project

Currently, xCloud on Xbox Game Streaming Android app only allows 720p definition. On paper, this can delay more than one. In practical terms, this is not a big deal in the end. 

Playing on a smartphone with a controller means that there is a screen that is far from your eyes more than usual when using your mobile phone, so the quality should not be the same quality. 

Given the diameter of the phone's screens, 720p can still make use of enough pixel density. And yes, 720p on a smartphone is better than 1080p on a 22, 24, or 27-inch screen (everything then varies depending on the distance from the screen).

For the liquidity of the image, xCloud is also persuasive. Our fighting or action games have performed well on mobile. But again, the stability of the connection is crucial. Minor interruptions or picture/audio transformations may occur if the bandwidth is exhausted. In our case, it was the temples that suffered. No problem input lag to report, as a response is perfect.

Of course, the experience offered does not equal what one could have with a high-end PC. But when we put things in perspective and say that we are playing a beautiful and fluid Gears 5 even in the heart of the action on a mid-range smartphone, it is difficult not to be amazed by the performance provided by the platform. 

Some optimizations to make the service less greedy, especially in terms of data compression, would be welcome to be accessible to a larger volume of players, but those who benefit from a solid connection will be able to give their heart without joy have to invest in expensive hardware.


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