|Preview version||1.0 / November 14, 2019|
|Platform(s)||Android, Windows 10|
xCloud (formally announced as Project xCloud) is the working title of Microsoft's Xbox cloud gaming service. Released in beta testing in November 2019, it launched for subscribers of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate on September 15, 2020.
Microsoft teased the service at E3 2018 and formally announced Project xCloud several months later, in October 2018. They demonstrated the service in March 2019 with the racing game Forza Horizon 4 playing on an Android smartphone with an Xbox One controller. Xbox head Phil Spencer used a private server during this time to test games on a remote connection. The service entered its home testing phase in May 2019, when it could be used outside the lab environment. It is slated for public testing later in the year and an unveiling at E3 2019.
xCloud runs via Microsoft's 54 Azure cloud computing centers, hosted in 140 countries. The service is designed to work with phones, either with touchscreen controls or Xbox controller over Bluetooth. Microsoft said that its Xbox content library will make its service more appealing than competitors such as Stadia. The hardware at launch was based Xbox One S blade servers, but it is expected to transition to Xbox Series X servers by 2021; the Xbox Series X's backward compatibility will allow xCloud to retain the existing library of Xbox games while adding new games from the Xbox Series X.
Trials of the service began in October 2019, and as of November 2019, the service hosts 50 games, with support in testing for Apple Inc.'s iOS mobile devices, and for Sony Interactive Entertainment's DualShock controllers.
On February 12, 2020, Project xCloud launched on Apple’s mobile operating system in a preview version.
On May 5, 2020, Project xCloud came to Spain (Europe) in preview (Video on live).
Microsoft released xCloud across 21 countries in North America and Europe, as well as in South Korea, on September 15, 2020 for select Android devices, with support for more than 150 games at launch. The xCloud service is included free of charge within the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription.
While Microsoft had planned to release xCloud for iOS devices, the company halted iOS testing in August 2020, asserting that policies on the Apple App Store limited what functionality they could provide for the service. Apple clarified that cloud streaming services like xCloud allow Microsoft to release games onto the iOS platform that bypass the normal checks that Apple performs for other apps, and thus refused to allow the app on the platform. However, in September 2020, Apple altered its rules that allowed xCloud and other cloud gaming apps to work on iOS, with restrictions that each game must be offered as an individual download on the iOS store which the user must use before playing, though catalog apps as part of the service can list and link to these games. Microsoft responded negatively to this change, stating that "This remains a bad experience for customers. Gamers want to jump directly into a game from their curated catalog within one app just like they do with movies or songs, and not be forced to download over 100 apps to play individual games from the cloud. We’re committed to putting gamers at the center of everything we do, and providing a great experience is core to that mission."
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