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Microsoft xCloud gaming service coming to web, but can it steal Google Stadia's show?

Microsoft's Project xCloud gaming service is available as a part of the preview programme right now on select devices.

twitter-logoShubham Verma | February 16, 2021 | Updated 13:11 IST

Highlights

  • Microsoft xCloud web version is under development right now.
  • The first look shows there will be launcher for xCloud web version.
  • Google Stadia already supports browsers such as Chrome, Edge.

If you have been living under a rock, I am excited to tell you that we stepped into the world of cloud gaming some months back. It is similar to how you use gaming consoles, PC, or your phone to play games but with an essential facet. Cloud gaming does not need you to download and install these games on your device, no matter what, because these games are stored in the cloud. And because they are always on the cloud, they are playable on any device that can let you access the cloud. Microsoft, Google, Sony, Amazon, and Nvidia all have their own cloud gaming service but only a few of them are available on the web. And the one to join them soon will be Microsoft's xCloud service.

The first look of how Microsoft's xCloud browser will look has surfaced online, along with a strong hint that this cloud gaming service will be arriving on iPhone and iPad devices. As per a report by The Verge, citing sources familiar with the development, Microsoft is still working on the web version of xCloud, which is why it is not immediately available to users. The web version will support major browsers, such as Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge browsers, much like Google Stadia. The xCloud service is already available on Android, so the major goal Microsoft wants to achieve with the web version is giving support on iPhone and iPad.

Apple has restricted publishers to push cloud gaming services through the App Store, one of the reasons why Google had to resort to pushing web service for Stadia. Apple has said that it will need publishers to add individual games, a process that Microsoft and other cloud gaming companies have termed will be a "bad experience" for users. Moreover, Apple would take its cut on each subscription. But there are no such restrictions on the content available through web browsers, such as Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge, both of which are available on the iPhone and the iPad. Interestingly, Microsoft and Google both have left out Safari browser in this process.

The screenshot obtained by The Verge shows there will be a launcher on the web version of xCloud, much like the way it is on Android. You will see different recommendations for you on the screen, titles that can be resumed, and access to all games available through the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription. The xCloud will also be available through the PC version of the Xbox app on Windows.

On launching, the games open in full-screen in the browser but they will need you to add a controller to be able to play them. Both the iPhone and the iPad support a good range of controllers, which is why games that can be run via a browser makes sense. But it is not clear what resolution this service is going to support. Microsoft uses Xbox One S server blades for xCloud, which lacks 4K streaming, so unless that infrastructure is upgraded, games will be available in 720p resolution.

How can it counter Google Stadia?

Microsoft's xCloud gaming service is yet to arrive on the web while Google Stadia became available through browsers right from the beginning. This immediately made Stadia available on the iPhone and iPad devices, among others. The portal can be accessed on Android, iPhone, PCs, and Macs. Google Stadia also works on TV with Chromecast Ultra, which is not what can be said for Microsoft xCloud gaming service.

Google Stadia works with Stadia Controller, PlayStation 4 DualShock 4, Xbox One controller, Xbox Adaptive Controller, and mouse and keyboard. But Microsoft's xCloud, on the other hand, works with only PlayStation 4 DualShock 4, Xbox One controller, and some other Bluetooth controllers. And Microsoft xCloud can only stream in 720p resolution for now while Google Stadia allows 4K resolution with insanely high-speed internet.

The area where Microsoft's xCloud service fares well is the catalogue of games. It has a total of 93 games with four exclusives but Stadia has only 40 games with a single exclusive title, making the former a better deal for people who need a variety to play games. Also, xCloud is available as a part of the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, which console and PC players often buy. There are no charges for individual games, unlike Google Stadia that requires a monthly subscription, plus cost of individual games.

The bottom line is Microsoft's xCloud gaming service has the potential to attract players through its one too many titles and a better deal subscription-wise. But if you bring other things into the picture, Google Stadia can offer a better cloud gaming experience on a range of devices.

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