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Xbox Cloud Gaming Explained: Cost, Requirements, Features, And More

Here's what you need to know about the service formerly known as xCloud.

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Years ago, "Xbox" referred only to Microsoft's traditional game consoles, which had exclusive games and a closed ecosystem. However, the company has a much different outlook on gaming today, and the Xbox brand now also includes PC games and, as of more recently, cloud gaming. A very convenient way to play Xbox Game Pass titles, Xbox Cloud Gaming allows anyone with an Xbox Game Pass Ultimate membership to stream games directly to their devices, with no download or updates required, and the program is only getting bigger. We'll give you the rundown on what you need to know about Xbox Cloud Gaming, including how it's evolving in the future.

What is Xbox Cloud Gaming?

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Unlike some other game-streaming services like PlayStation Now and Google Stadia, Xbox Cloud Gaming isn't actually a separate paid program from Microsoft. Instead, it's a feature included in Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, giving you access to a selection of games alongside the console and PC titles you're already given access to with your subscription fee.

Xbox Cloud Gaming works by having the game you're playing run remotely at one of Microsoft's data centers, which utilize Xbox hardware components to offer similar performance to what you'd get on the console. They're streamed to your device of choice, whether that be a phone, tablet, or PC, and you'll also be able to stream games to an Xbox console in the future--more on that later.

What do you need for Xbox Cloud Gaming?

To use Xbox Cloud Gaming right now, you must be subscribed to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, and not the basic Xbox Game Pass tier that is limited to consoles. This typically costs $15 a month, though discounts are often available.

You must also have a Windows PC, Android phone or tablet, or Apple phone or tablet to use Xbox Cloud Gaming. On Android devices, you can use the Game Pass app to stream your games, though only Samsung Galaxy phones allow you to also make subscription or DLC choices within the app. Windows PC players can use either the Xbox for PC app or their web browser.

On iOS, Apple's store policy means you're currently limited to running Xbox Cloud Gaming through Safari. However, if you go to the Xbox Cloud Gaming play page, hit the share button in your browser and add it to your home screen, you can open it like any other app for ease of use.

For more on getting started with Xbox Cloud Gaming, check out our detailed walkthrough for setting it up.

While you can use a regular Xbox wireless controller for Xbox Cloud Gaming, you may want to buy a dedicated controller that turns your smartphone into a Switch-like device.

What are the system and speed requirements?

Xbox Cloud Gaming platforms
Xbox Cloud Gaming platforms

Apple devices: iOS 14.4 or later, 10 Mbps (iPhone) or 20 Mbps (iPad) download speed.

Android devices: Android 6.0 or later, 7 Mbps download speed.

PC: Windows 10 October 2020 update or later, 20 Mbps download speed.

To use an Xbox wireless controller on any of these platforms, you will need Bluetooth 4.0 or later. However, many also feature virtual buttons on the touch screen, should you prefer that.

Xbox Series X|S Games On Xbox One

One other benefit to cloud gaming is that it allows older devices to play newer games without having to worry about hardware limitations. Microsoft will allow Xbox One systems to stream Xbox Series X|S games in the future, including the extremely technically demanding Microsoft Flight Simulator, letting those who haven't purchased the newer systems still enjoy it.

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