Microsoft is making some significant upgrades to its Xbox Cloud Gaming (xCloud) service in the next few weeks. The Xbox cloud streaming service will be moving to Xbox Series X hardware on the server side, bringing dramatic improvements to load times and frame rates. Microsoft is also moving xCloud on the web out of beta, which is good news for owners of Apple devices.
“We’re now in the final stages of internal testing, and we’ll be upgrading the experience for Ultimate members in the next few weeks,” says Kareem Choudhry, head of cloud gaming at Microsoft. “The world’s most powerful console is coming to Azure.”
The upgrade will include major improvements to xCloud, with players able to benefit from the same faster load times and improved frame rates that are available on Xbox Series X consoles. Microsoft’s xCloud service launched in September, powered by Xbox One S server blades. The load times have been one of the troubling aspects of using Xbox game streaming, and this upgrade will dramatically reduce the wait time of launching games. Players will also be able to access Xbox Series X / S optimized games.
Microsoft’s xCloud service on an iPhone.Photo by Tom Warren / The Verge
Alongside the server upgrades, Microsoft is launching Xbox Cloud Gaming through the browser for all Xbox Game Pass Ultimate members in the next few weeks. The service is currently in an invite-only beta mode, but the expansion will make it available for all Xbox Game Pass Ultimate members to access xCloud streaming on iPhones, iPads, and on any device with a compatible browser (Chrome, Edge, and Safari).
Microsoft is also expanding cloud gaming to Australia, Brazil, Mexico, and Japan later this year, and hinting at plans for new Xbox Game Pass subscriptions. “We need to innovate to bring our games and services to more people around the world, and we’re investigating how to introduce new subscription offerings for Xbox Game Pass,” says Liz Hamren, head of gaming experiences and platforms at Microsoft.
These new Xbox Game Pass subscriptions will likely include some form of access to xCloud game streaming. Microsoft currently only offers Xbox game streaming to those who subscribe to the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate tier, which is priced at $14.99 per month. It’s easy to imagine a future where Microsoft offers a separate Game Pass tier that only provides access to Xbox Cloud Gaming (xCloud).
Microsoft is also announcing plans for an Xbox TV app and its own streaming stick today, alongside the ability to access and use xCloud on Xbox consoles later this year.