What is Xbox Cloud Gaming?

Tom West - August 7th 2021

Playing games from the comfort of your sofa or ergonomic gaming chair is generally the preferred way to play your games. Kicking your feet up in front of your Xbox console and playing Forza Horizon 4 on the big screen while munching on a bag of Doritos or lounging in that bucket seat gaming chair rocking out some Gears Tactics on your Windows 10 PC. But inevitably, you'll need to move from that environment — it feels wrong to even consider it, we know — and you can't very well bring those items for a commute to work or those family events where you just want to disappear into the background.

For many years, Nintendo has dominated the portable gaming scene, especially with the Switch. PlayStation was rocking portable play with the Vita, though that's now on its way out, and most recently, Valve has joined the fray with the new Steam Deck. But each of those systems requires you to purchase a new device, and if you're solely an Xbox player, you'll need to buy all new games for said device. That's where Microsoft's Xbox Cloud Gaming comes in — offering you a wide selection of games to play on the mobile/tablet device you already own, streamed straight from its servers for a monthly subscription. We've dug around to bring all of the information you need when deciding whether Xbox Cloud Gaming is right for you.

What is Xbox Cloud Gaming?

Xbox Cloud Gaming — formerly, Project xCloud — is Microsoft's official cloud gaming platform, and comes as part of an Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription, allowing you to stream compatible games on your mobile, tablet, laptop, or desktop. The full list of games can be found on the Xbox Website, due to the list continuously evolving we haven't included each game individually. You can access Xbox Cloud Gaming through Xbox.com or the Xbox Game Pass app, and it allows you to carry over your console gaming experience to the other devices you already own.

What is Xbox Game Pass Ultimate?

Xbox Game Pass Ultimate is the highest tier subscription to Microsoft's Netflix-style game service and offers members additional advantages over the base Xbox Game Pass Subscription. First-time Game Pass members can pick up a one-month trial of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate for $1/£1 instead of the usual $14.99/£10.99. The Ultimate subscription comes with Xbox Cloud Gaming and a host of other features:

  • Access to more than 100 games
  • EA Play membership
  • Xbox Live Gold
  • Xbox Cloud Gaming
  • Additional Xbox Game Pass Quests
  • Free Perks and member discounts.
Ultimate 1 Month

Xbox Game Pass Ultimate includes over 100 high-quality games for console, PC, phones and tablets, all the benefits of Xbox Live Gold, and an EA Play membership, all for one low monthly price. Play together with friends and discover your next favorite game. See more below.

After any promotional period, subscription continues to be charged at the then-current regular price (subject to change), unless cancelled. Plus applicable taxes.

Joining Xbox Game Pass Ultimate will upgrade your remaining Xbox Live Gold or Xbox Game Pass for Console or Xbox Game Pass for PC time into Xbox Game Pass Ultimate for the same amount of time, up to 36 months. All conversions are final. See xbox.com/gamepass for details.

See Xbox Game Pass Ultimate terms and details in the Product Description below.

Who can use Xbox Cloud Gaming?

The service is currently only accessible to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscribers who live in the following locations:

Australia
Austria
Brazil
Belgium
Canada
Czechia
Denmark
Finland
France
Germany
Greece
Hungary
Ireland
Italy
Japan
Korea
Mexico
Netherlands
Norway
Poland
Portugal
Slovakia
Spain
Sweden
Switzerland
United Kingdom
United States

How does it work?

Xbox Cloud Gaming works by connecting your compatible device to the Xbox Network (more on devices next), so you can access the games within Microsoft's datacenters. This is where the magic happens; these datacentres are built with stacks of systems using similar hardware to Xbox Series X consoles, called server blades — these blades do all the heavy lifting when streaming games and output all content to your mobile device at the best quality possible. Depending on your internet connection and your distance from the nearest server, the gameplay should be streamed at 1080p and capped at 60fps.

What devices are compatible?

Xbox Cloud Gaming is compatible with Android, Apple, and Windows 10 devices, although, you'll need to use the service differently depending on the device you're using. Once you've sorted out your Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription and confirmed that the service is available in your region, follow the instructions below to start playing:

Android

Android users can use Xbox Cloud Gaming either through the dedicated app or through the browser experience like Apple and Windows 10. You'll need to be running on a minimum of Android 6.0 and Bluetooth 4.0 on a phone or tablet, along with a minimum of 7Mps internet speed on a 5 GHz WiFi connection (2.4 GHz WiFi can work but isn't optimised).

To download the dedicated app, head to the Google Play Store or Samsung Galaxy Store (Samsung devices only). Download the app and log in with your Microsoft account.

To play through your browser, open up Google Chrome and head to xbox.com/play and log in with your Microsoft account.

Apple

Apple iPhones and iPads cannot access the dedicated app at this time so using Xbox Cloud Gaming through your browser is your only option. You'll need to be running a minimum of iOS 14.4 and Bluetooth 4.0 along with a minimum of 10Mps internet speeds for iPhone and 20Mps for iPad. A 5 GHz connection will be required for an optimal experience (2.4GHz will work but isn't optimised).

The following devices are confirmed to be compatible: iPhone XR, iPhone XS, iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, iPhone 12 Mini, iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Pro, iPhone 12 Pro Max, iPad Air (3rd Gen), iPad Air (4th Gen), iPad Pro 11 2nd Gen, iPad Mini 5th Gen, iPad 8th Gen.

To use the service, open Safari on your iPhone or iPad and head to Xbox.com/play and log in with your Microsoft account.

Windows 10

Windows 10 devices are much the same as Apple devices in the way that there is no dedicated app support for Xbox Cloud Gaming, so using a browser is your only option. You'll need to be running on a minimum of Windows 10 October update 2020 and Bluetooth 4.0, along with a minimum of 20Mps internet speeds on a 5 GHz WiFi connection (2.4 GHz will work but isn't optimised).

The following devices are confirmed to be compatible: Surface Go 2, Surface Pro 6, Surface Pro X, Surface Pro 7+, Surface Laptop, Surface Laptop 3, Surface Book 2.

To play through your browser, open up Microsoft Edge or Google Chrome and head to xbox.com/play and log in with your Microsoft account.

Do I need any additional peripherals?

Although there are plenty of games now available for Xbox Cloud Gaming with touch controls, you'll need to connect a compatible controller to play most of the games. Various controllers are available such as wireless, wired, and controllers that clip directly onto your mobile phone, such as the Razer Kishi. When choosing a controller to use with Xbox Cloud Gaming, double-check the list on the Xbox website to ensure it's compatible — Official and Designed for Xbox are optimised for Xbox Cloud Gaming, but verified controllers will also work.

Before connecting your wireless controller, ensure that it's running the latest firmware update and then follow these instructions:

Android

Turn on your controller by pressing the Xbox button and then hold down the Pair button for three seconds. Next, head to Apps on your Android device and head to Settings and then Connections, click on Bluetooth and Turn On.

When the box opens with a list of available connections, select Xbox Wireless Controller, and it should then show Connected under the device in the list.

Apple

Open the Settings on your Apple device and select Bluetooth and ensure that Bluetooth is turned on. Next, click the Xbox button on your controller to turn it on and then hold down the Pair button for three seconds. Your controller will then load into a list of available devices as Xbox Wireless Controller and automatically pair.

Windows 10

Turn on your controller by pressing the Xbox button and then press and hold the Pair button for three seconds. Next, go to Start on your Windows 10 device and open Settings to access the Devices and finally Bluetooth.

Ensure Bluetooth is turned on and then select Add Bluetooth or other device. Next, click the option to Add a device and then Bluetooth — if you're using the Xbox Wireless Adaptor for Windows 10 select Everything Else here — and wait for Xbox Wireless Controller to appear in the list of available devices. Once the controller has been recognised by your device select it, and you will see the message "Your controller is ready to go" when it's connected.