Project xCloud Beta: Microsoft Confirms at E3 2019 When Trials Will Begin

Project xCloud will also get its formal release date, specs, and likely titles. 

Microsoft xCloud in action.

All of gamers’ questions about Microsoft’s upcoming cloud gaming service, xCloud will soon be answered.

There was some cause for concern. At its E3 2019 keynote on June 9, the company made little mention of when the next phase of trials for its cloud gaming service will begin. Instead, the company announced xCloud’s “Console Streaming” feature, which left some users disappointed. This new feature only lets Xbox One owners use their consoles as personal cloud servers and stream games to their mobile devices, a far cry from a standalone cloud gaming service. Fortunately, Dan McCulloch General Manager of Xbox Live tells Inverse that Microsoft has much bigger plans for the fall.

“Project xCloud will also begin trial this fall for a limited audience,” he said at a behind-closed-doors meeting at E3. “We’ll be answering all of those questions [price, resolution, frame rate, internet speed, and game library] later this year.”

The was notably quiet about xCloud at what was anticipated to be the service’s big reveal at E3 2019, one of the industry’s biggest expos. But it didn’t mention the internet speeds gamers would need to play smoothy, what kind of performance they should expect, or even if it would be a game streaming marketplace at all. That was in stark contrast to Google, which has already laid out how much Stadia would cost, its initial game roster, when it would become available, and the caliber of gameplay users can expect.

Microsoft xCloud in action.
Microsoft xCloud operating on a tablet.

Microsoft has interestingly fallen behind Google in the race to deploy a game streaming service, an odd spot to be in for a company that is inarguably one of the most pivotal figures of the gaming industry. xCloud was announced eight months ago, while Stadia just burst onto the scene with Stadia five months ago.

There may be some wisdom to the approach, assuming Stadia sets expectations it can’t meet. Xbox’s 18 additional years of industry experience — and all that time spent building relationships with game developers — could also allow it to deliver a better experience. In his interview with Inverse, McCulloch suggested that this is a strong component of the strategy. 

“One of the greatest things with Project xCloud is that there are thousands of Xbox games that are compatible with Project xCloud today,” said McCulloch. “And more developers have the opportunity to test their games and try them and bring them to Project xCloud.”

Developers that want their titles on streaming services will need to transition them to run on smaller screens and different hardware. Marty Stratton, the id Software’s executive producer, said it took his team a few weeks to optimize Doom Eternal for Stadia. But it could be far simpler to port games to xCloud.

Microsoft xcloud gaming streaming
xCloud could take console gaming out of the console.

The service will run on stripped down Xbox One S consoles in server arrays, which is the same hardware developers made the games for in the first place. Setting a lower bar to get games on xCloud could ultimately result in a much better roster, even if Stadia has managed to recruit some excellent partners.

Microsoft announced a flurry of new games coming to Xbox and Game Pass over the next year. If it wants keep pace with Stadia it’ll have to bring that same energy to xCloud in the fall.

Media via Microsoft, Microsoft