Numerous technology powerhouses are investing in game streaming services, not the least of which is Microsoft. The company has shown off its xCloud game streaming a few times, including one suspicious on-stage demo. Now, it’s gearing up for the first wave of beta players, and you can sign up for a chance to get one of those preview spots.
As with other game streaming platforms, xCloud will render games on servers in the cloud. The video of that gameplay streams down to your phone, laptop, TV, or other devices. Your controller inputs go back up to the server, allowing you to play the game. Several companies have tried and failed to combat latency and bandwidth issues that plague game streaming, but the technology is finally getting there.
Eventually, xCloud will support streaming a wide array of Xbox games to many different devices. However, Microsoft has opted to keep the preview extremely limited. In addition to only allowing a small number of gamers give xCloud a shot, Microsoft will only let them play a handful of titles. The preview will have Gears 5, Halo 5: Guardians, Killer Instinct, and Sea of Thieves. Microsoft wants to gather data on how people use the service and will expand the game selection over time.
If you want to sign up for the beta, you can do so on Microsoft’s xCloud website. To participate, you’ll need an Android phone running 6.0 Marshmallow or higher. While the plan is to support iOS eventually, the preview app will only be in the Google Play Store. You’ll also need a wireless Xbox controller — the phone mounting arm is optional, but you’ll probably want one. xCloud requires at least 10Mbps of download bandwidth, and 5GHz Wi-Fi is recommended. Mobile data should work fine as long as you’ve got low latency. Microsoft is planning a 5G streaming test in South Korea, too.
Microsoft has not announced a start date for the xCloud preview, but we do know it will be limited to the US, UK, and South Korea. The company previously promised a preview would start in October, and that may still be the case. Although, the registration page does say that invites might be delayed by several months. Microsoft hasn’t talked about its business model for the final service, but the preview will be free.