If you missed out on a PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X this year, Microsoft has good news for you: its Xbox Cloud Gaming service is coming to iOS and PCs in spring 2021.
That means when Halo Infinite drops next year, you’ll be able to play it on the like of the iPhone 12 and iPad Air 2020, as well as on PCs that wouldn’t normally have the horsepower for it. You’ll be able to play the same games as next-gen consoles without actually needing to have a next-gen console.
The news comes via a blog post (opens in new tab) by Microsoft Gaming’s Jerret West, who says Microsoft is committed to “providing a consistent Xbox experience wherever you log in, whether that’s on your Xbox Series X|S, PC, Xbox One, Android Device or – starting in Spring 2021 – your Windows PC and iOS device from the cloud.”
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How Cloud Gaming will dodge Apple's App Store ban
As we previously reported, cloud gaming was blocked from the App Store by Apple, who wanted to vet every game. Microsoft has now taken a different route and will stream to Apple devices’ web browsers instead.
As West explains: “In Spring 2021, we will take the next step in our journey to reach more players around the world by making cloud gaming as part of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate available on Windows PCs through the Xbox app and browser, and iOS devices through mobile web browser.” Microsoft has also hinted about a Google Chromecast-style dongle that would stream games to your TV.
What’s the difference between Xbox Game Pass and Cloud Gaming?
Cloud Gaming, formerly xCloud, is part of the Game Pass Ultimate subscription service, which is $14.99 / £10.99 per month. With Game Pass you download the games to your device – such as your Xbox or Windows 10 PC – and run them locally on that device, so the performance and visuals you get will depend on the hardware you have.
With Cloud Gaming, the processing is happening on Microsoft’s servers and the action is then streamed to your device as you play. That means you can play Minecraft Dungeons or Destiny 2 on devices they haven’t been released for, and on devices that wouldn’t normally cope with their demands.
It’s like Google’s Stadia, which has demonstrated that a lot of people's internet connections are good enough to do this without introducing fun-killing lag and buffering. In our original Google Stadia review our quibbles weren’t with the technology, but with the range of available games.
That’s not an issue with Microsoft. Its Game Pass service is surely the gaming bargain of the century, with new releases as well as archive classics available for what you’d pay Netflix for Umbrella Academy. As of last month, Microsoft's Cloud Gaming library included Crackdown 3, Destiny 2, Doom Eternal, Gears of War 5, all the Halo games, Forza Horizon 4, Minecraft Dungeons, PUBG and dozens more across all genres.
For now Cloud Gaming is only available in North and South America, South Korea and some of Europe but an Australian roll-out is expected in 2021: preview testing began last month.