Microsoft's long-in-development Xbox Cloud Gaming streaming service has finally gone live in Australia. While the service is still technically in beta, any Aussie with an Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription can now jump on and start streaming. Australia isn't the only country to flick the switch today, with Japan, Mexico and Brazil all joining the party too.
Now, what does 'cloud gaming' actually mean, and should you be excited? In short, for Game Pass subscribers, yes. Cloud gaming is a wild new world to be hopping into, and one we’re happy to break down for you.
The tl;dr of cloud gaming is simple: instead of the device you're using to game on doing the processing for the gameplay to occur (be that a Windows 10 PC or laptop, or Android or iOS phone or tablet), that all happens on a Microsoft-owned virtual machine that lives in a server-farm somewhere nearby (usually in the same country, if not the same city). That gameplay is streamed in real time from the cloud to your device screen, meaning very little processing is done on your local device, which just needs to send input information back 'up' to the cloud server.
In effect, instead of your own device having to do all the legwork to make the game run, it just plays you a streamed interactive video of what’s happening in the game as it’s being processed elsewhere. This tech has been around for a while, and this rollout is a nifty step towards cloud gaming taking a larger hold.
With the jargon aside, this means that from today (Friday, October 1) you'll be able to access any of the cloud-enabled Game Pass games on a whole bunch of different devices never seen before. Halo on your Android phone? Done. Forza on your iPad? Yes please!
A couple of pointers for PC players right off the bat. You will need a controller to access a whole heap of the games from the cloud – this is unfortunately a place where the mouse and keyboard just won’t cut it. Luckily for users without a gamepad, but with a touchscreen, Microsoft has implemented touch controls to mimic those you’d get on a controller across a selection of early games, including Hades, Scarlet Nexus, Gears 5 and Minecraft. This list is expected to grow over time; for a glimpse of how the touch controls look, take a gander below:
I have to say I ran into early issues when trying to use a wired PlayStation DualShock controller to test run some games and was met with a hard no, but have been told that Bluetooth pads should work fine. For a full list of supported and tested gaming controllers, check here (opens in new tab).
How to access Xbox Cloud Gaming
To get first-hand experience of how the beta runs and what playing on the cloud is like, you’ll need to have an active Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription, which costs AU$15.95 a month. This grants you access to the beta, as well as the full suite of over 300 games (opens in new tab) available as part of the Xbox Game Pass.
You can sign up for the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate with this link (opens in new tab). Or click the Ultimate option below. Make sure it’s the Ultimate option, as a standard Xbox Game Pass subscription does not grant access to the beta.