Here’s a first look at Microsoft’s xCloud for the web

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Microsoft has started testing its xCloud game streaming through a web browser. Sources familiar with Microsoft’s Xbox plans tell The Verge that employees are now testing a web version of xCloud ahead of a public preview. The service allows Xbox players to access their games through a browser, and opens up xCloud to work on devices like iPhones and iPads.

Much like how xCloud currently works on Android tablets and phones, the web version includes a simple launcher with recommendations for games, the ability to resume recently played titles, and access to all the cloud games available through Xbox Game Pass Ultimate. Once you launch a game it will run fullscreen, and you’ll need a controller to play Xbox games streamed through the browser.

Microsoft’s xCloud service on the web.

It’s not immediately clear what resolution Microsoft is streaming games at through this web version. The software maker is using Xbox One S server blades for its existing xCloud infrastructure, so full 4K streaming won’t be supported until the backend hardware is upgraded to Xbox Series X components this year.

Microsoft is planning to bundle this web version of xCloud into the PC version of the Xbox app on Windows 10, too. The web version appears to be currently limited to Chromium browsers like Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge, much like Google’s Stadia service. Microsoft is planning some form of public preview of xCloud via the web in the spring, and this wider internal testing signals that the preview is getting very close.

Starting an xCloud stream inside a browser.
Xbox games run fullscreen in a web browser.

The big drive behind this web version is support for iOS and iPadOS hardware. Apple imposes limitations on iOS apps and cloud services, and Microsoft wasn’t able to support the iPhone and iPad when it launched xCloud in beta for Android last year. Apple said Microsoft would need to submit individual games for review, a process that Microsoft labeled a “bad experience for customers.”

Comments

If it’s limited to Chromium browsers does that mean iOS support isn’t there yet? You can’t run a Chromium browser on iOS, right?

That would be logical. But as their aim is to make it available to ios users, it’s something they’ll sort for launch.

But for development, makes sense to use the browser stack that they have the most control over.

It’s in internal testing, so I’m sure they’ll expand it to Safari shortly to cover that

With the caveat being that it only leverages APIs that are available in Safari. Which, if they were, it would likely work in Safari already.

Isn’t the same as it is for Stadia? Meaning, it works with Safari just fine on mobile, but with desktop they’ve limited it to Chrome browsers.

Correct, you cannot. You can run Chrome on iOS, but the iOS version of Chrome doesn’t actually run on Chromium. Apple forces all third-party iOS browsers to run on WebKit. So Microsoft needs to get this working on Safari before it’ll work with iOS.

Now that we have "cloud" versions of games such as Hitman III and Control, it makes you wonder if some developers/publishers will just skip the middle-man (like Stadia, xCloud, PS Now) and just publish them directly on the App Store. That would play nice with the Apple’s rules.
If memory serves me right, there’s a Japan-only version of Final Fantasy XIII that works like this.

Barely anyone would do that. They’d have to fork out 30% of everything to Apple. They’d also have to bear all the costs of keeping the game streaming. So hardware costs (PCs), cloud infrastructure, support etc.

They’d also have to bear all the costs of keeping the game streaming.

This is where the speculation on Stadia going "white label" could play a role.

The problem is that they’d have to keep those services going. Doesn’t really make sense for a one time purchase, but it does make sense for a subscription service. So it won’t surprise me when Stadia or Luna (or hell, probably Xcloud itself) gets white labeled for EA Play and that app gets submitted to the app store.

If I remember correctly Sony already relies on azure for their cloud gaming offering… it will be interesting to see how MS will leverage that for other publishers.
That said, xCloud isn’t just a game delivery system. There was an interview with one of the execs some time back, where they described, how they actively help and finance smaller developers and get some form of exclusivity in return. Maybe the big ones will switch to own offerings (as is happening in the film industry), but I don’t see that happening for smaller and medium sized developers and publishers.

Ubitus also uses Azure for the Control and Hitman 3 Cloud versions on Nintendo Switch. So MS has been doing both xCloud on Xbox hardware, and white label for Ubitus using Nvidia PC hardware.

And the interview you are talking about was discussing GamePass. It’s intertwined with xCloud for now but not the same thing.

Game developers already have to fork over 30% for their XBOX and PS games.

how is that skipping the middle man? apple literally is a middle man

Apple is actually more of a mobster who controls a neighborhood.

Hitman 3 and Control on Switch are run by Ubitus which is using Azure datacenters. MS could put their first party on Switch similar way, if they wanted. But using xCloud and linked to MS account.

I wonder why they didn’t include mouse and keyboard support. Can’t wait until it hits the web later this year. I don’t own an xbox but can’t wait to try out xcloud since I started using Stadia.

I wonder why they didn’t include mouse and keyboard support.

Because the back end service infrastructure runs on Xbox console hardware, not PCs. Most console games require use of a controller.

Nah. Xbox allows KBM. It’s up to individual developers to turn it on.

And not many do, hence the development time spent elsewhere

also, iOS doesn’t allow to track mouse. GeForce NOW doesn’t support mouse for this reason

GeForce NOW supports keyboard & mouse for all games offered by the service. Out of curiosity, what were you trying to run it on?

Not when you’re running GFN in a web browser on iOS. You have to use a controller.

Safari also doesn’t have the Bluetooth API.

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