Microsoft Edge Gets Its Game On With Xbox Cloud Gaming Update

Now that Internet Explorer is totally gone, Microsoft Edge is taking center stage and dragging along the dozens of features being added to it regularly. Some of those features might make sense, like a built-in VPN or a currency converter. Others, like shopping and financing, have been heavily criticized for negatively impacting the browser's performance. And then there are features that you might think aren't really related to web browsing but also make sense, perhaps as an add-on. In typical Microsoft fashion, however, Edge is getting new built-in features aimed at a somewhat niche audience — in this case, users who play AAA games via their browser using Microsoft's own cloud-based game streaming service.

Gaming is one of Microsoft's most consistent cash cows, to the point that there were once hopes and fears that it would merge its Xbox and Windows platforms one way or another. Of course, that never came, at least not in the way people were worried about. What Microsoft did instead was build two-way bridges between the two platforms while still keeping them separate. The latest part of that effort is to indirectly bring Xbox console titles to Windows through the Xbox Cloud Gaming streaming service.

While Xbox Cloud Gaming can be enjoyed on smartphones — and it was, in fact, primarily intended for mobile devices — the game streaming service has also made its way to PCs through the browser. Naturally, Microsoft would prefer that you use Edge for that purpose, and it is pushing out an update that levels up the software, making it a better gaming hub than the dedicated Xbox app — at least as far as cloud-based game streaming is concerned.

Microsoft Edge gets a gaming hub homepage

Edge will now put all of your Xbox information, including your library and game recommendations, right on the browser's new tab page, Microsoft has announced in a blog post. Of course, you still have to click on the new gaming section to get there, so users who don't really care about gaming or don't have an Xbox Cloud Gaming account won't have to deal with the changes. If you do have an Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription, you can launch a game right then and there by signing in.

Assuming you use Edge to stream games, you will also be treated to Edge's new Clarity Boost. It's a spatial upscaling feature that is exclusive to Microsoft Edge and only works with Xbox Cloud Gaming; it's intended to make you feel like you're not actually streaming video footage from a remote server rather than gaming on a console. It's all smoke and mirrors, of course, and the actual experience may actually vary depending on your PC's hardware.

For PC gamers who don't have Xbox Cloud Gaming, Microsoft Edge still has something to offer in this update. The browser's new Efficiency Mode basically throttles Edge's resource usage when a game is launched, allowing the game to use up more CPU and memory without forcing you to close the browser. And if you're not the hardcore gaming type, Edge does have a dedicated Games menu for more casual titles like Solitaire and Mahjong. Whether these should have been add-ons rather than built-in features is, of course, a debate for another day.