Microsoft’s cloud gaming system is about to get a lot faster, with Xbox Cloud getting upgraded around the world with Xbox Series X consoles. The refresh comes ahead of cloud gaming support being baked directly into the Xbox app on PC, Microsoft says, and will also power a number of other features.
xCloud has been gaining in traction as Microsoft bundles support for cloud gaming in Xbox All Access, allowing people to play titles hosted remotely. For that to work fully, though, Microsoft’s data centers need the next-gen consoles themselves, and it’s that which the company is rolling out now.
“We’re in the final stages of updating our Microsoft datacenters around the world with our latest generation of hardware, the Xbox Series X,” Microsoft’s Will Tuttle says. “This means gamers will see faster load times, improved frame rates, and experience Xbox Series X|S optimized games.”
It’s part of a broader push to improve cloud gaming performance, and indeed use xCloud as a way to give gamers more of a taste for new titles ahead of actually purchasing or downloading them. Later in 2021, for example, Microsoft will be baking cloud gaming support into the Xbox app on PC, and into the console experience. That will allow it to offer features such as “try before you download,” where players can access some degree of gameplay before their console or PC itself have the game fully downloaded.
Ahead of that, cloud gaming in the browser will be opened up to all Xbox Game Pass Ultimate members. There’ll be support across Microsoft’s own Edge, Google’s Chrome, and Apple’s Safari, meaning both PC and Mac users will be catered for, joining the existing mobile support.
Microsoft’s focus on the cloud has been significant with this generation of Xbox, and seems a timely one given the lingering shortage of Xbox Series X and Series S consoles. Supply chain constraints mean that, even months after their official release, demand still outstrips the number of next-gen consoles that retailers can stock. In that respect, shifting some gamers over to cloud-based platforms – either as a complete alternative, or to tide them over as they wait for new stock to arrive – has helped alleviate a little of the pressure.
Still, as Xbox game releases gather pace, that demand seems only likely to increase. Microsoft says more than 23 studios around the world are creating games for Xbox, and that it plans to release at lease one new, first party game into Game Pass each quarter.