Microsoft’s cloud ambitions are growing and growing. Eventually, you may not need to own a PC anymore because it will exist in the cloud. And expensive consoles? You may not need one of those either. Microsoft’s latest Xbox PC app proves that—and then some.
The company unveiled a new beta test for Xbox Insiders that makes Cloud gaming more accessible: an Xbox PC app can play Xbox games through the cloud. If you’re Xbox Insider, you can try it right now; you’ll just need to update the Xbox PC app. Once you do, you can start playing Xbox games: even if you don’t have an Xbox plugged in anywhere.
That’s thanks to half of Microsoft’s cloud capabilities. Out in the world somewhere, Microsoft installed a countless number of Xbox One X consoles into its server rooms, and those will eventually be replaced by Xbox Series X consoles. In an instant, they can become your Xbox console. With the new Xbox PC app, you can check out Cloud Gaming and instantly start playing any one of over a hundred games, even if you don’t have it installed on your PC or Xbox.
That last bit is phenomenal, provided you have high-speed internet and a Game Pass Ultimate (which is required). Modern Xbox (and Playstation) games take up a ton of room. On the Xbox Series X and PS5, it’s not uncommon to run out of space after installing five or six games, despite housing terabyte hard drives. PC games aren’t much different.
But streaming a game means skipping the install. This means you can start playing faster, and you don’t lose the space on your hard drive. If you ever didn’t try a game because it’d take too long to download, Cloud Gaming is for you. If you’re unwilling to install games because you just don’t have the room, Cloud Gaming is for you.
But it’s not just Microsoft’s cloud support you get in this test. You may have noticed that you can only stream around 100 games through Cloud Gaming. And that does leave a lot of notable exceptions, like Microsoft’s Flight Simulator, which just arrived on Xbox Series X. That’s only half-accurate. You can only stream 100 games from Microsoft’s servers. But if you own an Xbox, you can use xCloud to stream any game you have installed on your console to your PC—even Flight Simulator.
That last one is notable for multiple reasons. Microsoft promised that all of its games would come to Game Pass (and, by extension Cloud Gaming). But Flight Simulator didn’t come to Cloud Gaming. That’s because Microsoft hasn’t finished upgrading its server hardware to Xbox Series X blades yet, so they can’t run the game. And Flight Simulator clocks in at over 100 GBs. Installing it on your console and your PC would be excessive.
But xCloud lets you skip that and play any game you like; from Final Fantasy XV to Elite Dangerous, you can stream it from your console to your PC without enduring download and install times. The only bottleneck is your network. Eventually, even Xbox One owners will benefits. Microsoft says in the future Xbox One consoles will be able to play Xbox Series X games through xCloud.
If Microsoft keeps up this pace, the day could come when you won’t own any hardware beyond a phone and a tablet. You wouldn’t need to. Instead, you’d connect your phone to a TV and controller or a monitor and keyboard, then activate the cloud device you want. Your phone can be an Xbox. Your tablet can be a PC. And when you’re done with one, they can become the other, or neither.
For some people, physical hardware will always be the best choice. But it’s worth paying attention to the fact that forgoing hardware entirely IS a choice now.