I jumped on the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate bandwagon at the very beginning. The service started out strong and has only gotten stronger. When they added game streaming to Android devices I knew that I had picked a winner. I had just started playing The Outer Worlds on my Xbox and the ability to play the same game with synchronized saves from my phone was fantastic. My Xbox and TV are in demand from my family so being able to play on something else was a big advantage.
Like the Switch, my phone’s screen could be a little small for a game that was designed to play on a TV or PC screen. The text was difficult to read and distant objects were a challenge to make out. It wasn’t a big enough problem to keep me from playing. I’ve played more of The Outer Worlds on my phone than on my Xbox. I don’t have a current Android tablet and wouldn’t purchase one just for game streaming. Instead, I gazed longingly at my Surface Go 2 and wondered how long it would be before I could use the service with it. I had already been streaming Steam games to it so I knew it would be perfect for Xbox games too.
It took a lot longer than I expected, but I got the invitation to participate in the cloud stream to PC beta a few days ago and have been putting to use. Like I thought, it is difficult to imagine a more perfect system for this experience than the Surface Go 2. It’s screen size, Wi-Fi 6, excellent speakers, and most of all it’s kick stand, make it a fabulous game streaming platform. Just pair an Xbox controller and you’re ready to get your game on anywhere there’s a good Wi-Fi signal.
As for the service, it does not disappoint. It runs from any HTML5 web browser. There’s no software to install, or configure, just go to https://xbox.com/play and sign in with your Xbox account. As with the Android streaming option, you’ll need fast Wi-Fi or 5G Internet and a Bluetooth Xbox controller. There is not currently any support for keyboard and mouse controls. A list of the cloud stream games will be presented, click the one you want to play. That’s it.
I picked up The Outer Worlds right where I had left off. It looked great, I was surprised that the service adapted to full screen with no artifacts or other visual issues. It was awesome in full screen, but I really enjoyed being able to drop down into a window once in a while so that I could keep an eye on my email.
Game play was smooth. There’s no counter, but I would guess it is between thirty and sixty FPS, depending on the game and scene. There is a barley detectable input lag even on a 1.2 Gigabit connection with less than a twenty millisecond ping. It is difficult to put into words. The lag doesn’t inhibit solo game play, but you do have to adapt to it. I am able to play Doom Eternal with almost zero issues. When I try Halo PvP matches I get slaughtered even though I usually come in near the top of the leaderboard on my actual Xbox. I feel like if I practiced enough in the streaming edition that I could make it to the middle, but I doubt that I’ll ever be winning any matches that way.
Are streaming services the future of all gaming? I think the industry really wants them to be. Who wouldn’t want a completely pirate proof way to distribute their work? From what I know of gamers, games, and network technology, I think streaming will eventually capture a large portion of the casual market, but it will struggle to overtake local media for competitive players. Its a nice option to have when your main console or system is busy though.