Microsoft’s bullishness about Xbox as a cloud-gaming platform got a lot bolder on Tuesday with the surprise launch.of a previously teased change: an upgrade to the server farm that powers the cloud portion of Game Pass Ultimate. Long story short, it’s now much more powerful, enough to make Xbox’s $15/month Game Pass Ultimate an increasingly attractive subscription option.
Xbox Game Streaming, which was previously known as Project xCloud, works much like Google Stadia, Amazon Luna, and other cloud-streaming options. Pick a game, and a server farm will spin up a personal instance and beam its gameplay video to your preferred, Internet-connected device while tracking your local button taps. The concept is a downgrade from locally owned hardware for a few reasons, including button-tap latency and hits to any ISP bandwidth caps, but it’s also arguably easier for some households than buying a new console.
The Xbox version has been quite attractive thanks to its value proposition. It includes over 260 games as part of a $15/month subscription, as opposed to a smaller Luna library, service-compatibility issues with Nvidia GeForce Now, and the a la carte pricing universe of Stadia. (Game Pass also comes in $10/month flavors, meant specifically for local hardware.) Up until now, however, the catch has been measly power on the server-farm side, since its cloud instances regressed to the “base” Xbox One console spec. Earlier this month, Xbox execs confirmed that its server fleet would begin upgrading to the Xbox Series X spec, which supports higher frame rates, higher pixel resolutions, faster loading times, and advanced rendering features.