Last November, Microsoft announced that its Project xCloud game-streaming service (which is currently in open beta) would eventually be integrated with its Xbox Game Pass subscription service in some form. This morning, Microsoft added a bit more clarity to that integration, announcing in a blog post that xCloud streaming will be available “at no additional cost for Xbox Game Pass Ultimate members” starting in September.
Microsoft promises that “over 100 Xbox Game Pass titles” will be available for xCloud streaming “on your phone or tablet” as part of a Game Pass Ultimate subscription. That’s a much smaller selection than the 234 Xbox 360 and Xbox One games that are currently available to download as part of the subscription, not to mention the 140 or so PC-exclusive downloads that are also included. But it is a larger selection than the 50+ games currently available as part of the Project xCloud preview program.
Aside from Halo Infinite, which gets specific mention in today’s announcement, Microsoft has yet to clarify which specific titles will be available for streaming with Game Pass. Microsoft also has yet to say whether xCloud access will be available outside of a subscription plan (i.e., on a per-game basis) or as part of a streaming-only plan separate from Game Pass. A Microsoft representative said it expects to have formal answers to those questions closer to the September launch.
“Free” is a good add-on price
Game Pass Ultimate, as you may remember, is the $15/month package that provides access to Game Pass as well as Xbox Live Gold (which itself comes with access to online multiplayer and its own monthly free game opportunities). That sticker price comes down pretty frequently as part of various promotions, too.
Project xCloud has worked pretty well in our beta testing (pictured above), and it offers a relatively convenient way to take existing high-end console games with you away from the TV, as long as you have decent broadband and Wi-Fi connections. Offering that service as a freebie on top of Game Pass’ current downloadable options for TV-based play differentiates Microsoft’s offering from the likes of Google’s Stadia, which doesn’t offer downloads and primarily sells individual games a la carte.
The addition of xCloud streaming brings Game Pass more in line with Sony’s long-running PlayStation Now. That service currently offers access to over 300 downloadable PS4 titles as well as over 800 streaming games from across the PS2, PS3, and PS4 libraries for a price starting at $60 a year.
But while Microsoft has pledged that every first-party Xbox Game Studios title will be part of Game Pass on that game’s launch day, Sony has generally been more reluctant to add high-profile first-party exclusives to the PlayStation Now lineup.
Listing image by Microsoft