My favorite thing about this generation of consoles is how much people wrongly bag on Microsoft and Xbox. Sure, the Xbox One reveal was a giant botch and the first few years were, let’s say, less than stellar. However, the new head of Xbox, Phil Spencer, has come in and turned the brand around. Game Pass, backward compatibility, and extensive PC support mean that Xbox is about to enter the next generation on top. However, there’s an even more exciting project coming that will prove whether or not the brand can take the lead on the cloud-gaming front against competition from Stadia — and it’s called Project xCloud.
xCloud is the pinnacle of Spencer’s “cross-platform” initiative. Utilizing Microsoft’s data centers in combination with Xbox One consoles, xCloud will allow you to play games on any (supported) device with an internet connection. Yes, that means I can play Halo: Infinite on my phone — or, potentially, even the Nintendo Switch — while on the bus if I so desire.
Of course, there are external factors — like latency or gaming on a small screen — to consider, but what’s here is very promising. Namley, we are presented with an ideal way to experience the future of gaming.
However, xCloud isn’t the only cloud-streaming service in the ring. Google is heading into the gaming sphere with Stadia, a similar offering but from a company with little background in games. I’m just not sure I have any plans to switch over to it.
Xbox xCloud Versus Google Stadia
As of now, Stadia will run on computers with Google Chrome, a Chromecast device, or mobile phones (but just the Pixel at the start). Moreover, the service will support 4k games at a 35mb/s speed, but only if you’re paying for the Pro tier at $10 per month. There’s a free tier that streams normally at around 10mb/s, but you still have to buy games at full price. Oh, and the most significant thing: there’s no alternative to streaming with Stadia.
That’s right. With Stadia, you’re not even given the option to download the games you’ve paid full price for. So, if you have a data cap, have fun trying to play the newest titles in higher resolutions. We’re only talking games here, too. Think about that on top of Netflix and other streaming services.
xCloud can run games smoothly at just a 7-10mb/s internet connection. This matches Stadia’s free plan, though we’ve no details on the 4K side of things just yet, like price and speed. However, it may not matter. What’s great about xCloud is that Microsoft plans to make it an alternative to console gaming rather than a replacement like Stadia. You can still come back and play your downloaded games on your Xbox or PC in full resolution.
— TechRadar (@techradar) June 12, 2019
With xCloud, there’s a high chance that my Xbox Live subscription will already cover a cloud streaming plan. If not, there’s still Game Pass, which gives you a ton of games to play without having to buy them at full price and the option to download them on your home console. Stadia will have a couple of free games, of course, but you’ll have to pay for most of them without the ability to download.
That’s not to mention the fact that xCloud will support 3,500 games at launch. There’s also 1,900 more in preparation. As of this writing, only a few games are coming to Stadia at launch.
There’s just something strange to me about choosing a service in which I can’t even download my games over one that I can when both offer similar streaming performance.
Google Stadia Has Some Perks
Of course, the Stadia does provide some benefits. On the developer side of things, there’s something called Style Transfer ML. This is a tool that uses artificial intelligence to add textures to a black and white environment. That’s incredibly cool.
Also, and this is a little weird, but if you see a video ad for a game on YouTube, you can click a button that will launch you into said title within seconds. It’s a nifty little feature, but nothing that makes the service a must-have.
Then, there’s “Crowd Play.” If you’re watching a streamer, you can choose to load up the played game with their save data and continue from the point they left off. You can even join their multiplayer session from the streaming page as well.
Again, these are neat features, but they distract from the fact that Stadia lacks in the quality-of-life features that make xCloud the better bet. If anything, Stadia’s offerings only make me excited to see what Microsoft can bring in, considering I’ll have more games to play without committing to streaming-only. The Xbox developers have already played with interactive streaming on Mixer. They’re likely to push those ideas with xCloud as well.
Both platforms will support multiple controllers, though Google is coming out with its Stadia-specific one that looks pretty decent. However, xCloud will come with touch-centric controls for certain games like Sea of Thieves. Again, the latter provides a choice — and the Xbox controller is (arguably) the best remote ever to exist.
Google Stadia vs. Project xCloud: Here’s what we know so far https://t.co/lVdXSIO58c
— Social Media Attack (@AttackSm) May 6, 2019
A Successful Launch
Finally, it all comes down to the launch.
As already discussed, Stadia releases with support for only a limited list of games. The free plan isn’t coming until later, and Google is only putting it on Pixel phones at release. Conversely, xCloud has the Xbox platform behind it, with millions of players on top of features like achievements, built-in stream support, a DVR, and much more. Players will likely stick with something they already have instead of migrating to a new platform.
However, this is just at launch. We’re still unsure of xCloud and the extra features it may bring with. It’s unlikely, but maybe Microsoft will botch the release, entirely. Also, Stadia brought in Jade Raymond, once producer at Ubisoft and Electronic Arts, to create exclusive titles for the service. So I’ll keep an open mind and maybe try out this cloud-exclusive platform in the future — but for now, xCloud is where I’m looking for the future of games. I don’t think that will change any time soon.
What do you think about Xbox xCloud compared to Google Stadia? Let us know what you think in the comments below!
Image courtesy of Xbox Wire Media Library, Xbox Wire, Twitter/@techradar/@AttackSm, Gerd Altmann from Pixabay.