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Google Stadia is live, but Microsoft's xCloud already feels like the future of cloud games


Project xCloud is a cloud gaming service that we need to beat.

James Martin / CNET

Google Stadia is open for business and the battle for dominance in cloud games is underway. But the troubled performance of Stadia has the feeling that it actually makes the case for Microsoft's still xCloud beta project as a cloud gaming service to watch.

Cloud games – services that allow users to play games running on a remote server – ensure that wherever a player is, they can be connected to their optional gaming platform. Sony was an early player with its PlayStation Now service in 2014, but it was Google that shook things up when it announced the Stadia at the game developers conference in March. Microsoft followed the example with the announcement of its Project xCloud cloud service at E3 2019.

I spent time with all three services, and of the three, I was most excited about Microsoft cloud games for one simple reason: it actually solves a real-world problem world.


Stadia on a large screen TV.

Sarah Tew / CNET

Lack of storage is a problem for gamers to deal with. The Xbox One console has a 500GB or 1TB hard drive, and big budget games like Halo 5: Guardians can occupy 100GB. Every game you buy physically or digitally must be installed on the hard disk of the console to play. For me, it's a library of almost 200 games (and that doesn't include the other 200 available in Xbox Game Pass). With its unlimited space, Project xCloud gives me access to these games without having to install them.

Instead of having to download a game that I feel like playing at whim, Microsoft's streaming service allows me to play Xbox One games on my Galaxy S10 Plus with a $ 25 Bluetooth controller purchased over a year ago , all without any unnecessary as long as I'm on fast Wi-Fi.

Stadia, on the other hand, doesn't give me a solution, just more problems. On the one hand, I already have a gaming computer with a Steam account that has access to many games that I can play from Valve's current application, Steam Link. Adding a new platform to Stadia means that I have another non-Steam digital store that requires a separate purchase (or buyback, in the case of games I already own).


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Currently Stadia requires additional hardware – Chromecast Ultra – to play on TV. Currently, games are priced higher than other platforms and since I don't have a Pixel phone, my only portable option is a laptop. The current games list, in 22 games, is less than half what xCloud promises. Most new and currently hot games are also missing. Instead, Stadia offers older Tomb Raider and Destiny games.

Of the three services, Project xCloud was the one that just worked better in my practice testing. The stage worked great when I tried beta last year, but I had noticeable lagging spikes when I tried it sooner. On the other hand, while I'm on good Wi-Fi, I haven't seen much lag with Project xCloud.

Project xCloud already gives me something I need and is only in beta. Microsoft already has plans for more features and include it with its Xbox Games Pass. If there's a Netflix video game service that has a shot at entering the mainstream, it's almost Microsoft.

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