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Microsoft’s new Xbox cloud gaming service, xCloud, is finally here, allowing you to play over 150 games on PCs and Android devices for just $1 during your first month. The launch marks the latest in the company's ongoing rivalry with Sony, who has already put out cloud-based gaming — but not on smartphones. As gaming is in high demand due to ever increasing time spent at home given the state of the coronavirus, the Microsoft service aims to offer casual gamers a convenient and affordable way to play. It is now available across 22 countries, including the United States. The main difference from the popular Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, which is available for $15 a month to console owners — and which has racked up over 10 million subscribers — is the now built-in cloud-based service, which will eliminate the need for physical consoles (so long as you have a supported controller).
The new service comes as cloud gaming is on the rise. According to Guilherme Fernandes, analyst at Newzoo, revenue from cloud gaming currently amounts to nearly $600 million this year and is expected to increase to $4.8 billion by 2023.
A big appeal of cloud-based gaming is the wide variety of games you can access. For gaming providers, their games library will largely impact their success and ability to lead in the industry. With the Xbox cloud service, you’ll find everything from classics and exclusives like the Halo franchise to new hits like “Sea of Thieves” and the latest in the Gears of War franchise, “Gears 5.”
The new service faces direct competition from household names like Sony, as well as recent entrants including Google. However, Sony’s PlayStation Now cloud gaming service is not accessible on mobile devices and Google’s Stadia service has struggled to gather subscribers. While Microsoft has a reputation in gaming, the service does face its share of challenges. Namely, the service will not be available on all Apple devices — and it requires faster internet. The major disadvantage of playing with a cloud based service is the slight delay in reaction from the second you press a button. However, Microsoft is taking measures to help combat any such delays and this will likely improve with the deployment of 5G technology. “We built this experience so that it requires as little bandwidth as possible,” said Kareem Choudhry, Microsoft’s head of cloud gaming.
Still, if you’re a more serious gamer who requires a more immersive experience featuring higher quality sound and graphics, or if a slight delay could mean all the difference to you, you may want to stick with a traditional console. If that’s the case, Microsoft will be releasing the newest generation Xbox Series S in November for $300, as well as the advanced Series X for $500. Sony will also be offering their new PlayStation 5 console this holiday season, but has yet to disclose its price point.
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