Xbox Game Pass Cloud Gaming, previously known as xCloud, is the closest thing to Netflix, but for games. Microsoft is offering access to 100+ titles for a monthly fee. You need to have a Bluetooth-enabled controller and a compatible smartphone or a tablet - you don't need to own a console or a PC.
Xbox Game Pass Cloud Gaming works with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription, which is probably the best part. The service costs $14.99/£10.99/€12.99 per month, and while it's not that cheap, it includes a lot more than just cloud gaming.
Xbox Game Pass Ultimate includes Xbox Game Pass Console (the richest library and the one available for streaming), Xbox Game Pass PC and Xbox Live Gold. It gives you access to various games you can play on an Xbox console (via download), Windows-based PC (via download, cloud streaming coming later in 2021) and via cloud streaming on an Android device (iOS support coming in 2021).
TV app: Currently there is no app for smart TVs and you can't stream Xbox games on such devices. But Phil Spencer says we are likely to see such apps later in 2021, so apparently smart TV app is in the works.
Xbox Game Pass Ultimate gives you access to over 100 high-profile games you can play on any compatible device. The Game Pass Ultimate also includes Xbox Live Gold for multiplayer gaming and even gives you access to EA Play and its catalog. Microsoft has committed to bringing its first-party games to the service on Day 1 of their release, so you can expect titles like Halo, Hellblade, The Medium and future Bethesda games to drop there on the launch day.
All first-party exclusives will remain available on the service forever, while third-party games will be around for a while before they are replaced by new ones. Every month a few new games are added, but a few leave the service, too. Just like non-Netflix shows and movies.
One final thing worth noting is that while you can buy games on Microsoft Store that are not available with the Game Pass, you can't stream those titles just yet via the cloud service. You can do that if you own an Xbox at home and it's free - it doesn't require you to pay anything.
Back to gaming on the go, though. The Xbox Game Pass Cloud Gaming requires the Xbox Game Pass app and a Bluetooth-enabled controller. Microsoft isn't hell-bent on you buying the Xbox controller - you can use any controller that resembles the Xbox one, be it by Razer, Asus, etc.
Apple is the party-pooper, as it often happens, as it didn't like having a competing gaming service to its Arcade and dropped the App Store rules hammer on Microsoft's app. Support for iOS is still coming, though it will take a while for Microsoft to figure how to work around Apple's restrictions.
Currently, the Xbox Game Pass Cloud Gaming is available in Austria, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, UK, and the USA.
Note that Xbox Game Pass Ultimate is available in even more regions. If you want cloud gaming, you will need a VPN for the region verification when opening the app, and then you can proceed to play wherever you like.
Currently, Microsoft runs the games on dated Xbox One S consoles, which is a bit disappointing. This means the maximum you will be getting is 1080p streaming and not with the best visuals.
The good news is that the Xbox Series X upgrade is scheduled to happen in a few months, and the graphics will drastically improve by then. It seems Microsoft is 100% dedicated to make the Game Pass Cloud Gaming work.
We tried the Xbox Game Pass Cloud Gaming on the Galaxy Tab S7+ by Samsung. It has a recent Samsung chip and an excellent screen, but what matters is having access to a high-speed 5GHz Wi-Fi network. Microsoft recommends at least 10Mbps speed, so anything below that will make the streaming choppy and the games unplayable. We tested the services on different speeds and found that 10Mbps is barely enough - such connection serves a 720p stream with occasional artifacts. We recommend at least 20-25Mbps for smooth 1080p streaming.
We tried playing both with the Xbox Series X controller, as well as ROG Kunai 3 Gamepad. The app didn't care what controller we've paired - it automatically recognized all the buttons, and we didn't have to remap anything.
Since this particular reviewer has an Xbox Series X at home, our test included a transition between gaming on the go and continuing home on the couch. Thanks to Microsoft's Save Cloud Sync - it's as smooth as possible. Your progress is saved wherever you are playing - be it an Android phone or a tablet, PC or Xbox and you always start where you left off.
The first game we tried was Halo 5, and it worked peachy on the tablet. It ran smoothly even if it didn't look as good as on an Xbox One X or Series X. We witnessed minor connection issues but nothing game-breaking.
Then we played some Nier Automata quests, and the game ran great. A few dozen robots and energy balls didn't result in connection issues, though we saw some streaming artifacts. We didn't observe any significant controller lag, though.
Control and Hellblade ran well, too, although playing Control without Ray Tracing sucks. Still, you can enjoy AAA games on the go if that's your thing and have an enjoyable experience.
Finally, we tried some console streaming (from home) and had no issues running Cyberpunk 2077. The game ran on our remote Xbox Series X and streamed nearly flawlessly on our Galaxy Tab S7+ and our Galaxy S20 Ultra.
Microsoft's Xbox Game Pass Cloud Gaming seems like a versatile service with an excellent pick of high-profile games. It offers excellent value for money and works with a variety of controllers.
There is only one thing that's an issue right now - the Xbox One S hardware. Luckily, this is only temporary as the Series X upgrade is on the way.