Roughly one year after announcing plans for its Project xCloud game streaming service, Microsoft will roll out a public test of xCloud next month for Android users in the United States, United Kingdom, and South Korea.
Interested players can sign up for the preview now and look for potential invites in the coming weeks. But Microsoft stresses that the test will initially be open only to “a limited number of participants,” with invitee totals “slowly increasing” over time.
Invited testers will need a device running Android 6.0 or higher with Bluetooth 4.0 compatibility, a Microsoft account, and an Xbox One wireless controller to use the free streaming test app, Microsoft said. Testers will be able to stream via Wi-Fi or mobile networks, and Microsoft has partnered with various mobile carriers to analyze and optimize the experience.
The preview will include access to Halo 5: Guardians, Gears 5, Killer Instinct, and Sea of Thieves to start, and Microsoft is promising more titles will be added as the preview progresses. All games will be available to invited testers for streaming free of charge during the preview.
Past the free limited test, Microsoft didn’t provide any information on launch timing or pricing for the formal xCloud launch. But the company did say that testing will continue “until customers are consistently reporting a great, fun experience and the technology meets our internal quality standards… Project xCloud is a technology, and these trials serve as our opportunity to test, improve and garner feedback.”
The xCloud test comes as Google prepares the formal rollout of its Stadia streaming service. At launch, that service will only be available with a $130 investment and a $10 monthly fee on top of primarily à la carte game purchases—a Stadia tier with no upfront or monthly costs is planned for sometime in 2020.
We last saw Project xCloud at a controlled show-floor demonstration during this year’s E3 trade show, where we were impressed by the visual fidelity and general lack of additional apparent latency over local play.
In an August interview with Gamespot, Microsoft’s Phil Spencer talked up the “convenience” and “inevitability” of game streaming in the medium term while stressing that Microsoft would focus on “choice” between streaming and local play in the short term. “I think [streaming] is years away from being a mainstream way people play,” he said. “And I mean years, like years and years… To me, it’s about what you as a gamer want to do, and I’m not trying to tell you that owning a box that plays video games is a bad thing or that somehow that’s not needed.”