Published on February 16th, 2021 📆 | 2863 Views ⚑0
Chromebooks can also game: xCloud announcement
You may remember something about the Microsoft xCloud game streaming service from the fall of 2019. If you do not, let me refresh your memory. Microsoft xCloud is similar to Google Stadia, Microsoft Luna, NVIDIA GeForce Now, and many other similar game streaming services. It lets you play games using the portal offered by the company, mostly in the form of an application that acts as an access window to the games. The games are run using the rented hardware that is allocated to you when you purchase a subscription and you are just streaming that using an internet connection and a display with any of the popular OS, namely Android, Windows, Linux, iOS, etc. All the mentioned operating systems are not fully supported yet but when they do, you can expect a performance similar or even superior to the NVIDIA GeForce Now.
The hype isn’t what I mentioned above. It was just a quick talk about the technology behind the xCloud or any game streaming service. The Microsoft xCloud is in news again for announcing the support for Chromebooks. That means you can run the latest-gen AAA game titles using a lightweight, affordable laptop with basic functionalities. The news surfaced last night and immediately spread like wildfire on tech forums. I welcome this approach of including lightweight affordable computing devices to be able to leverage the power of the cloud and facilitate the gaming experience anywhere.
What’s the benefit of running it on Chromebooks?
The most palpable benefit that I see is encompassing the user base that’s left out due to restrictions of hardware, most users with low hardware configurations. The windows application for Microsoft xCloud is still pretty demanding and it cannot run without freezing after every few seconds. To see a working implementation try running any of the game streaming services on a dual-core laptop with integrated graphics, you’ll understand what I’m trying to convey.
Moreover, Chromebooks are inexpensive and lack any competent hardware but still come with a larger display that usurps the screen size of mobile phones and tablets. Using a larger screen for gaming makes much more sense compared to the itty-bitty displays on smartphones. The Android application for the Microsoft xCloud exists for quite some time now, but the experience of gaming using that is a hit or a miss. I found the loading times to be superbad despite connecting it to high-speed WiFi.
If it is arriving on Chromebooks chances of making it to Chrome become pretty high. I had a very bad experience with the recently released GeForce Now for Chrome browser. It is still in beta do I have to be slightly less brutal, but the experience was utterly bad. Microsoft xCloud will cost around 15 USD, which is a lot if you compare it with Google Stadia and NVIDIA GeForce Now, which cost almost 10 USD each per person/per month. I’m not worried about the price so much as Microsoft is one of the few companies that have the most versatile and avant-garde cloud computing infrastructure in place. I expect its service to never plummet as low as Amazon Luna, but that is a talk for the future.
The three titans of silicon valley, Google, Microsoft, and Amazon have actually compelled gamers to migrate to an online ecosystem where you can play games irrespective of the hardware they have lying around. You still have to pay for the bandwidth, the subscription, and the game, but will Microsoft xCloud, you get over 100 gaming titles that include some of the Xbox exclusives too. A few of them that are present in the digital library are as follows:
- The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
- No Man’s Sky
- NieR: Automata
- My Time at Portia
- Sea of Thieves: Anniversary Edition
- Halo: The Master Chief Collection
- Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
- Dead by Daylight
- A Plague Tale: Innocence
- Minecraft Dungeons
- Middle Earth: Shadow of War
- ReCore: Definitive Edition
For a five-dollar price hike, you do not have to separately buy a game, that is very frustrating for a new gamer. NVIDIA GeForce Now is looking very inferior to what the folks at Microsoft are offering for gamers and I hope they do something about it. Access to the beta version of xCloud for Chromebooks will be a paid affair and you have to pay the one-month fee before trying it out. I would recommend the ultimate version because sadly the other two options restrict you to play on either a console or a PC. This is a frustrating marketing gimmick but at least you’ll have the option to cycle between your smartphone, laptops, browsers, and Chromebooks.