When is xCloud coming to Australia for Xbox Series X?
Microsoft's head of Xbox has confirmed when Australians will get access to game streaming service xCloud on its next-generation consoles.
To date, Australians have been missing out on the rise of services that offer streaming games. Services like Google's Stadia, Microsoft's xCloud and Nvidia's GeForce Now are available overseas, but Australians have been left out of the loop.
It's disappointing, but it makes sense. We're a long way from the rest of the world and its huge network of servers. And streaming games requires serious bandwidth. (Maybe if we all had fibre-to-the-home we'd be sweet; but let's not get lost lamenting the stuffing up of the NBN.)
That's set to change in early 2021 if head of Xbox, Phil Spencer, is to be believed. He took to Twitter, responding to a message from a fan who asked, "Can we get xCloud in Australia please?" Spencer responded with:
"Yes, you can. [It] should be in early 2021. We are doing internal testing with our local Australia teams now."
Microsoft, which already has a robust server network in Australia thanks to the Azure cloud, has just released its xCloud service in a handful of overseas territories. While Australia was always on the roadmap, given what we've seen with other services, fears were it could be years away. So this is positive news.
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Is xCloud a game streaming service?
We go into extensive detail about what xCloud offers here, but in summary, it's effectively a Netflix for games. Instead of downloading a game to local hardware and playing it, you stream it to a screen from remote hardware. The benefit is that the screen you are using does not need to be very powerful in order to play the most advanced video games. You can play Halo on your mobile phone, for example.
Accessibility is the big theme ahead of Microsoft's launch of the new Xbox Series X and Series S consoles, and that's what xCloud delivers. It also provides another point of difference in the consoles' battle with Sony's PS5.
How much will xCloud cost in Australia?
In a big win for gamers, xCloud will be made available to Australians as part of the Game Pass Ultimate subscription service. Game Pass Ultimate is already a killer app for the suite of Xbox consoles. It brings access to hundreds of games, online play, EA Play, perks, discounts and more for a monthly flat rate. That rate is $15.95/month.