Microsoft’s xCloud, the cloud game streaming component of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate that doesn’t require a console to use, is rolling out fully to iOS devices, including iPhones and iPads, as well as PCs and macOS computers via the web. It’s been in an invite-only beta period since mid-April 2021, but Game Pass Ultimate subscribers can now access games right from their devices.
Microsoft says that on PCs, xCloud can be accessed through the Edge browser and Google Chrome. We’ve gotten it to work within macOS on Microsoft Edge and Safari. More than 100 games are available, and the service is compatible with Bluetooth controllers or ones connected via USB. On iOS, it’ll work as a web-based app via Safari, and you’ll have a choice between a controller or touch controls for certain games. Microsoft also shared in its blog post that xCloud is now powered by Xbox Series X consoles, setting the streaming at 1080p at up to 60 frames per second with a fast enough internet connection.
The road to getting xCloud on iOS was a bumpy one, with Apple’s App Store guidelines initially blocking not just Microsoft but also Google’s Stadia and Nvidia’s GeForce Now cloud streaming services from launching on the App Store. Apple eventually carved out some loopholes to allow them to operate via the web (but not without caveats).
To celebrate the launch, Microsoft put its “Designed for Xbox” badge on one of the best mobile gaming accessories around: Backbone’s One controller. This new version is physically identical to the preexisting model that has been available since late 2020 because it’s technically the same. What’s changed is the physical packaging that now calls out its Xbox compatibility, and despite no increase in price ($99.99), it comes with a complimentary three-month trial to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate for new members, which usually costs $45 on its own. It’s available through the Microsoft Store and Backbone’s website. Razer’s revised version of the Kishi controller for iPhone has monochrome buttons and also includes a Game Pass Ultimate trial for new users. You can read my colleague Sam Byford’s review of that one here.
Backbone has recently updated its app with some deep Xbox integration, like tagging gameplay that you’ve recorded through xCloud. You can edit footage within the app and upload it as a link. It also features a new dynamic Xbox Game Pass feed to tell you about new games to try out and other suggestions based on your friends’ activities.