Microsoft continues flipping crucial switches and toggles for its cloud-powered Xbox Game Streaming service, and this week’s update is easily the biggest yet. The Xbox Game Streaming service has taken an official leap onto all web browsers and iOS devices.
Should you subscribe to the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate service, priced at $15/mo, you can now visit xbox.com/play on supported web browsers (Chrome, Safari, Edge) and immediately enter a cloud-gaming instance that resembles the likes of Google Stadia, Amazon Luna, and Nvidia GeForce Now. Connect a controller to your preferred gaming device, then connect to your lowest-latency connection possible, and you’ll have access to a library of over 260 games as powered by a Microsoft Azure server instance. (Without a gamepad, many games won’t work, though some titles have received Xbox Game Streaming updates to add virtual touchscreen controls should you play on a smartphone.) My most recent article about Game Pass clarifies how its pricing and game selection differ from aforementioned rivals.
This follows Microsoft’s late-2020 promise to get Xbox’s cloud service running via an HTML5 interface, which, among other things, would get Xbox Game Streaming to work on Apple’s otherwise restrictive iOS ecosystem. Both Xbox and Stadia faced Apple’s smackdown in terms of App Store rules that would require every game in their service to receive an individual Apple review and rating process, despite the fact that media-streaming services like Netflix and Disney+ don’t receive the same scrutiny for their individual TV series and films. (Without a dedicated Xbox Game Streaming app on iOS, you’ll need to create a web shortcut within iOS Safari to add an app-like shortcut to your iPhone or iPad.)
$5 more for Ultimate perks
Eligible Game Pass Ultimate users had previously been able to visit xbox.com/play and access this HTML5 version of the service in a “beta” program, and today’s news expands that access to anyone and everyone. This differs from the dedicated Xbox Game Pass app for Android, which has been available to all Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscribers since last year. Should cloud game streaming not be your cup of tea, you can pay only $10/mo for a device-specific tier of Xbox Game Pass, either for consoles or PC. Game Pass Ultimate combines both of those hardware families’ access to games, then adds cloud access on top—and it’s savvy enough to sync gameplay and save progress across all three families, should you wish to carry on a gameplay campaign between your home console, your bus-riding commute on a smartphone, and your work PC when your boss isn’t looking.
All of this happens on a newly upgraded Microsoft Azure server farm, by the way, which went into effect last week and makes all games operate as if they’re running on Xbox Series X consoles. Many of these performance perks will be noticeable via streaming, particularly faster gameplay loads and higher frame rates. However, anything beyond 1080p resolution or 60 fps performance is currently capped by streaming limits. (Meaning, don’t expect to see Master Chief Collection‘s 4K, 120 fps mode working in your web browser via streaming.) Still, for much of the Xbox Game Pass library, the boosts will be immediately apparent, since this server upgrade leapfrogs past the previous performance standard of base Xbox One consoles.
Microsoft has already hinted to more bullish Xbox Game Streaming moves to come by year’s end, including a dedicated smart TV app and a dedicated app for base Xbox One consoles and Windows PCs.