Competing cloud-gaming platforms Project xCloud and Stadia, from technology giants Microsoft and Google respectively, have received launch dates: A public preview for Project xCloud will launch in October 2019, while Stadia will be fully available shortly after in November.
Unveiled by Microsoft in October last year, Project xCloud is a Netflix-style all-you-can-eat subscription gaming service which allows Xbox titles to be played on lower-end devices including smartphones and tablets. Demonstrated back in March, the software was promised to be made available for public use later this year - and Microsoft has now confirmed that an open beta is to launch in October this year, following a closed beta which began at the Electronics Entertainment Expo (E3) last night.
Microsoft is far from the only company looking to shift the heavy computational processing of modern gaming into remote servers, however: Google's rival platform, Stadia, was unveiled in March this year as running on servers powered by Intel processors and semi-custom AMD GPUs offering 4K resolution gaming at 60 frames per second - at the cost of 50Mb/s of bandwidth, it has to be noted.
Stadia, Google has confirmed, will be available through its Chrome browser on PCs, a dedicated app on Android smartphones and tablets, and a microconsole bundle which combines the company's Chromecast Ultra video-streaming dongle with a custom gamepad for those interested in a dedicated device. These will all launch in November this year, with the hardware bundled priced at £119 (inc. VAT) including three months of Stadia Pro membership. This, priced at an additional £8.99 a month once the free trial has expired, unlocks the 4K60 streaming and 5.1 surround sound options and comes with the promise of regularly-delivered free games starting with Destiny 2: The Collection alongside discounts on selected game purchases; Stadia Base, by contrast, is free from a subscription fee but limited to 1080p60 streaming with stereo sound and comes with no free games or discount offers. At launch, only the paid Stadia Pro membership tier will be available with Stadia Base to follow some time in 2020.
Stadia and Project xCloud take two very different approaches to the cloud gaming market: Google is offering a platform on which players will buy individual games and paying subscribers build up a library of free titles over time; Microsoft, by contrast, is looking to offer unlimited access to a growing library of titles for a set monthly fee Netflix-style. Which approach will prove the most popular remains to be seen.
More information on the Stadia Founder's Edition bundle can be found on the official product page.
April 16 2021 | 18:20