Microsoft have been dipping their toes into cloud streaming games for a while now, but today sees the launch of an Xbox Cloud Gaming beta for Windows 10 PCs. What this means is that some paying subscribers of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate will be invited to a closed beta whereby they can play games in their web browser, without the need for a lengthy download and install beforehand.
Microsoft announced the beta's launch earlier today. Invitees will be able to play over 100 Xbox Game Pass games through Chrome, Safari or Microsoft's own Edge browser.
This is a limited beta, so invites will be sent out to players gradually as Microsoft gather feedback. They hope to open the service up to all members in "the coming months."
Cloud gaming has a stop-start history on PC, with plenty of services launching and almost as many closing down without finding an audience. Shadow, which gave you access to an entire PC in the cloud, filed for bankrupty last month; Nvidia's GeForce Now service continues although recently doubled its price; and Google's Stadia also continues but has had a rocky start. (Hello to the three Stadia stans about to try to convince me that their preferred service is doing great, actually.)
The tech has struggled to find an audience partly because you need a heck of a good internet connection to be able to stream games without input lag. But it's probably also because the people who want to play big budget games, and who have heard of cloud gaming services, are probably also people who already own good gaming PCs or consoles they can play on natively.
Xbox Cloud Gaming seems like it might have a better shot than most given that it's being added as a feature to a service, Xbox Game Pass, that people already use and understand.