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It's no secret that Microsoft has struggled to keep up with Sony and Nintendo in the latest generation of game consoles, but the division has been doing much better since company veteran Phil Spencer fully took the reins in September 2017, where he now reports directly to CEO Satya Nadella.

Since Spencer's ascendance to the top of Microsoft's games division, the company has delivered the Xbox Game Pass, a Netflix-like subscription service; Xbox All Access, where you can pay for a console with Game Pass in installments as low as $25; and the imminent Project xCloud that will be able to stream your Xbox games to a mobile phone.

SEE: Microsoft's Netflix-like Xbox Game Pass subscription is coming to Windows 10 PCs

Microsoft hasn't talked a lot about xCloud since the announcement in October last year, but Windows Central recently spotted a Game Developer Conference session about the upcoming service, and the description reveals some new and interesting info: "Any Console Native game currently shipping in the Microsoft Store on Xbox will be capable of streaming to a mobile device."

The Game Developers Conference is an annual event in San Francisco that brings together game makers from all over the world to discuss their processes, strategies and industry observations.

How important is this new Project xCloud info?

While we knew about xCloud's basic functionality, getting third-party game publishers involved is a different story.

Take the Game Pass, for example. While it has a library of about 150 Xbox One games, 54 Xbox 360 games and three Original Xbox games, only the titles that Microsoft publishes itself -- like Forza Horizon 4 and Crackdown 3 -- will appear there on the day of their release. The overwhelming bulk of the selection is of older titles, some of which have been available for years.

So if Microsoft can get all publishers onboard with xCloud on day one, that could be an important victory. Note that only digital copies will be compatible, though. Buyers of physical copies will be out of luck. Microsoft has previously tried to encourage the purchase of digital copies by giving you a copy for both Xbox and Windows when available, but the selection has been limited.

Of course, there's still the matter of trying to play a console game on a mobile device. The touch screen on your phone or tablet doesn't give you the degree of control that you could have with a gamepad, mouse or keyboard; your interactions usually have to be simpler to compensate for the lack of buttons, analog sticks, and vibration feedback.

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So while all digital Xbox games may work with xCloud, making them actually playable on a touchscreen is another matter. Since all of Microsoft's publishing partners are on board with this project, the indications are that the company itself intends to implement a control scheme template, rather than putting the burden on the game maker to spend the time and money to add a second interaction method.

There's the possibility that customers will be able to use a gamepad with xCloud, but that's not nearly as mobile of a solution; a phone slides into your pocket, but there isn't an easy way for most people to stash an Xbox controller when they're on the go.

Either way, xCloud is shaping up to be a welcome relief amid a mobile gaming industry that often relies on manipulating its customers into an endless procession of in-app purchases. Being able to just pay once and have it all is highly preferable.


  • A Game Developers Conference session description regarding Microsoft's upcoming Project xCloud game streaming service indicates that all digital Xbox games will be compatible.
  • Project xCloud will be able to stream your Xbox games from the cloud to your mobile phone or tablet -- though limiting your input to a touchscreen could make some games very challenging to play.

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Tom McNamara is a Senior Editor for CNET's Download.com. He mainly covers Windows, mobile and desktop security, games, Google, streaming services, and social media. Tom was also an editor at Maximum PC and IGN, and his work has appeared on CNET, PC Gamer, MSN.com, and Salon.com. He's also unreasonably proud that he's kept the same phone for more than two years.