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Google Stadia is active, but Microsoft's xCloud already looks like the future of cloud games



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Project xCloud is the cloud gaming service to hit.

James Martin / CNET

Google Stadia is open for business and the battle for cloud gaming supremacy is underway. But the troublesome release of Stadia seems to really justify Microsoft's xCloud Project still in beta as the cloud gaming service to watch.

Cloud games – services that allow users to play on a remote server – ensure that wherever a player goes, they can stay connected to their favorite gaming platform. Sony pioneered the PlayStation Now service in 2014, but it was Google that shook things up when it announced Stadia at the Games Developer Conference in March. Microsoft followed suit with the announcement of its cloud gaming service, Project xCloud, at E3 2019.

I spent time with all three services, and out of all three, I was more excited about Microsoft cloud games for one simple reason: It really solves a real-world problem.

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Stadia on a big screen TV.

Sarah Tew / CNET

Lack of storage is a problem that players need to address. An Xbox One console has a 500 GB or 1 TB hard drive, and the big budget games like Halo 5: Guardians can take up to 100 GB. Every game you purchase physically or digitally needs to be installed on the console's hard drive to play. To me, it's a library of almost 200 games (and doesn't include another 200 available on the Xbox Game Pass). With its unlimited space, Project xCloud allows me to access these games without having to install them.

Instead of downloading a game that I fancy, the Microsoft cloud streaming service lets me play Xbox One games on my Galaxy S10 Plus with a $ 25 Bluetooth controller I bought over a year ago, all smoothly. as long as I'm on fast Wi-Fi.

Stadia, on the other hand, doesn't give me a solution, just more problems. For one thing, I already have a gaming PC with a Steam account that has access to several games I can play on Valve's streaming app, Steam Link. Adding a new platform on Stadia means I have another non-Steam digital store that requires a separate purchase (or repurchase for games I already own).

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Stadia now requires additional hardware – a Chromecast Ultra – to display on TV. Games are currently priced higher than other platforms, and since I don't have a Pixel phone, my only portable option is a laptop. The current list of games in 22 games is less than half what xCloud promises. Most new and currently hot games are also missing. Instead, Stadia offers older Tomb Raider and Destiny games.

Of the three services, Project xCloud simply worked best in my practice tests. Stadia worked very well when I tried the beta last year, but it had noticeable spikes in delay when I tried it most recently. On the other hand, as long as I have good Wi-Fi, I don't see much delay in Project xCloud.

The xCloud project already gives me something I need and it's only in beta. Microsoft already has plans for more features and to incorporate it into the Xbox Games Pass. If there is a "Netflix for video games" service that has a tendency to become popular, it is Microsoft that is almost there.

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