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Xbox’s Cloud Streaming Upgrade Means You Might Not Need A Series X

In light of console shortages, the ability to stream next-gen games is enticing

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Four vampire hunters stand in a dilapidated diner in Redfall on Xbox Series X.
Arkane’s Redfall is technically only planned for a next-gen release, but cloud gaming could change that.
Image: Arkane

Xbox’s cloud-gaming service just got the hardware upgrade you’ve been trying to nail down for months. Speaking to The Verge, representatives for Microsoft confirmed that Xbox cloud gaming now runs entirely on Xbox Series X hardware, wrapping up a backend upgrade that quietly kicked off over the summer.

So, what’s that mean? For now, not a whole lot—but it suggests big possibilities for the future.


For one, the Xbox Series X can output games in 4K resolution. Though cloud gaming currently streams games at 60 frames per second, the service only outputs games at a resolution of 1080p. Moving the whole operation to an Xbox Series X framework could theoretically bring that in line with what’s available on Microsoft’s highest-end model.

But the switch could also open up access to games that are otherwise inaccessible to gamers gated out of next-gen hardware. Obviously, it’s still tough as hell to get your hands on an Xbox Series X these days (and, to a lesser extent, its computationally scrawnier cousin, the Xbox Series S). Don’t expect it to get any easier any time soon. Just last week, Xbox boss Phil Spencer said as much.


“Regretfully, [the console shortage is] going to be with us for months and months, definitely through the end of this calendar year and into the next calendar year,” Spencer told The Wrap, while pointing out that the much-discussed chip shortage is by no means the only driving factor in getting consoles to players.

You might think that Xbox is still squarely in the transitional period between console generations; not only do plenty of first-party games come out for both Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S, but Xbox’s current next-gen-only slate is fairly thin, including just a handful of games like Microsoft Flight Simulator and The Medium (which, surprise, is no longer an Xbox exclusive).


But, counter to what executives said last year, Xbox’s forthcoming slate is flush with next-gen only games, including Redfall, Fable, STALKER 2, Shredders, Everwild, and Starfield. The ability to stream these games directly to a last-gen Xbox—or, hell, to a mobile device, a computer, or a smart TV—would negate the need to refresh Discord servers and line up at dawn, in the rain, at your local Best Buy.