Cloud gaming has been something that has been attempted a number of times through the years going back to the original Sega Channel (remember that?). Problem is, these games keep getting better every generation. Making it harder and harder to consider the task of streaming them to users. It wasn’t until now that companies felt they were ready to actually deliver through services like Xbox/PC Game Pass.
However, are these companies truly ready to provide the resources required to stream these games to so many users around the world? Graphics and effects have come a long way, meaning it takes a good chunk of bandwidth to stream anything modern with great detail.
A few of us have been spending many hours behind the cloud gaming option of Game Pass both on Xbox and PC to see how well the experience is without having to actually install a game. So far, we haven’t been too impressed. The games do stream and are mostly stable (only once did we have a game completely freeze on us). However, these games do not perform well at all graphically.
Mind you, we have an incredibly powerful multi-gigabit network (yes, we are spoiled here). We have a lot of bandwidth to go around and our speed tests are fantastic (including latencies). Not only that, but we have some fantastic custom PC builds with some of the latest hardware you can get your hands on. So what better way to really see if Game Pass chokes or not?
So I am going to use a decently simple game as an example. Not a title that has the latest in graphics. Simply a nice animated title with plenty of colors that shouldn’t have any troubles streaming since Microsoft is offering titles like Halo Infinite. That title is Dragon Quest XI, a JRPG that was originally released in 2017. It isn’t even 60fps. The graphics definitely feel “2015 to 2017” era. So streaming it should be simple compared to the latest titles, right?
We have put many hours into this game via Game Pass cloud streaming, as well as installed it onto an Xbox via normal Game Pass features to compare and contrast.
The Xbox installation of the game via Game Pass has resulted in a great experience. This is because it is no different than digitally downloading/installing any other game as normal.
However, when choosing to stream it via Game Pass cloud features, without installing the game locally, the experience is much different. The image is fuzzy as it is being heavily compressed, which distracts away from the colorful graphics/backgrounds with the game. Tearing can be experienced frequently by simply turning your character around to look around as it has trouble displaying a decent refresh. Sometimes, it runs into an issue loading frames where you are visibly watching the line running down the screen forming the next frame. Making it difficult to move around menus or read the dialogue on the screen. Sometimes that happens once in a blue moon and sometimes it happens every 30 seconds.
All of this can be seen in the above video. The compression experience during cloud play on a PC with refresh troubles and everything else to go with it. We experienced this every single time we played the game via the cloud.
With this in mind, it is hard for us to believe that Microsoft is ready to stream these games. Either the company doesn’t have the resources required for a beautiful non-interrupted experience, or it is throttling resources back because it didn’t expect the amount of demand its network is getting.
There is clearly a lot of potential sitting there though. Microsoft just needs to increase resources in order to enhance the experience. These games are only going to get better when it comes to graphics. Thus if the company doesn’t do anything, the experience is only going to get worse (on the cloud side of things).
This might be why Sony has been taking so long to get their response to Game Pass out there. Learn from the competition first, see what works and what doesn’t, and run with a better system when ready.
Either way, we do hope that things get better as it would be nice to have remote access to all of these titles while having a similar experience to installing the game. It would heavily justify the cost of the flagship Game Pass Ultimate plan and gamers will celebrate the versatility of playing their favorite games on virtually anything that supports an Xbox app. Here’s to the future!
What are your thoughts on the matter or your experience with Game Pass cloud streaming? Feel free to use the comments below to share.