Microsoft is launching the Xbox Cloud gaming service for iPhones, iPads, and PCs this week. They are doing so on an invite-only basis, for now. The service, formerly called xCloud is a cloud-based service that enables users to play games in the Xbox cloud instead of running it natively on your phone or PC. With this decision, Microsoft joins NVidia (GeForce Now) and Google (Stadia) as cloud gaming service providers.
The primary benefit of this is not having to buy a high-end gaming PC to run video games with cutting-edge graphics. While playing new games on the high or ultra graphics settings has been out of reach for many PC users (due to the low frame rates this causes on less powerful GPUs), cloud-based gaming has clear disadvantages.
The moment you start ‘buying’ content that is only accessible via a server, you no longer have privacy or the ability to play with a spotty (or no) Internet connection. Losing access to your account (for example: account suspension or lost credentials) prevents you from playing the games you purchased. What would happen to your games if this service is shut down is another concern. Another possibility is mandatory subscription-only pricing, forcing you to pay monthly or annually just to keep your games.
Microsoft could theoretically shut down the service, thereby leaving you without access to the games you purchased. However, Microsoft has shown a willingness to refund customers for their content based on past decisions. For example: They refunded customers for their purchases after shutting down an e-book store. It’s also worth noting that services like these require a fast (i.e expensive, and not accessible to everyone) Internet connection.