Surprise: Xbox Game Streaming, the Stadia-like service that delivers over 200 games for a flat $ 15 per month, now works on Windows 10 PCs. The catch is currently not officially out yet.
A solution that quietly and leaked at the end of 2020 is finally making the rounds thanks to recent Reddit and YouTube shares. During that time, Microsoft has not yet connected to this method to get the game streaming service, currently an Android exclusive, up and running on your PC. It requires access and download of an app that is otherwise buried in an official Microsoft database, and then you use a one-time unlock phrase to make it work.
But the steps are simple and safe enough, as I have tested, to recommend it to anyone eager to test the Xbox streaming option on their favorite Win10 laptop or desktop PC – and finally to see how Xbox Game Streaming (formerly known as Project xCloud) performs on wired Ethernet connections.
After seeing public testing at shows in 2019, Xbox Game Streaming became a formal part of the $ 15 / month Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription service in September 2020. As of press time, it is by far the most content-rich gaming streaming option in the world. – Offers more at that price than the mix of subscription and a la carte options at Google Stadiums – and it currently offers as many as 225 streamable games as part of the fee. (As of the end of 2020, this selection includes the extensive EA Play library.)
However, unless you have an Android-powered smart TV and side-loading knowledge, your options for larger screens and Ethernet connections have been limited, thanks to the app’s first rollout exclusively on Android smartphones and tablets. (Even Xbox’s major console rival has an edge here, thanks to PlayStation Now’s gameplay compatibility with Windows PCs.) According to internal Microsoft meetings, the Xbox division has cemented its ambitions to land on more devices by 2021, using an online protocol that will Bypass current iOS restrictions on game streaming apps.
Today’s leaked alternative seems to rely on a custom executable backend, as opposed to a solution that runs in browsers. The method, originally shared by Reddit user pejamas1986 in November 2020, was described as an app meant to be side-loaded in Xbox Series X / S’s “developer mode”, but a recent share from the YouTube channel Cloud Gaming Xtreme confirmed the app. was also built with Windows 10 compatibility in mind.
The current app can be exposed by visiting RG-Adguard, a website that analyzes Microsoft Store links and finds their official downloads, whose URLs can be checked before downloading yourself. For Xbox Game Streaming, a public URL for the Spanish version of the app can be analyzed to reveal a bunch of files. Grab the MS Store URL, type it into the RG-Adguard interface, and you’ll get a bunch of links. The one you want to end with the extension “.appxbundle.” Download it and add the extension manually to the download when it’s complete, and presto: you have a 220 MB file that will launch, verify your current paid XGPU subscription, and let you start streaming some of its 200+ games – once you have entered an “offer ID” code, which in this case is just the expression “XGPUBeta”, no quotes.
A matter of frames and mice
You have been warned: The app in question is clearly marked as a “Test app”, so your mileage is likely to vary, as it is not a publicly supported app. Ars will not be held responsible for anything wrong that happens if you use it. That said, I have tested the app on several Win10 computers (that is, not in the operating system’s beta pools) and can report that it seems to work well enough. Wired gaming on a Win10 desktop computer resulted in a superior push-button delay response than the same on a laptop via 5 GHz WiFi; I could play fighting games like Killer Instinct via a wired cloud streaming setup and withstands the extra delay images, but I was not so comfortable playing the same things via my wireless laptop.
Still, it’s nice to get a larger screen option for both use cases, whether I want to endure a bit of a delay while playing a new Square Enix shooter Outriders or go completely wireless with slower, laptop-friendly price like Kill the sprout. And if you like looking behind the Xbox development veil, this app lets you do just that with “developer” options baked directly into each menu. These reveal juicy, instant statistics such as bandwidth measurement and jitter – and they confirm a working resolution of 1080p for many games, which is a boost compared to the Android app. (As of press time, all games are rendered on a server farm set to Xbox One S specifications, not the next generation, so do not expect power and graphics to flourish in the console generation by 2020.)
The biggest catch so far is that you need a gamepad to play most of the available games, unless the game in question has formal keyboard-and-mouse support for its Xbox versions – and even then I have not finally tested the app for to see if these controls can be exposed by this test app. Still, keep your mouse handy (or use the touchscreen of a laptop) to access the app’s top menu structure to quit and switch between games. This is life with the use of unofficial test apps. And although this is a “test” app, it still looks for legitimate customer credentials, so your Windows 10 computer must include Xbox credentials with an ongoing Xbox Game Pass Ultimate membership, otherwise this will not work.
And it remains to be seen whether a full-blown browser version of Xbox Game Streaming will prove to be better than this Win10 executable, but obviously that version will open up access to even more devices, including those that may prove more convenient to connect to your television.
Listing image by Sam Machkovech