Ahead of its annual summer “new games” presentation, Microsoft’s team at Xbox pre-briefed members of the press with announcements that don’t revolve around gameplay-filled reveal trailers. We thus picked through a 45-minute presentation full of corporate-speak to find news of actual interest, and the biggest announcements unsurprisingly come from the world of Xbox Cloud Gaming.
From this year forward, every “smart TV” sold by Samsung will include built-in support for the Xbox Cloud Gaming app, installable directly on those TVs the same way owners might install video-streaming apps. A Samsung rep clarified to Ars Technica that this includes models already on sale in its “Neo QLED” line of 4K and 8K sets.
More places to play, more games to play
After installing the Xbox app, a compatible Samsung TV will enable Bluetooth device pairing and present step-by-step instructions for wirelessly connecting an official Xbox Wireless Controller, a Bluetooth-compatible PlayStation controller (both DualShock 4 and DualSense), Amazon’s Luna controller, or other generic Bluetooth controllers. With at least one controller paired, users will then gain access to the same streamed-games interface used by Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscribers, which is currently available on Chrome and Edge web browsers and all Xbox consoles from the base Xbox One generation upward.
We’d hoped to hear support for more smart TV platforms in this announcement, especially since Xbox Cloud Gaming is currently handily beaten in that department by streamed-gaming competitors like Google Stadia and Amazon Luna. And we learned last month that at least one other avenue toward easy Xbox Cloud Gaming on TVs, in the form of a Microsoft-produced streaming device, won’t be out for some time. But Microsoft’s announcement references a previous deal to bring the service to Samsung’s proprietary smartphone app store last year, perhaps to imply that Samsung and Microsoft have an ongoing arrangement for early dibs. Microsoft then suggests that Xbox Cloud Gaming won’t appear on other manufacturers’ sets until “other TV partnerships” are established.
The service’s international reach also expands starting today, as Microsoft has confirmed that Xbox Cloud Gaming servers are being activated right now in Argentina and New Zealand. That brings the service’s supported country count to 28. As a reminder, users in those nations don’t necessarily need to pay for Game Pass Ultimate to access the service; Fortnite currently works as a free-to-play game via both the app and Xbox’s web-based version of the service, and Xbox representatives have made it clear that they want to add more free-to-play, “zero money down” ways for interested gamers to test its cloud service in the future.
In even better news, Microsoft gaming CEO Phil Spencer confirms that Xbox Game Pass Ultimate users will be able to play more games on the cloud “later this year.” Currently, subscribers can only access Game Pass games via the cloud, as opposed to games they’ve purchased a la carte. Once this update rolls out, some, but not all, of the full Xbox catalog will be available on the cloud for Game Pass Ultimate subscribers. Microsoft did not clarify what the defining holdup might be to differentiate between previously purchased games that will work on the cloud, and those that won’t. (Personally, I can already think of dozens of older Xbox games I own that I’d love to play via cloud streaming on my phone—and future game purchases I’d pick on Xbox over other platforms for such a privilege.)