Is Xbox Cloud Gaming Free?

We hear about the cloud all of the time, and these days, most people have at least some idea of what it is and how it works. Basically, by using the internet, you can connect your devices to servers that can synchronize data, perform powerful computations, and render all kinds of services.

What you might not know is that cloud services are now available in the realm of video games. These services aren’t just synchronizing data, either. They enable people to play games from locked ecosystems on external devices.

Perhaps the most famous example is Xbox Cloud Gaming. With it, you can play Xbox-exclusive titles on Mac computers, smartphones, and an array of other devices. Even more impressive, if you’re to believe the internet, it’s completely free!

Is that really the case? No. The truth, as always, is a little more complicated, so let’s peel back the layers and see what’s really going on here.

What Is Xbox Cloud Gaming?

Just to make sure everyone is on the same page, let’s spend a brief moment talking about Xbox Cloud Gaming. If you’re not familiar with the concept, it’s an online service that enables you to play Xbox games on devices that are not an Xbox.

As an example, you could play Xbox games on a computer or even a mobile device. You can find the full list of compatible devices here.

Here’s how it works. Using the internet, you connect to Microsoft servers and load up a game. The servers do all of the computation and work to run the game. Your device serves as the display and input device. So, you control everything and play normally, but the cloud access is what makes it all possible.

How Much Does It Cost?

With that covered, let’s talk about how much this service costs.

It’s free!

Well, sort of.

The truth is that Xbox Cloud Gaming is bundled with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate (let’s call it “Ultimate” for short). Unfortunately, Ultimate is not a free subscription. The standard fee for it is $15 a month. That said, Microsoft does run special offers, and you might be able to get a few months for considerably less. Eventually, though, the standard fee will return.

Things are actually a bit more complicated than all of that. It turns out that you can play some games on Xbox Cloud Gaming without an Ultimate subscription.

There are free-to-play games available for Cloud Gaming, and even without a subscription, you can play those games for free. So, in that sense, Cloud Gaming really is free.

It’s worth noting that the titles available to play for free are subject to change.

What’s Included?

To make sure everything is perfectly clear, let’s talk a little more about the Ultimate subscription. When you subscribe to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, you actually get a bundled deal. One item in the bundle is Cloud Gaming. The main draw to the bundle is the Ultimate Library.

This is a library of games that you can play as much as you want without purchasing them individually. It’s kind of like Netflix. You pay the subscription, and you get unlimited access to the library. Like Netflix, the titles available on the Ultimate Library change over time.

But, any title on the library is available on Cloud Gaming too.

In addition to all of that, Ultimate comes with Xbox Live Gold. That’s a subscription that focuses on multiplayer games and connectivity. It includes a messaging system, the ability to see what your friends are playing, and, most importantly, special offers only available to members. You can get discounts on games, season passes, and other goodies.

In all, the Ultimate subscription is designed to give you everything currently available as a subscription in the Xbox universe.

Steven Carr

Steven is a certified IT professional and gaming enthusiast. He has been working in the tech industry for over 10 years, and specializes in all things Tech-related. When he's not geeking out over the latest hardware or software release, he can be found testing out the latest video game.

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