Xbox Cloud Gaming launched earlier this year in beta on 2022 Samsung TVs and has now come to almost all of Samsung’s 2021 TVs as well. Whilst I had a chance to go hands-on earlier this year, I’ve spent quite a bit of time testing it on my 2022 QN900B to see how it fares. I wanted to work out whether it is a viable option for AAA gaming, and honestly I’m blown away with not only how good it works in its current state, but also the future prospects and what it means for gaming.
It’s not until you go through the motions of seeing how easy it is open the Xbox app on your Samsung TV, pair either an Xbox or PlayStation controller and either login or sign-up using a mobile device through the QR code on screen that you understand how small the barrier of entry is to playing AAA games on your TV with nothing but an internet connection and a controller.
The actual Xbox Game Pass experience from a UI perspective is incredibly similar to gaming on your Xbox Series X or PC. Almost all the AAA and indie games are available due to the nature of most of these games being available in the Cloud on day one now. If you’re using an account where you game regularly on an Xbox console or other Xbox Cloud device, then you’ll be able to jump back into any of those games and have your progress there, but if you’re totally new to Xbox Game Pass, you’ll be presented with a very welcoming screen that is full of great games to try sorted by popularity and genre.
When it comes to Samsung specific menus, outside of syncing your controller to your TV, there’s a Game Bar-esque popup that allows you to check your synced controllers, turn surround sound on or off, change your game picture based on what type of game you’re playing or choose between AI Upscaling or Low Latency for game performance (I’d probably recommend changing back and forth depending on the game).
I first booted up a bit of High on Life as it’s the hottest new game, and already the most played third-party, single-player Xbox Game Pass ever, and if you’re somebody that plays games on an Xbox Series X, you’ll definitely notice a drop in fidelity, but given I’ve got your standard run of the mill 100/40 internet connection (which is not great compared to most other parts of the world), I was shocked how steady it was able to run. If I was going off pure performance in terms of latency and frame rate, and I was handed a controller with no context, I wouldn’t have immediately noticed that it was running from the cloud. If I didn’t own an Xbox Series X or wanted to boot this up away from home on a Samsung TV, I’d have absolutely no qualms with playing it this way.
Next, I booted up Forza Horizon 5 and just due to the faster nature of the game, both the actual visual fidelity and frame rate did take a bit more of a hit, but again, if I was a casual gamer or a teenager wanting to jump into Forza on my home TV without shelling out $750 for a console, it’s not the best experience, but it’s a totally fine experience that allows you to experience the game and still have a bunch of fun. It feels like the proper console Forza Horizon 5 experience, not a hampered version of it.
Booting into Fortnite was the game that really drove home how powerful of an experience this is. I know that it’s a weird game to try and make that point with given it’s a free title that can be played on almost every device, but it’s a game that I know that a lot of teenagers and casual gamers would be simply amazed with if they knew they could boot into it on their TV and get an almost console-like experience with nothing but a controller. I was able to play through an entire game with zero lag or latency problems and manage 11 kills. I never felt that the cloud experience hampered my match and if I’m speaking honestly, it was a better experience than I’ve had with Fortnite on even the Nintendo Switch for example.
I know that there’s a lot of scepticism around cloud gaming, but I’m more confident than ever that it isn’t going anywhere and it is the way of the future. I don’t think it will be the only platform for gaming anytime soon, but I do absolutely believe that it is the way forward in terms of accessibility of these AAA games that are currently only available on either an $800 gaming console or a gaming PC.
Whilst we might not be feeling the impact when it’s limited to 2021/2022 Samsung TVs, imagine a world where in just 2-3 years that every single smart TV that you come across will have an Xbox app that allows you to jump straight back in your game on a big screen with nothing but a controller. It might never be the best gaming experience, but I can guarantee that even a hardcore gamer, you’ll jump at when presented with the opportunity.