Xbox Series X and Series S units will likely remain hard to find in the near future, but Xbox fans will eventually have a new way to play the latest games even if they don’t have one of Microsoft’s newest consoles: Xbox Cloud Gaming is on its way to Xbox One, Microsoft announced this week.
The news was tucked into the Xbox Wire recap of Sunday’s Xbox and Bethesda E3 2021 showcase, and few details are available at the moment. But if you’ve been looking wistfully at your Xbox One, lamenting the fact that it won’t play Microsoft Flight Simulator — which was originally announced as coming to Xbox One in addition to Windows PC — then this should perk you up.
“For the millions of people who play on Xbox One consoles today, we are looking forward to sharing more about how we will bring many of these next-gen games, such as Microsoft Flight Simulator, to your console through Xbox Cloud Gaming, just like we do with mobile devices, tablets, and browsers,” Microsoft said in the Xbox Wire post on June 13.
It’s probably not a coincidence that Microsoft made this announcement about Xbox Cloud Gaming just days after saying that it was “in the final stages” of transitioning its Azure data centers to Xbox Series X hardware. (The cloud streaming service has relied on Xbox One S server blades since its beta launch last fall as Project xCloud.) Moving to Xbox Series X hardware will greatly reduce load times, improve performance and visual fidelity, and allow users to play Xbox Series X-optimized versions of games.
In the same breath as its statement on June 10 about shifting Xbox Cloud Gaming’s data centers to Xbox Series X hardware, Microsoft did say that it plans to “add cloud gaming directly into the Xbox app on PC and integrate it into our console experience to light up scenarios like try before you download.” But the wording in the company’s announcement three days later about streaming Microsoft Flight Simulator on Xbox One suggests something deeper than that kind of demo-esque functionality. After all, Microsoft said it will use Xbox Cloud Gaming to “bring many [upcoming] next-gen games” to Xbox One “just like we do with mobile devices, tablets, and browsers.”
Doing so would meaningfully extend the life cycle of the Xbox One, which launched more than seven and a half years ago. It would also benefit Microsoft in that it would provide a compelling reason to maintain an active subscription to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate — the $14.99/month tier of Xbox Game Pass, which includes Xbox Cloud Gaming — for Xbox One owners who aren’t planning (or able) to upgrade to an Xbox Series X or Series S anytime soon. Those customers would be able to stream new-gen-only titles like November 2022’s Starfield on their Xbox One.