- The xCloud preview will begin in October and initially include access to four cloud-streamed video games.
- Google's competing Stadia service will launch in November.
Microsoft is gearing up to roll out its cloud gaming service, which will allow users to play video games from their Android-powered smartphones.
In a blog post Tuesday, Microsoft said that starting next month, consumers in the U.S., U.K. and Korea will be able to register for the xCloud preview. Players will need a wireless Xbox One controller and a phone or tablet that runs Android 6.0 (or later) and supports Bluetooth.
"We now want you to play with us and share your feedback on Project xCloud so we can iterate and improve, week after week," Kareem Choudhry, corporate vice president for xCloud at Microsoft, wrote in the post. "Join us, have fun playing, share your stories and feedback, and be part of the journey."
Despite moving away from some consumer areas like health devices, e-book sales and even its own mobile phone system, CEO Satya Nadella has stuck with gaming and is looking to xCloud as another way to showcase Microsoft's cloud-computing infrastructure. The new service also extends Nadella's strategy of building products that can work across devices rather than just on Microsoft machines.
Microsoft hasn't yet disclosed the price or launch date of xCloud and said it will open up access to more people over time. It also isn't saying anything about availability on iOS devices. A Microsoft spokesperson told CNBC the company will provide information about xCloud on other platforms later.
Microsoft said last year that it was working on the game streaming service. Google and Apple have since announced subscription mobile game services, allowing people to pay for access to games that can be installed on mobile devices. Additionally, Google has a more direct competitor called Stadia, a cloud-based game streaming service that will launch in November for $9.99 a month.
While Microsoft lacks its own major mobile operating system, it has deeper roots in gaming than either Apple or Google — the original Xbox was released in 2001. Gaming accounted for 9% of Microsoft's total revenue in the most recent fiscal year, growing 10% from the year earlier.
On xCloud, users will be able to play Gears 5, Halo 5: Guardians, Killer Instinct and Sea of Thieves through an Android app called Microsoft Game Streaming. More titles will be added.
The preview will run "until customers are consistently reporting a great, fun experience and the technology meets our internal quality standards," Choudhry wrote.
Keith Weiss, an analyst at Morgan Stanley, said in a report this week that gaming provides "a great workload for Azure" and "fits well with the commercial strategy at Microsoft." Weiss recommends buying the stock.