Xbox Cloud Gaming looks worse on Linux and How to fix it

Anyone who’s pushed the Xbox Cloud Gaming beta on Linux may have detected that the image quality is a little harsh, even by cloud gaming standards.

Now, though, community members have found a quick workaround to get better image quality, and we maintain an official explanation for why the hack works and why the problem exists in the first place.

On Monday, Reddit user Spiritual-Ad2806 posted on the Xcloud subreddit, saying that they were able to trick the Xbox service into showing them a better quality stream on Linux by making it think it was running on Windows.

Doing that is relatively simple; they used an Edge extension to change their user agent, which is essentially a string of text that tells websites what browser you’re using, as well as various other pieces of info about your system. When they switched to a user agent that told sites they were running on Windows 10 instead of Ubuntu or Manjaro, they got a noticeably better picture.

Linux Mint and browser extension, and it worked. The differences, which you can see an example of above, can be subtle depending on what game you’re playing. Still, you would consider the workaround mandatory if you played any game with any amount of text.

As for why this works, Jordan Cohen, one of the leads on the xCloud project, explained the Linux_Gaming subreddit. Xbox Cloud Gaming doesn’t officially support Linux, so it “reverts to a default resolution and bit rate” that should work on most devices. Cohen says that the team decided to look at the user agent instead of figuring out what features a browser supported because it was more straightforward.

The Xbox Cloud Gaming team is “working to improve support and access for a wider range of devices and operating systems” and is “considering changing defaults to be smarter.” While that’s far from an official announcement, it does sound like Linux / Xbox gamers may want to keep an eye out. For now, though, the user agent trick seems to work fine if you obtain the most out of your Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription.

Xbox Cloud Gaming is Microsoft’s Xbox cloud gaming service. Initially unleashed in beta testing in November 2019, the service was later established for Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscribers on September 15, 2020. Xbox Game Pass cloud gaming is delivered to subscribers of Ultimate at no additional cost.

The concepts for the cloud service came from Microsoft around 2016 when Kareem Choudhry conceived the Xbox 360 backward compatibility for the Xbox One. As his team formulated this solution, Choudhry also wondered if they could deliver these games without requiring a console and got Spencer’s go-ahead to start a small group to decide the feasibility of cloud gaming.

The technology was successful enough around Xbox Game Pass’s introduction that Microsoft assembled a bigger team to build the cloud gaming platform.

Microsoft struck the service at E3 2018 and formally declared Project xCloud many months later, in October 2018. They explained the service in March 2019 with the racing tournament Forza Horizon 4 playing on Android mobile with an Xbox One controller.

Xbox chief Phil Spencer used a private server during this time to try games on a remote connection. The service joined its home testing phase in May 2019, when it could be employed outside the lab. It documented public testing later in the year and was revealed at E3 2019.

Microsoft said its Xbox content library would make its service more appealing than competitors like Stadia. The hardware at takeoff used Xbox One S-based blade servers but started to transition to Xbox Series X-based servers in June 2021. Each server originally had four customized Xbox One S-based units for the 2018 teaser, but this was duplicated to eight per server in a 2U section for the service’s launch in 2019.

Analogized to the standard Xbox One S, power consumption has been decreased by 30% through processor-specific power tuning. In addition, video output is fixed to 120 Hz to minimize latency.

Hardships of the service started in October 2019. The service hosts 50 games, with aid in testing for Apple Inc.’s iOS mobile devices and Sony Interactive Entertainment’s DualShock controllers. In addition, Microsoft released Xbox Cloud Gaming across 21 countries in North America and Europe, as well as South Korea, on September 15, 2020, for the best Android devices, with support for additionally than 150 games at launch.

Xbox Cloud Gaming was unleashed in its beta layout for Windows users on August 9, 2021, as a bonus of the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription. However, it also directed users to be registered in the Xbox Insider program. It was officially dismissed as part of the Xbox app for Windows on September 14, 2021, along with Remote Play aid from Xbox consoles to a Windows computer.

Additionally, Microsoft introduced a Clarity Boost feature for Windows users through the Edge browser that supplies client-side visual modifications to the streamed content.

Microsoft started rolling out testing of Xbox Cloud Gaming for Xbox One consoles on trial channels in October 2021, permitting users on those consoles to play Xbox Series X/S games.