In brief: Microsoft's foray into the cloud gaming market, Project xCloud, is making steady progress. The platform, which will let users access a wide variety of Xbox and PC games from the comfort of their laptop, tablet, smartphone, or PC, is set to arrive sometime this year. In the meantime, though, the program's invite-only preview is expanding to additional markets.
The preview, which kicked off in October, will soon be available to Canada-based players, Microsoft announced today. Canadian sign-ups begin now, but access won't be granted until January 29.
We should note, however, that a sign-up doesn't guarantee access. Instead, it adds you to a wider pool of applicants, which Microsoft will choose from based on whatever behind-the-scenes criteria they deem important.
There aren't many requirements to access the service once you're accepted, but you do need a Bluetooth-compatible Xbox Wireless Controller, an up-to-date Android mobile device, and a decent internet connection (data, Wi-Fi, or otherwise). Your connection must support download and upload speeds of at least 10MB/s and 4.75MB/s, respectively.
The xCloud preview currently allows testers to play more than 50 games (more than Stadia's 42) at no cost, including the likes of Gears 5, Devil May Cry 5, Civilization VI, Halo: The Master Chief Collection, Borderlands: The Handsome Collection, and plenty of others.
To be clear, this preview is not the same thing as Microsoft's Xbox Console Streaming platform. Both services use the same app for setup and management, but they are otherwise different offerings. Console Streaming lets you stream games from your Xbox One to your Android phone, whereas xCloud requires no extra hardware (other than your smartphone).
At any rate, the sign-up process is very simple. Microsoft will ask you if you have, or are willing to buy a Bluetooth-enabled gamepad, and it will ask you for the make and model of your Android smartphone. After that, it's just a matter of waiting for your invite, which can take up to a couple months to arrive (though we suspect those who sign-up early will get in earlier than that).