In a double-pronged attack on its competitors in the cloud gaming and web browser wars, Microsoft has released Clarity Boost, an image quality update for its cloud gaming service Xbox Cloud Gaming. But here's the catch: you'll only get this perk when playing games through the Edge browser.
At this point, Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscribers can only take advantage of Clarity Boost through Microsoft Edge Canary—an insider build of the browser that acts as a kind of testing bed for new and sometimes experimental, features.
Once you've installed Canary, go to the Xbox Cloud Gaming site in the browser, start a game, then click the '...' icon and select 'Enable Clarity Boost' for those sweet visual improvements.
I'm on a poor internet connection at the moment, so any purported image boost is hidden behind a layer of pixellation that gives me harrowing flashbacks to when I actually paid for an OnLive subscription. Hey, at least I can say 'I was there' for the unsightly birth of cloud gaming, right?
According to Xbox Program Manager Milena Gonzalez, Clarity Boost "uses a set of client-side scaling improvements to improve the visual quality of the video stream." If the above screenshot used to showcase Clarity Boost is to be taken at face value, then that's quite a big improvement, though you will of course need a smooth, speedy internet connection and the aforementioned Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription. Xbox Game Pass for PC subscribers don't get access to Cloud Gaming.
Gonzalez says that Clarity Boost will be available "to all Microsoft Edge users by next year." It's hard to imagine the feature not eventually rolling out to Chrome, Safari, Android and other platforms, unless Microsoft seriously wants to lock it behind a browser with just 9% market share in the hope of drawing more people to it.
Between Google Stadia, GeForce Now and Xbox Cloud Gaming, the cloud gaming wars are heating up, but it's all still a bit ethereal to plebs like me with merely moderate internet speeds. I've dabbled in each of these services—in sub-optimal but not terrible conditions—and they've always left me feeling frustrated with their latency and jarring plummets into 'YouTube 2009' levels of compression.
Still, if these cloud gaming competitors help bring PC gaming to the masses, then they have my spiritual support, and I'll cheer them on from afar.