Anyone who’s tried the Xbox Cloud Gaming beta on Linux (which is likely a small crowd, I know) may have noticed that the image quality is a little rough, even by cloud gaming standards. Now, though, community members have found a quick workaround to get better image quality, and we have what seems to be 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.
I tried this out for myself using Linux Mint and this browser extension (though I can’t completely vouch for its safety, so proceed with caution), and it totally worked. The differences, which you can see an example of above, can be subtle depending on what game you’re playing, but I’d consider the workaround mandatory if I was going to be playing any game with any amount of text.
As for why this works, Reddit user CohenJordan, who claims to be a member of the Xbox Cloud Gaming team, offered an explanation on the Linux_Gaming subreddit. According to their comment, Linux isn’t officially supported by Xbox Cloud Gaming, so it “reverts to a default resolution and bit rate” that should work on most devices. According to CohenJordan, the team decided to look at the user agent instead of trying to figure out what features a browser actually supported because it was simpler.
If the comment is legitimately from Jordan Cohen, one of the leads on the xCloud project, it could mean good news — it goes on to say that “the 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 it’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 just fine if you want to get the most out of your Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription.