Xbox cloud gaming looks worse on Linux – here’s why it’s bad and how to fix it

Anyone who’s tried the Xbox Cloud Gaming Beta on Linux (which is probably a small amount, I know) may have noticed that the image quality is a little rough, even by cloud gaming standards. However, now community members have found a quick workaround to get better image quality, and we have an official explanation as to 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 they were able to get the Xbox service to show you a better quality stream on Linux by making it think it would on Windows to run. This is relatively easy; 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 information about your system. When they switched to a user agent that told websites they were running Windows 10 instead of Ubuntu or Manjaro, they got a noticeably better picture.

Left: Screenshot of my default Edge installation on Linux Mint. Right: Screenshot of the same browser with its user-agent string set to Edge on Windows 10.

I’ve tried this myself using Linux Mint and this browser extension (although I can’t fully vouch for its security, so be careful) and it totally worked. The differences, which you can see in an example above, can be subtle depending on what game you’re playing, but I’d consider the workaround mandatory if I was playing a game with any amount of text.

Jordan Cohen, one of the leaders of the xCloud project, explained why this works in the Linux_Gaming subreddit. According to his comment, Linux isn’t officially supported by Xbox Cloud Gaming, so “it’s reverting to a default resolution and bitrate” that should work on most devices. Cohen says the team decided to look at the user agent instead of figuring out what features a browser actually supports because it was easier.

According to Cohen, the Xbox Cloud Gaming team is “working to improve support and accessibility for a wider range of devices and operating systems” and is “considering changing the default settings to be smarter”. While this is far from an official announcement, it sounds like Linux/Xbox gamers should keep their eyes peeled. For now, however, the user-agent trick seems to work well if you’re looking to get the most out of your Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription.

Update July 8 4:15pm ET: Jordan Cohen confirmed to The Verge that he wrote the Reddit comment. This article has been updated to reflect this confirmation.