Anyone who has tried the Xbox Cloud Gaming beta on Linux (which is probably a small audience, I know) may have noticed that the picture quality is a little rough, even by cloud gaming standards. However, now community members have found a quick fix to get better image quality, and we have what appears 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 that they could trick the Xbox service into showing them a better quality stream on Linux into thinking it was running on Windows. That’s relatively easy; they used an Edge extension to change their user agent, which is essentially a string of text that tells websites which browser you’re using, as well as various other bits of information about your system. When they switched to a user agent that told sites they were running Windows 10 instead of Ubuntu or Manjaro, they got a noticeably better picture.
I tried this myself with Linux Mint and this browser extension (although I can’t fully vouch for its security, so proceed with caution), and it totally worked. The differences, which you can see an example of above, can be subtle depending on the game you’re playing, but I’d consider the workaround mandatory if I were playing a 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, gave an explanation on the Linux_Gaming subreddit. According to their commentary, Linux is not officially supported by Xbox Cloud Gaming, so it “reverts to a native 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 legitimate from Jordan Cohen, one of the leaders of the xCloud project, it could be 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 considering “changing the default settings to be smarter.” While it’s far from an official announcement, it sounds like Linux/Xbox gamers might 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.