Gaming in the cloud is the next big thing, many service providers like Stadia, Geforce Now, Shadow have been jumping into this potentially very large market. In this article, I will compare the different providers, their pros and cons, and my own experience in using them. Gaming via the cloud (or a data center). Is very easy. You only need to make sure your internet connection is good enough.
Cloud gaming is not new, the first demonstration was set up by a startup called G-Cluster. (Short for Gaming Cluster). They showed this new technology at the 2000 E3 and released the product by 2003. G-Cluster provided modified games that ran on their servers. Using video-on-demand service providers, Set-top box manufacturers, and middleware software providers they managed to let end users play games via a portal. By the end of 2010, G-Cluster changed its model to work through a large server manufacturer. They could provide their games directly to users. Later G-Cluster changed their model to IPTV users instead. The market was full of free-to-play games so It could not compete anymore.
In 2005 however, Crytek began researching cloud gaming technologies as well. But according to their research, the infrastructure was not ready for such undertaking yet. Crytek decided to wait until cable internet providers were able to complete the task and for the cost of internet bandwidth to decline.
Nvidia’s GeForce Now
Nvidia is well known for its powerful video cards, since 2017 the company has also offered a cloud gaming rig to its customers. It is possible to join for free and test the service out. By just signing up (no payment needed). You get to enjoy a gaming session of 1 hour with high graphic settings. If you want to play for a longer time, you can always upgrade for 9,99 a month.
With GeForce Now, you can only play games you have in your Epic games and/or Steam library. The service also needs to have added those games to their list of supported games. So you cannot play every game. Out of my Steam library of 120 games. I can play just over 30 games. Notably, most AAA games are included.
One thing I don’t really like is the lack of support for mods, everytime you start a gaming session, you basically are running the game on a random computer. Erasing all your settings and mods.
GeForce Now offers a large variety of supported devices. It works on Windows, Mac OS, Android, Android TV, Safari, Chrome, and Edge (Beta right now). You can also buy an Nvidia shield to directly stream games to your television.
A new but big player on the Market is Google Stadia. This is more of a store where you can buy games and then play them via your browser. Stadia offers a lot of free games for Pro Members (9,99 a month). But for serious AAA games, you would only get a discount on the game. There is no Steam integration so you would need to buy games again if you already own them.
The website itself is very easy to use though, launching a game is instantly and there is no maximum session limit. There are a lot of games supported as well with many to be added in the future.
It is also possible to connect a controller, (Xbox, Playstation) and if you want to play games on your television, you should get the Chromecast Ultra. Google also developed its own Stadia controller. Personally, Google Stadia works great, however, there are not that many games I like, and I do not want to spend a lot of money playing games I already own. although the experience itself is really great. I had no trouble at all playing games.
Shadow is playing the cloud gaming market on a whole different level. For 29,99 a month you basically just rent a very powerful computer (on a server) and you are free to do with it as you like. You connect to the computer and play games or even just work on it. If you want to run modded games on a heavy computer with high graphical settings this is the best way to do it.
You can install any gaming library and play games you already own on their maxed-out settings without building your own gaming rig. However, the setup itself is a bit more tricky as you need to reserve a spot. Within a month the computer should be ready for use. It is not instant play sadly. But on the other side, you do have your own gaming rig. (Not like GeForce Now where you login into a new server every time you start gaming.
Shadow is also a bit more expensive than Stadia or Geforce Now. For 29,99 a month you will get the following:
- GPU: GeForce GTX 1080 (or equally).
- CPU with 4 cores and 8 threads.
- 12 gigabyte of ram.
- 256 GB SSD (upgradeable to 2TB).
- Windows 10 64 bit.
Shadow supports the following devices: Windows, macOS, Android, Android TV, iOS, tvOS, and Linux.
Another large cloud gaming provider is Boosteroid, this service works similarly to Stadia and allows you to play a lot of games via your browser. A subscription to unlimited gaming sessions will set you back with just 4,99 a month. There is no free subscription available. However, the supported libraries are much higher than at any other cloud gaming provider. You can connect your Steam, Epic, Origin, and Wargaming libraries however to play these games a subscription is necessary.
Xbox Cloud gaming
Microsoft has also entered the cloud gaming arena and comes with Xbox Cloud Gaming. If you have an Xbox Ultimate pass you also have access to hundreds of AAA games for free. You can either download games or play most games via their cloud. Via your Xbox or PC, you can enjoy their games. Normally a subscription costs 12,99 a month. However, Microsoft is pushing their new service a lot and now you pay only 1 euro per month until March 2022. An amazing deal if you want to try out new games.
The service is also very good and the games I have played, I played in high resolution without any lag at all. The only thing that is required is to have a controller. This can be a Playstation or Xbox controller (or any other supported controller as well), as the games they offer are designed for use with a controller.
For now, the following devices are supported: Windows 10, Ipads, Iphones, Xbox S/X. Personally, Xbox Cloud Gaming offers an all-you-can-eat service, which is ideal for discovering new games. It is basically Netflix but then for games.
So which Cloud gaming provider is the best? Hard to say, it all depends on your needs. If you want to fully mod games, then Shadow is very good. But if you want to test out different games? Then perhaps Xbox cloud gaming or Stadia. Do you have a lot of games already in different libraries? Then perhaps Boosteroid or GeForce Now. If you want to try out cloud gaming, then I suggest trying GeForce now (as it is free). And then to explore Boosteroid or other providers. Happy gaming!