Not everybody can afford a high-powered gaming PC or a next-gen console. If you’re itching to get your gaming fix but don’t want to pay for the hardware or are looking to play your games on the move, cloud gaming services offer a neat solution.
Let’s run through five of the best cloud gaming services currently available, as well as take a look at what the future holds for the industry.
1. PlayStation Now
The biggest losers in the console war between Sony and Microsoft are the gamers who can’t play games which are exclusive to the other platform. With a PlayStation Now streaming subscription, you can solve the problem. All you need is a PC and a suitable controller (or a PS4, if you just want to play old-school games).
It has “over 250” PS4 games ready to roll, with new games being added every month. Sony uses its extensive back catalog to fill up the rest, with hundreds of additional PS2 and PS3 games to play for the nostalgia factor.
It’s available for streaming in 12 countries currently, with further expansion planned. A one-month subscription should set you back $19.99/month, but Sony does offer a seven-day trial period to let you see if the service is for you.
2. GeForce Now
Nvidia GeForce Now originally launched as a remote streaming service with subscribers streaming any number of offered games to a PC or an Nvidia gaming device. The newer service, available for Windows and macOS users, does away with the games while keeping the backbone – it’s a remote gaming PC for hire.
Using a service like Steam or Epic, you can download and install the games remotely and play them on a PC, Mac or Nvidia device. The service is currently free for users during beta testing, but you can apply to join the waiting list.
If you have a Shield TV device, you should be able to sign up straight away.
If you don’t want the hassle of installing games, Vortex would be a good alternative. It lets you stream a selection of PC games to a Mac or to a lesser-powered PC or laptop. Its killer feature is mobile streaming, however, as it lets you stream PC games to Android and iOS devices using the Vortex app.
Vortex offers around 100 existing games, with some big names like Fornite and GTA 5 included. New games are added regularly, too. Some are ready to play, while others might require you to prove ownership using your Steam account login.
A subscription will set you back $9.99/month.
The Shadow cloud gaming service is more like GeForce Now than Vortex. Rather than providing you with limited game streaming, you can hire your own remote, high-powered gaming PC. This will let you stream almost any game or program you like on their platform.
That includes streaming to a low-powered PC, a Mac, mobile devices or TV. The downside is ultimately the cost, with a one-month package costing $34.95/month, or an equivalent of $24.95/month if you pay for it in full upfront.
There’s no trial, but you can try the service out for $9.95 for 10 days.
Parsec offers a DIY approach for gamers who want to build their own streaming service for games. It’s free to download and use, but you supply the gaming hardware yourself, which you can then stream remotely.
It supports multi-play, so you can share one game with multiple players, even if the game doesn’t support online play itself. You can also turn it into a fully cloud-based solution using an Amazon GPU-powered virtual machine (although this will cost you).
The Future: Google Stadia, Xbox xCloud, and More
These aren’t the only players planning to launch into the market. Google’s Stadia streaming service will launch in Q4 2019, letting you play PC games in 4K resolution on TVs or in your web browser. You’ll be forced to purchase your games through Stadia, rather than installing your own.
Microsoft is planning on offering something similar to PlayStation Now with Project xCloud. It will take advantage of Microsoft’s Azure cloud computing platform to stream Xbox games to PCs or mobile devices without needing a console.
With the industry in its infancy, there may be other players looking to join the market. It’s more likely, however, that the market share will spread across the big names we’ve listed.
Gaming on the Go
Just as Netflix and Spotify disrupted the market for DVD rentals and CD purchases, cloud game services are aiming to do the same with your games. You don’t need a gaming PC or a console, just a controller and a streaming device with an Internet connection.
Do you have any experience playing games with these services? Are you looking forward to Stadia and Project xCloud? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.