The limited free time within our busy lives and the increasing prices of technology mean that sometimes, we can no longer afford to always have the most up to date devices, nor can we wait hours for a download.
In this guide we will explore the proposed answer to these issues: cloud game streaming. What is it and how can it help us save money and time?
What is Cloud Game Streaming?
The hardware requirements of new-gen games become more demanding with each title that is released. This is especially true with some esports games titles. And, due to a variety of factors which are out of the average gamer’s control, the prices of such hardware rise to extremely high amounts.
Cloud game streaming is a freshly developed industry response in order to allow gamers to enjoy the best gaming titles at a cost which is much more bearable than that of a new device, be it console, top-end smartphone or PC. This process uses cloud-based technology in order to allow you to remote access a device which can run the most recent AAA games.
So, shall we find out more about it?
How does Cloud Gaming work?
In short, cloud game streaming allows you to remote access hardware that exists physically in another location in the world. The ‘game streaming’ part can also refer to already owning a device that can run a game, but playing it remotely from the web, saving the hassle of having to ensure there is enough storage space on the device. We will cover the differences between these and list some of them in the guide.
Our primary focus, however, is that of cloud gaming technology that allows you to control a computer that is not yours, and see everything that computer has to display. This saves you money as you do not need to buy the top-tier computer yourself, but pay a small fee to be able to make use of its capabilities.
The only real ‘catch’ with this concept is that the player (you!) needs to have a very good internet connection, as all the inputs you make have to travel through the internet to the device, as opposed to directly to the device itself in the way we have been used to. Still, the cost of an impressive internet setup will still on average be lower than having to purchase the actual device, and it will also come in handy with all the other internet-based operations you may do at home.
What are the best cloud gaming platforms?
Given that the technology is still new and in development, it is pretty hard to name a clear-cut winner. Instead, we will go through all the current cloud-based gaming opportunities that you can take advantage of, and we will help you decide further down the line which ones are best suited to your individual needs. After all, there is no one set definition behind how a cloud based gaming platform should work, and most developers are approaching it differently.
Let’s have a look at eight services which operate on a cloud-based concept.
The first of our contenders is a PlayStation developed service called PlayStation Now. And rightly so, as Sony is not a newcomer to the game-streaming world at all. In fact, PlayStation Now, often called PS Now, has been in the ring since 2014. At base, it opens up a world of over 600 PlayStation titles for you to access at any given time on your console, regardless of if you own it or not, at no extra cost.
The fun does not stop there, however, as PS Now also has a PC app, which means you can access all these PlayStation titles on your computer. However, this works best with a DualShock controller, as these versions of the games were originally designed to be installed and played from the PlayStation. All in all, there is not much to say here apart from one thing: if you ever wanted to try a PlayStation exclusive game but do not have the console, PS Now has got your back at a much more affordable overall cost.
Also, PS Now has a great pricing structure which speaks to the various needs of the users, so you are bound to find one that suits you. For instance, first time users get a 7 day trial period, and a static, per-month cost after that is £8.99. Or, you can purchase a quarterly or yearly subscription, which amounts to £22.99 for 3 months or £49.99 for an entire year. So, if you love the product- which may be likely- there is a great option for you to be able to access PS Now for a whole year at only £4.13 a month.
Enter contender two: Nvidia’s very own service called GeForce Now. This is one of the most solid competitors out there. That said, it is important to first understand one key limitation which may immediately deter you: GeForce Now only allows you to play games you own, across Steam, Epic Games Store, and Uplay. Now, this may be a good aspect for some, as it does mean the overall price of the service can be a little less in some cases, as other prices include the cost of rotating games and such.
In terms of how it works, it is actually pretty simple. GeForce Now has its own dedicated app, which you link with the game provider service of your choice. Then, instead of using your machine to run it, the game is installed on a remote machine and you pick a platform of your choice. This does mean not all PC-origin games are compatible, as games must first be approved and pre-installed internally by Nvidia and the publishers, and it does seem volatile as to which publishers allow for this to happen.
As the service is free at base, this is one of the most attractive options currently out there- and it means you can try GeForce Now without hurting your wallet at all. However, this does mean you are limited to only playing an hour at a time, and you are in a queue every time you wish to use the GeForce Now app. Not to fret however, as the paid, £8.99 a month subscription service does come with some pretty neat perks: for instance, if your internet allows for it, you can stream games at 120 frames per second and 1080p.
Google Stadia, to put it simply, is the equivalent of Netflix for gaming. Using a Chrome browser from an Android phone, tablet, laptop, or TV via Chromecast Ultra, Stadia aims to imitate the console experience without the need for a physical device. One advantage of this is that you never have to ‘update’ the service, as this is done internally.
Google has outlined a very ambitious, futuristic approach to gaming with Stadia, particularly using its connection to YouTube, which is supposed to add to Stadia’s features by allowing you to join a YouTube creator’s game with a simple link, or, even copy over your favourite streamer’s save file and play it on their own Stadia account. There is also the prospect of connection to Google Assistant, which is supposed to allow you to ask the AI for tips on how to proceed further if you are stuck in a certain section of the game. Seems pretty futuristic, right?
Well, Stadia definitely has a lot of potential, but currently, the selection of available games is a large area that is holding it back. Especially in the current times, where we have had a lot of opportunities to play games at home, it is easy to get bored of the same two or three games over and over again. Stadia’s selection barely passes 100 games, which pales greatly when compared to the enormous libraries of thousands of games which you can find at its competitor services like PlayStation Now and Xbox Game Pass.
That said, it is a key selling point that Stadia is free to use. This does cap the output to 1080p, and for £10 a month this limit is unlocked to reach 4K quality, and makes a rotating ‘free games’ list available to the user per month.
Xbox Game Pass
Xbox Game Pass is very similar in nature to that of PlayStation Now. Xbox Game Pass currently costs £10.99 a month, and gives you access to a range of Xbox and Windows games, as well as special deals and discounts. Xbox Game Pass has been praised for its excellent titles.
Moreover, one of the key selling points of the service – and its attempt to win the ever-lasting Xbox vs PlayStation war – is the free availability of Xbox exclusives on release. If you have a valid, running Xbox Game Pass subscription, you can instantly get your hands on Xbox exclusive releases at no additional cost.
This service is perhaps one of the most impressive in this list in terms of power. Shadow enables you to connect to and control a powerful Windows 10 machine, which enables you to smoothly play literally any game that has ever been released for Windows 10. This includes games on Steam, Origin, Epic Games Launcher, Xbox Game Pass- you name it, Shadow will let you play it, regardless of whatever your original device may be.
Perhaps one of the best features of Shadow is that it enables you to import any games you already own on the key platforms like Steam, and play anything you already own- so, if you got gifted a copy of a brand new game but your device can’t handle it, Shadow has got your back. The setup Shadow enables you to access is capable of playing games at 1080p at 144Hz, and 4K at 60Hz. However, you have to still download and maintain the upload of the games. Storage wise, this is totally fine as you can use Shadow’s storage to do this, but you are still forced to succumb to the download process. That said, with the super-speed internet you should have to run Shadow effectively, downloads should not be that much of an issue either…
Shadow’s ambitious potential does put the price label a little higher. An upfront, yearly commitment works out at £12.99 a month, and a monthly, cancel-whenever subscription with Shadow will cost you a little more at £15 a month. Shadow does not offer a free trial, but you can cancel your subscription within the first 14 days.
However, it is notable that the product is still developing, and at present has not been released fully to the UK market yet, with its initial launch being in a selected few United States regions.
We know you guys out there really love mobile gaming, so naturally we had to approach this guide inclusively. Hatch is a cloud-based game streaming service which exists to please mobile gaming enjoyers, and has some of the most popular mobile titles available to access instantly. What’s more, Hatch has a cool feature which allows you to partake in casual mobile esports tournaments, and go up against other unknown players, or even your friends!
Naturally, as is native to the technology behind cloud-based gaming, you will need an excellent internet connection in order to be able to make the most of Hatch, and it was built with 5G or Wi-Fi in mind. That said, if you are only using it to play from home, you should be totally fine even with a device on the low end of the smartphone spectrum.
Vortex.gg is another up and coming cloud gaming provider. Vortex allows you to play top tier, demanding games, on any device as if it were a high-end PC. This means you can enjoy the high-spec Windows versions of games like Fortnite and desktop PUBG on your low-end laptop, or even your Mac PC!
The key selling point of Vortex is the instantaneous gaming experience it promises. There is no need for you to own expensive hardware, and no need to wait for patching or additional downloads – they say the games are ready to play the second you are ready for them. Most of the games from the platform library are also included in the subscription price, which is another attractive point.
Notably, what makes Vortex.gg most interesting is that it has various subscription levels: Basic, Pro, and Ultra. Let’s go through these.
Vortex.gg Basic Tier
With the basic tier, you can play on PC, Android and Mac at HD quality. The limits come with the play time: on a basic tier subscription, you can only play for a total of 50 hours a month. Also, the library selection is the most lacking at this tier at just over 80 games available. The basic tier will set you back £9.99 a month.
Vortex.gg Pro Tier
The pro tier is an upgrade of the basic tier, and contains full HD quality. Your monthly playtime limit is 80 hours a month with this tier, and you have access to the whole Vortex library. The pro tier will set you back £19.99 a month.
Vortex.gg Ultra Tier
The ultra tier, as you may work out, is a total upgrade of Vortex services. However, the only real change is the total playtime available to you monthly. This is nearly double of the previous tier and three times that of the basic tier, at 140 hours a month. This tier will set you back a hefty £27.99 a month, making it the most expensive cloud gaming service out there.
However, before you commit to a tier, make sure you know that some games in the Vortex library require you to own them beforehand, due to their publisher’s licensing rules. These include PUBG and Rocket League.
Early access: xCloud
When we say ‘early access’, we really mean it here. xCloud is Microsoft’s take on a widespread, multi-access version of the Xbox Game Pass, and has been in beta since April 20th. The service, once live, aims to allow Xbox Game Pass Ultimate holders to play Xbox games on Android, Apple, Xbox, and PC devices. The supported browsers in the beta currently include Chrome, Edge and Safari, and the games are to be compatible with most Bluetooth or USB connected controllers. This seems to be Microsoft’s take at taking a chunk of the global mobile games market.
Early access: Amazon Luna
Amazon Luna is still very much in development and thus its capability and service may change (for the worse or better) by the time the product is fully released, but currently it looks to be coming for the crown of cloud-based gaming. It seems the subscription levels vary based on what sort of service you are after, and the specialised Amazon Luna Controller will use its own Wi-Fi connection to minimise latency and connection issues between yourself and the game.
How to pick the right cloud gaming service for you
As you may be able to expect by now, this area of gaming is relatively young, so it is still very much down to how you prefer to buy games- if at all. Let’s go through the scenarios, and you can decide which one sounds most like you.
If you are relatively new to gaming or are used to only playing the same game and thus do not own many games, the vast library of PlayStation Now works in your favour, and will let you try many games in many different genres, like MOBA, or Battle Royale. However, if you have a preference to owning games rather than renting them, this option will not work as well for you.
If you have a thirst for trying some of the most demanding titles out there but your gear is only mediocre, Stadia is designed for you. While you still have to pay full price for the games, that is the only cost you face, which can definitely save you money in the long run.
Or, if you do have a great gaming rig and want to expand into playing games on your phone or through your TV, GeForce Now can be the one for you. It can also encourage a healthy lifestyle, as it does limit how long you can play at a time with the base, free subscription.
As always, make sure you check out the reviews of a service you may be interested in, as the quality and support may change over time. We do not officially endorse any of these services, but hope to educate you on their features in order to help you make a decision.
Cloud Game Streaming FAQ
What are game streaming platforms like Stadia?
Some cloud gaming services like Stadia include PS Now, GeForce Now and Xbox Game Pass.
What is Stadia?
Stadia is a Google-developed cloud gaming platform, enabling you to play games on demand.
What is game streaming?
Game streaming usually involves being able to access games hosted on an external, remote server which allows you to directly play the game as if it was your own device. This requires a really good internet connection, and is a cheaper way to get involved in playing triple A games.
How do I stream games?
In the context of cloud gaming, this process differs a little depending on what you need, and our guide goes through the steps of getting started with cloud gaming.
What is shadow cloud gaming?
Shadow is one of the upcoming cloud gaming services, and allows you to control a high-end Windows 10 device using your device and an internet connection.
What is xCloud?
xCloud is Microsoft’s cloud-gaming project, which enables you to play a variety of Xbox games. Currently, this is in development to expand further than just Android devices.
Is Stadia good?
Stadia definitely has a promising future, and its multi-platform integration plans with YouTube and Google Assistant sound very promising. However, there is only a limited amount of games that you can play on Stadia, so this is one to look out for in the future.
What is PlayStation Now?
PlayStation Now gives you instant access to a large library of over 600 PlayStation games, and you can download the PC version of PS Now to play them on your computer.
Can I stream games on Xbox?
Xbox Game Pass allows you to play and download a variety of games from the cloud servers of Microsoft.
Can I stream games on mobile?
Yes! Hatch is designed to let you do this, and has a variety of social aspect integrations too.
What is Hatch for mobile?
Hatch is the app that allows you to cloud-stream various games to your mobile device, and compete in casual esports tournaments with your friends.
How do I do cloud gaming from Google?
Google Stadia is the cloud gaming service from Google, and lets you play over 100 games on demand on an Android phone, tablet, laptop, or TV via Chromecast Ultra.
Is streaming games like Netflix?
In short, yes! Cloud gaming is the equivalent of browsing a game library and playing the game without actually owning the game in some cases.
What is the best game streaming service?
This depends on your needs and there are a lot of services out there, have a further look at our guide to let you know which one is best suited for you.
Is game streaming safe?
Yes! Your personal device data cannot be remotely accessed as that is not what you consent to, instead, you are the one doing the accessing… Cool thought, right?
Do I need a good PC to stream games?
No, in fact, cloud game streaming exists mostly for those who do not have the top-of-the-range rigs, as some services let you remotely access and control these through the internet, meaning you can play the most demanding games at only a fraction of the cost.