So, Google has unveiled Stadia, a game streaming platform that it believes will change how we play.
We can’t help but be a little cynical about it. Game streaming services aren’t new, and up to now they haven’t really impressed. Plus, they’re wholly dependent on your internet connection, and in 2019 we still don’t think the infrastructure is there for a streaming service to provide a better experience than a piece of hardware does sitting under your TV.
But it’s Google. If any company has the ability to pull off a stellar streaming experience, then it’s Google. And if Stadia doesn’t blow our minds this year, it may do so in 2020 or beyond. Or it might just crash and burn like OnLive did. Remember OnLive?
In any case, like we said, game streaming services aren’t new. There are many available right now, and you can try some of them for free. Curious? Cast your eyes over a selection of game streaming services that you don’t need to wait until later in the year to use.
Offering over 600 games for you to stream instantly, PlayStation Now is currently one of the premier game streaming services available. Although if you’ve got a PS4, you don’t have to stream the 250-odd PS4 games available via the service, you can download them, too. Because, y’know, it’s better.
You can stream games to either a PS4 or PC using PlayStation Now, and for the best experience it’s recommended that you use a DualShock 4 controller. A 5Mbps internet connection is required, and it’s also recommended that you use a wired connection and limit the data use of other devices connected to the network. So basically, you need a connection quite a bit better than 5Mpbs unless you like faffing around.
Recently rolled out to a number of additional European countries, PlayStation Now costs £12.99/$19.99 for a monthly subscription, or you can also subscribe for a year for £84.99/$99.99. If you’re keen to try it, however, you can do so without spending any money. A free seven day trial is available, though you’ll have to put in your payment details. And if you don’t cancel your subscription before your seven day trial is over you’ll find yourself paying for a month.
Shadow is a fairly new streaming service, but seems to be doing well. You don’t just have to use it to play games, either.
When subscribing to Shadow, you essentially gain the use of a high-spec PC. But you don’t get access to an instant library of games. Instead, you have to install the games you own on services such as Steam, Uplay and Origin on your new virtual machine which is probably much more powerful than the one you own, and then stream the gameplay to your local device. And when you just want to browse the internet or create a spreadsheet, you can use your virtual machine to do that, too.
To use Shadow, you simply need to download an app, and it’s available on Windows, Mac, Ubuntu, Android and iOS. That means you can use Shadow on a wide variety of devices. A 15Mbps internet connection is required, and subscriptions start at £26.95/$29.99 a month if you don’t mind being tied in for a year. Unfortunately there’s no free trial available.
If you do plan on using Shadow exclusively for gaming, Shadow Ghost is available as well. A small device that plugs into your TV, it’s the best way to your enjoy your library of games at up to 4K 60 FPS without owning a hulking PC tower. Or at least that’s what the marketing blurb says, anyway.
Currently in beta, GeForce Now allows you to stream over 400 games to a range of devices, though you’ll need to own the games you wish to play. Powered by Nvidia GeForce GPUs, you can choose to play games in Ultra Streaming Mode if you wish, which aims to lower latency by running them at 60 or even 120 FPS.
While it’s in beta, GeForce Now is free to use, though you can’t just sign up for it; you have to apply. If and when you’re accepted into the beta, you’ll find that you can only play for four hours at a time in order to give all users a fair chance to play.
Got a Windows or Mac PC or an Nvidia shield? As there’s no charge, why not sign up to the beta on the off-chance that you get in? If you’ve got a Shield, you get access to some free games as well, apparently.