As developers create more visually detailed games with realistic sceneries, featuring high-resolution textures, ray-traced lighting, expansive, vast and beautiful game worlds, highly sophisticated procedurally generated levels, etc., the demand for faster hardware has experienced a rapid increase. However, capable hardware has also become increasingly expensive with each passing year. Not everyone has the resources or the intent to purchase an entire machine that occupies space and depreciates in value with time, simply to be invested in gaming. Major companies have thus invested millions of dollars into one of the newest and most exciting technologies, Cloud Gaming, and we have compiled a list of the Top 5 Cloud Gaming Services you can avail today.
However, before we do that, let’s take a brief look into how cloud gaming works so that you have a more informed idea of the service you might be most likely to invest in.
What is CLOUD GAMING ?
Before we arrive at the gaming aspect of cloud, let’s understand what does “Cloud” mean as a technology. Imagine a company or organization, such as Google or Amazon, has installed or rented a large number of computers in a server farm to rent out the capabilities of said computers in some way shape or form to their customers. So if you are a customer, any input you choose to give from your side, from uploading a picture to running deep neural networks, is sent over the internet, gets processed in said computers and the generated output is then sent back to you over the internet again. That is the overarching mechanism of Cloud Computing in general.
So what does it have to do with gaming? In Cloud Gaming Services, the game doesn’t actually run on your device. Instead, it runs on a computer, just like the ones mentioned above somewhere else in the world. However, you still retain all the control you would normally have in a game, as though it were running in your own device. In other words, your device would not need to be nearly as capable as the game would normally require a system to be for a smooth experience.
So far so good, but as with everything in the world and especially developing technologies, there are certain limiting factors and drawbacks when it comes to exploiting its full potential.
Challenges in Cloud Gaming:
As is evident from the discussion earlier, connectivity is going to be the biggest factor that would govern the success of such a technology in the consumer space. The Internet is certainly not a new technology. However, in developing countries such as India, reliable, fast and responsive connection is yet to become mainstream and permeate into every segment of the consumer space.
Speaking of internet connectivity, your connection’s latency is a top candidate for a factor that might make or break the immersion of your gaming experience using such services. That is equally true for the providers of the service as well. Their infrastructure would need to be equally capable of minimizing the time it takes for something like a gun firing animation to show up on your screen after a mouse click action, which has so far proved to be one of the most difficult challenges to overcome.
On the service provider part of the system, such an organization would also need to build highly capable infrastructure which is anything by affordable, consequently spend more resources in deploying and marketing their service and maintain the same. Purely on a latency standpoint, Nvidia’s GeForce Now is probably the best service currently available.
So without further ado, check out our list of the Best Cloud Gaming Services:
NVIDIA GeForce NOW
GeForce NOW is, in our opinion, overall, the best Cloud Gaming Service you can sign up for today. It has been one of the most successful in minimizing latency issues across the board while maintaining very affordable subscription prices. Said affordability also has the greatest likelihood of staying that way as NVIDIA manufactures a good chunk of the hardware that powers GeForce NOW.
As a limited time offer for the early technology adopters, the Founders Subscription costs 4.99 USD or roughly around 365 INR as of the present moment. It offers the ability to use the service on any device on the planet, be it a desktop, a laptop, SHIELD TV, a Mac or an Android device, but requires a connection speed of at least 25 Mbps for 1080p gaming and 15 Mbps for 720p gaming.
The most competitive feature among them, however, is that signing up for its base plan is FREE. Nevertheless, it limits access speed to NVIDIA’s gaming servers, disables Ray-Tracing in the games you play and caps the length of your gaming session to an hour. Note: As of the present moment, NVIDIA GeForce NOW has not started offering their services yet, in India.
Shadow is perhaps the most unique service available in the Cloud Computing space. Said uniqueness lies in the fact that once you subscribe to a plan, you get access to, fundamentally, a full fledged PC running Windows. You can do everything you do on your own PC, with Shadow, the only difference being that it is significantly more powerful than a PC you can buy without shelling out a small fortune.
It also gives you access to a vast library of games and allows high refresh-rate 1080p gaming or 4k gaming at 60Hz, depending on your plan and requiring a 15 Mbps connection for optimal performance. They are available on Windows, Mac and Ubuntu on the PC space and Android and iOS in the mobile segment. With Shadow, you would be able to use a full-fledged computer running windows, from your iOS or Android device.
The only downside to Shadow is their subscription plans which are probably among the most expensive on this list. Their Standard plan starts at 11.99 USD ~ 880 INR and goes all the way up to 39.99 USD ~ 2930 INR. Shadow offers a 6-core CPU (4 GHz), 32 GB RAM and an RTX Titan for their highest plan.
However, you must also take into account that to purchase a computer with a similar configuration, you would have to spend 10 years worth of the subscription price at once. That is without considering the inevitable obsolescence of your hardware or occasional maintenance issues which you would personally have to address. All such concerns are not a problem with a Cloud Gaming service. Note: Shadow is not available in India. As of the present moment. It is available in 8 countries worldwide, including the UK, Belgium, France, Germany, Switzerland, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, and the US.
PlayStation Now is probably the oldest service on this list. It’s main attraction is in the fact that it can be used to play a vast array of PS2, PS3 and PS4 titles on Windows. It has an option to sign up for a free trial, which is always welcome and is also reasonably priced with 9.99 USD ~ 732 INR for a one-month plan or a 59.99 USD ~ 4400 INR yearly plan which results in a 4.99 USD ~ 365 INR cost per month.
PlayStation Now recommends a minimum internet speed of 5 Mbps, which is excellent. However, you would need to purchase a separate PlayStation controller and gameplay is limited to 720p. PlayStation Now is not available in India.
Parsec is a fairly affordable yet an extremely unique service in its own rights. Its uniqueness stems from the fact that when you sign up for the same, instead of paying a monthly subscription fee, you only pay for the hours you play. What that essentially means is that you, as a customer, are renting a server on a per-hour basis, similar to what one would do on a platform like Amazon Web Services. However, the complexity involved is simplified, as you can rent said servers through in-app purchases in the Parsec app, as Parsec has partnered with AWS and Paperspace.
You could also add other players to your game, i.e. you could stream your gameplay to your friend while he/she plays on their computer. The cost for renting a server ranges from 0.50 – 0.80 USD, or 35 – 60 INR per hour and promises to provide fluid 60 FPS gaming. That proves to be the most economical if you have long stops between your gameplay sessions or shorter sessions in general. During the time that you are not playing, you would not be charged a single rupee, unlike other monthly subscription based services.
Vortex is yet another reasonably priced service, starting at 9.99 USD ~ 732 INR which offers a library of 164 games with a user-friendly interface and very simple steps for getting up and running. However, a severe drawback with the service lies in the fact that for the most affordable plan, you get only 50 hours of gameplay for the entire month, which is bumped up to 80 hours, and consequently 140 hours on the plans costing 1446 INR and 2169 INR per month respectively.