Cloud Gaming is now well established in the gaming landscape. What was once a fantasy has now entered our daily lives. Yes, it is now possible to stream a video game. Such technology necessarily whets appetites and many industry giants each offer their own. We will dissect them one by one, see their advantages and disadvantages.
Stadia, xCloud, Shadow, GeForce Now… So many names that are probably not foreign to you. All of them offer cloud gaming. But in the face of this increasingly large offer, it becomes difficult to distinguish between things and to know which platform best meets your needs. We also note that each of these services take great care not to walk too much on the beds of their competitors and all manage to stand out on at least one point.
Free, paid, image quality, necessary bandwidth, game catalog, compatibility… We tell you everything about cloud gaming platforms.
What is cloud gaming?
Let’s start with the basics to make sure we all think of the same thing when it comes to cloud gaming. If you are not familiar with the term, consider cloud storage, which allows files to be saved on remote servers that can be accessed in real time through interfaces designed to facilitate the user experience. Google Drive, Outlook, Dropbox… there are many examples.
Cloud gaming is based on the same bases: you access files that are not installed on your machine, but on servers. So you don’t need to install the games on your devices with this technology. But cloud gaming goes much further since it is these same servers that will perform all the graphics calculations necessary to run a video game. The image is then transmitted to the user via streaming so that he can play on his screen, whatever it is.
The advantage is that it thus becomes possible, subject to having an efficient internet connection, to play the titles that consume the most resources on a machine that would otherwise be unable to run them. Another advantage is that the fact of not needing to download and install a game yourself is a considerable time saver at a time when games weigh several tens of GB (some even cross the symbolic 100 GB bar).
The main shortcomings of cloud gaming are the question of latency, which is now played between the user and the remote server, and no longer the screen, as well as the display quality and performance, necessarily impacted by a variation in user bandwidth. Very important data for video games. Each action on the controller must indeed be instantaneous on the screen, which is not always won if the connection is not strong enough.
Be careful, we often talk about “Video game Netflix” with cloud gaming. The comparison is inaccurate, because if the streaming technology is well exploited in both cases, a subscription to Netflix allows not only to stream, but also to access a catalog of content. With some exceptions, this is not the case with cloud gaming, with which you generally have to own your own games.
Cloud gaming services at a glance
|Stadia||GeForce Now||Shadow||PS Now||xCloud|
|Connectivity||Wireless||WiFi and 4G||WiFi and 4G||Wireless||WiFi and 4G|
|Minimum flow||10 Mbps||15 Mbps||15 Mbps||5 Mbps||10 Mbps|
|Image quality||4K HDR 60 fps||1080p 60 fps||4K UHD and ray-tracing||720p||NC|
|Games catalog||47 games||400 optimized games||Any game you have ever owned||700 games (including 300 PS4)||54 beta games
(+ Game Pass titles)
|Compatible devices||PC, selection of smartphones, TV with Chromecast Ultra and Stadia Controller||PC, Mac, SHIELD TV, Android||PC, Mac, Android, iOS, Android TV, Apple TV||PS4 and PC (Windows)||Android|
|Price||€ 9.99 / month||€ 5.49 / month (temporary launch offer)||From € 14.99 to € 49.99 / month||€ 9.99 / month||NC|
|Free version||Yes (coming soon)||Yes||No||No||No|
Cloud gaming is also of interest to large tech groups that are not necessarily identified as major players in video games. Google gave it a go with Stadia, but the mayonnaise is struggling to take, several months after its release.
Read also : Stadia, our takeover of cloud gaming with Google sauce
It’s easy to get lost with what is and is not possible to do with Stadia, as Google’s communication has been flawed on this subject. During the first announcements, many promises were made, but the service is far from fulfilling them all today. It is even estimated that the Mountain View firm marketed its offer too early and that the buyers of the Founder’s Edition are in fact beta testers.
Currently, there is limited support for using Stadia. The platform is available on computers via the Chrome browser (version 77 or later), on a reduced selection of smartphones (the Pixel, Galaxy S and Note, Asus ROG Phone and Razer Phone) under Android 10 minimum and on TV thanks to a Chromecast Ultra.
Now comes the thorny question of controllers. Again, nothing is simple. To play on a TV, there is only one option: the official Stadia controller connected to the same WiFi network as the Chromecast Ultra. On the Chrome browser, it is possible to use the keyboard and mouse as well as the official Xbox, PlayStation and Switch gamepads, via USB or Bluetooth depending on what the controllers support. Other models of third-party brands may also be compatible. On smartphone, of course impossible to connect a keyboard and a mouse. The Switch Pro controller does not work either. We must therefore fall back to the Stadia controller (USB) or solutions from Xbox and PlayStation (USB or Bluetooth depending on the model).
Ultimately, the goal is to make Stadia available as widely as possible, on all software and hardware platforms and with a larger number of accessories from other manufacturers. A process that will undoubtedly be long.
This is another aspect on which Stadia does not particularly benefit. To play a streaming title with Stadia, you have to buy it on the Google store. Games that you already have cannot be played through the cloud gaming service. To make matters worse, the prices are sometimes very high, more than on Steam for example. Then, it is far from certain that the game that interests you is offered by Stadia, whose catalog is somewhat starved. As of this writing, a few hundred games are available on the service. Most are small independent games, but there are also blockbusters like Assassin’s Creed Odyssey or Red Dead Redemption 2. Cyberpunk 2077, the most anticipated game
In the area of disappointments, let’s not forget that Stadia also does not allow you to enjoy games that are normally free, like Fortnite for example. Some titles can be played without purchasing them with an active Pro subscription (more on this later), but the choice is limited: Tomb Raider Definitive Edition, Farming Simulator 2019, Destiny 2: The Collection, Samurai Shodown, Metro Exodus, GRID, Gylt, SteamWorld Quest, SteamWorld Dig 2 and Thumper make up the current line-up.
The Mountain View firm advises that a connection to 10 Mb / s is sufficient to play with Stadia. Such a speed allows access to a 720p image quality. Theoretically, it is possible to reach the 4K HDR at 60 fps with 35 Mb / s, but this also depends greatly on the optimization work carried out by the developers. From game to game, the experience and performance can be dramatically different.
1080p at 60 fps consumes around 7 GB of data per hour of play. This is little compared to the competition, but it also means that the compression algorithms are more brutal, which can be felt on the end result. ‘screen. Currently, Stadia only supports WiFi. In the future, the mobile network may also be used.
Google has posted a speed test online so you can measure your connection speed, which determines what gaming experience you can expect with Stadia.
To date, the only way to access Stadia is to have a subscription to Stadia Pro at 9.99 euros per month. This allows you to benefit from 4K HDR at 60 fps as well as some “free” games, a bit like an Xbox Live Gold or PlayStation Plus. Except that unlike the console offers from Sony and Microsoft, it is no longer possible to enjoy the games once your Stadia Pro subscription has ended.
At this time, the only way to subscribe to Stadia Pro is to purchase the First Edition of Stadia, sold for 100 euros (free delivery) and including a Stadia Controller, a Chromecast Ultra and three months of Stadia Pro subscription. At the end of the three months, you have the option to continue the subscription (at 9.99 euros monthly) or to cancel. Your account then switches to the free Stadia Base plan.
Google Stadia strengths
- 4K HDR at 60 fps with Stadia Pro
- Minimum speed of only 10 Mb / s
Google Stadia weaknesses
- Chromecast Ultra and Stadia Controller required to play on TV
- Few compatible smartphones
- Very small catalog of games
- High prices on the store
- Wobbly business model
Nvidia GeForce Now
After years of beta, the cloud gaming service GeForce Now was finally launched as a public version for all users at the start of 2020. As with any platform of its kind, GeForce Now allows you to play games. titles on screens that normally do not have the capacity to spin them.
For now, Nvidia’s streaming solution is compatible with laptops and desktops (Windows 7 minimum), Mac (macOS 10 minimum), SHIELD TV or Android mobile device (smartphone or tablet, Android 5.0 minimum). It is also possible to play it on Chromebook recently.
One of the main advantages of Nvidia GeForce Now is that it allows you to stream games that you already have in your PC game libraries, where you have to buy everything on Stadia for example. The platform is compatible with Steam, Origin, Uplay and Battle.net. A few big names in the sector are therefore missing, such as GOG Galaxy and the Epic Games Store in particular. A significant lack, the first being renowned for its DRM-free licenses and the second for the multitude of free games with which it gives us daily. The future will tell if these two launchers will join the program later.
Note that to date, around 400 games have been optimized specifically for GeForce Now. The experience on these titles is thus improved, among other things you do not need to install your game for each new session on the server assigned to you. But it is possible to take advantage of the cloud gaming service with over 1000 games in total, some of which are supported, but not optimized. Note that you can also launch free games like Fortnite, Warframe, Apex Legends, Paladins or World of Tanks. With the free formula, you can therefore play in good conditions without paying anything.
Warning, the catalog is not set in stone. Blizzard decided to retire its games only a few days after the launch of GeForce Now. Ditto on the side of Bethesda, which has removed almost all of its titles from the service. Only Wolfenstein: Youngblood remains available there. Another element to take into account: some games are sometimes only available on GeForce Now on one client, like Steam for example. Depending on where you purchased your game, you may therefore be deprived of the service.
Of course, new games will gradually enter the catalog. CD Projekt has already announced that Cyberpunk 2077 would be GeForce Now compatible upon release. Good news for gamers who were wondering how they were going to be able to spin the title.
Regarding the bandwidth required to be able to use the device, Nvidia recommends 15 Mb / s for 720p display quality and 25 Mb / s for 1080p. Below these thresholds, you will have to give up 60 fps to benefit from these definitions. Theoretically, you should therefore be fine with a VDSL2 connection. If you are still using ADSL, it may be more complicated, unless you have the chance to exploit the full potential of this technology where you are.
In the future, 5G will allow mobile gaming with good definition and refresh rate as well as low latency. But beware of data consumption: in Full HD and 60 fps, count 10 GB per hour.
Now let’s move on to the business model of GeForce Now. The first formula is completely free and apart from the absence of RTX, does not imply any technical restriction for the in-game experience. Sessions are however limited to 1 hour. At the end of the 60 minutes, you must therefore restart a session (their number is unlimited, even for free), and potentially join a queue if the servers are too busy. If your game is not GeForce Now optimized and is not installed on the server you land on, you must reinstall it each time. This operation is however quite fast thanks to the infrastructures of Nvidia.
The paid subscription is offered at 5.49 euros per month for 12 months, with the first three months free. This is the introductory offer, which will subsequently change. At this price, you benefit from real-time ray-tracing for managing light and reflections in particular. A technology that is gradually establishing itself, with more and more compatible games and its integration to come on next gen consoles. This package also allows you to enjoy gaming sessions of up to 6 hours, as well as priority access to the servers if they are full.
Nvidia GeForce Now highlights
- Access to its game libraries, no need to buy them back
- Generous free formula despite some limitations
- Compatible with a large number of media
- Ray-tracing with the paid offer
Weak points of Nvidia GeForce Now
- No 4K HDR
- Not very ergonomic interface
- Moving catalog (publishers can retire their games overnight) and blurry (you can play your The Witcher III on Steam, but not on GOG)
We are dealing here with a particular case with the Shadow platform, from the French company Blade. This is in fact cloud computing, that is to say the fact of having access to its files and software on a device on which they are not saved, but stored on remote servers. Streaming technology also comes into play here. It is therefore a technology very close to cloud gaming, but which can meet more needs than video games: using video editing software for example. To put it simply, it’s like having a virtual machine. And of course, it is possible to perform cloud gaming. It is even one of the essential points in the communication of Blade to praise the merits of his service.
Shadow is available on computer (Windows, macOS and Ubuntu), mobile (Android and iOS) as well as on television (Android TV and Apple TV). It is thus possible to enjoy the service on almost all your devices.
Here it is very simple. As explained earlier, Shadow gives you access to a powerful virtual PC, on which you can install whatever you want. With a subscription, you can stream any title you own, be it on Steam, Battle.net, Uplay, Epic Games Store, GOG, Origin, Xbox Game Pass PC… There is no no Shadow store, you just need to buy the titles on your usual launchers. This is a very big difference with what some competitors can offer in the catalog, either complicated to understand or too little generous.
Blade makes it known that a minimum 15 Mb / s connection is sufficient to use Shadow. It can be WiFi, Ethernet, or 4G. This is another advantage for the platform, which supports cloud computing (and therefore gaming) via mobile network. It is possible to achieve 4K UHD definition at 60 fps and 1080p at 144 fps, but you need fiber to get this level of performance. Maximum speeds are 1 Gbps down and 100 Mb / s up.
Without much competition for a little while, Shadow sees the cloud gaming platforms of the American tech giants melt down on him. To answer this, Blade has recently turned its offer upside down and is offering new configurations.
The offer Boost is ideal for playing in Full HD. It gives access to a machine equipped with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 graphics card (or equivalent or higher), a 2.5 GHz processor up to 3.4 GHz in Turbo Boost and 12 GB of DDR4 2400 RAM. MHz. 256 GB of SSD storage are also available (with the possibility of taking more for a fee). Pre-orders are open for delivery in 2021. The price is 14.99 euros per month without commitment or 12.99 euros per month for an annual plan.
The formula Ultra is designed for 4K with ray-tracing. The technical sheet is then much more interesting since we are talking about Nvidia RTX 2080 or equivalent, a CPU up to 4 GHz, 16 GB of RAM and 512 GB of SSD (expandable here too). It will also be necessary to wait until 2021 for this subscription, which will be marketed 29.99 euros monthly or 24.99 in the event of a commitment over one year.
To accompany these subscriptions, Shadow launched its Ghost box, a modern box that costs 199.95 euros. To find out more, we invite you to consult our test on the Shadow Ghost.
- Cloud computing, practical beyond gaming
- Possibility to stream ALL the games we own
- 4K UHD at 60 fps and 1080p at 144 fps
- Ray-tracing support to come
- A higher price than the competition (compulsory in view of the services)
- No games offered
- (Temporary) removal of the application from the Apple App Store
If PlayStation is the undisputed number 1 of home consoles, the brand is much less known for its cloud gaming service. Playstation now, yet installed for many years and which can even claim the status of pioneer. But since its launch in 2014 (2015 in Europe), the platform has struggled to evolve and is now lagging behind newcomers on the market. So much so that Sony was forced to sign a partnership with Microsoft on the cloud to get back in the saddle.
He is often criticized, the PlayStation ecosystem is very closed. You can only access PS Now through a PS4 or Windows PC. A very limited choice, especially since the interest of playing streaming if you already have a PS4 is rather limited. We are expecting announcements from Sony on cloud gaming with the launch of the PS5, hoping for changes at this level. Cross-save is handled well, so you can start a game on PC and end it on PS4, and vice versa.
The PlayStation Now is special compared to the other services presented in this report, because its cloud gaming features are ultimately not the best that the platform offers. Sony is aware of this and allows you to install the 300 or so compatible games on your PS4. In total, these are 700 titles that are available, from PS2, PS3 and PS4.
In particular, there are some PlayStation exclusives, such as Uncharted or Horizon Zero Dawn. Attention, if the catalog is enriched regularly, games also disappear regularly. You cannot use PS Now to stream a title that you own but that is not in the offer. By its operation (streaming + provision of a large catalog), if there is one that deserves the analogy of “Netflix of video games” in this comparison, it is the Sony platform.
Sony lags far behind the competition when it comes to cloud-related technologies. This should improve in the future thanks to the deal with Microsoft mentioned above, but today the proposal is very disappointing. It is indeed not possible to play with a definition higher than 720p, where others guarantee 1080p at 60 fps and 4K.
In return, the front door of PlayStation Now is open to more connections than other platforms: the minimum speed recommended by the Japanese group is 5 Mb / s.
PS Now costs 9.99 euros per month, but it is possible to save money by directly purchasing several months of subscription. Three months are billed 24.99 euros, or 8.33 euros monthly. One year of PlayStation Now is offered at 59.99 euros, the equivalent of 5 euros per month. There is only one plan and no free offer. It is however possible to benefit from a trial period of seven days. You can thus check if your internet connection is sufficient or if you like the service before putting your hand in the wallet.
Highlights of PlayStation Now
- Catalog of 700 games, including 300 PS4 titles
- The only way to play PlayStation Excluded on PC
- A weak connection (5 Mbps) is sufficient
Weak points of PlayStation Now
- Limited to 720p
- Few supported devices
xCloud (via Game Pass)
The Game Pass is the center of Microsoft’s next-generation console. By taking the Ultimate version of the offer, you will have access to xCloud, which allows you to play all Xbox games in streaming in addition to being able to download them to play locally. A complete merger of services which is very interesting for those who want to take advantage of Microsoft exclusives without necessarily purchasing an Xbox.
To use xCloud, you need an Android 6.0 or higher smartphone. The service is indeed not available on iOS. It is not on console or PC either, but if we suspect that it will inevitably happen one day. It is possible to play with touch controls, but also directly with the Xbox One controller connected by bluetooth to your smartphone or tablet.
There are currently over 100 games on Game Pass xCloud, but that number continues to grow day by day. Microsoft plans to put its exclusive titles there from day one, as is already the case, but also other AAAs of importance. The acquisition of Zenimax by the Redmond firm also suggests that the titles of the studios will be available on xCloud as soon as they are released. A big argument in its favor.
xCloud requires 5 GHz WiFi or mobile network connection to work. A bandwidth of 10 Mb / s minimum is recommended.
To take advantage of xCloud, all you need to do is subscribe to Game Pass Ultimate at 13 euros per month. In addition to streaming games, this offer offers the possibility of taking advantage of the Game Pass on both PC and console.
- A generous catalog, the games are included in the subscription
- From only 10 Mb / s
- Azure servers
- No 4K
- On Android smartphone only
- Xbox One controller required
Luna is the newest addition to the video game streaming world. Developed by Amazon, the service premiered on September 24, 2020 and looks more or less like what Stadia does. At this time, the service is only available by private invitation in the United States.
Luna will be available on a number of media, namely Windows, Android and even Amazon tablets (necessarily). Note that iOS is not affected. Apple imposing too strict rules on video game streaming services, they prefer to desert the platform. Convergence will also be planned with Twitch.
To play Luna, you will need a dedicated controller that will sell for around $ 50, if you don’t have a PS4 or Xbox controller.
Luna will offer a hundred games at its launch, including blockbusters like Resident Evil VIII, Control or Plague Tale Innocence. Amazon games, like New World or the Lord of the Rings MMO, will of course be on the platform.
It is interesting to note that Amazon wants to offer offers on its platform, for example by allying with Ubisoft. The goal is to enrich the service’s catalog with the games of the French publisher by paying a little more.
Luna will require a minimum speed of 10 Mb / s. Amazon promises gaming at 4K / 60FPS, but then you will need a minimum connection of 35 Mb / s to enjoy it.
The service has just been announced and the beta phase is reserved for US consumers. Right now, it’s $ 6 a month.
- 4K / 60FPS gaming
- From only 10 Mb / s
- Convergence with Twitch
- Few games
- Reserved only in the United States
- We still don’t know much
- Offer that looks a lot like Stadia
As you can see, cloud gaming is undoubtedly the future of video games. All the big names in the video game industry are interested in it. This segment is still lacking in maturity, with technology that must evolve and commercial offers that must adapt to the needs of the general public. But year after year, brands will refine their proposition to offer the ideal service to consumers. The 5G and the development of fiber will also allow a greater number of users to have an internet connection fast enough to use it.