Cloud gaming has exploded in popularity over the last few years. The ability to play high-end games on any device without expensive hardware is an attractive proposition for many gamers and streamers. In this post, we’ll cover the top 5 cloud gaming services available today and what they offer for those looking to game or broadcast gameplay from the cloud.
The basic premise of cloud gaming is offloading the hardware requirements of running games to remote servers, then streaming the video and audio to your device. This allows you to play games using only a phone, tablet, low-end laptop, or even certain smart TVs. No high-end gaming PC or console needed! The potential to reach millions of new players is huge.
Of course, there are some tradeoffs to weigh like internet connection requirements and slight lag. Let’s dive into the top options gamers and streamers have for cloud gaming services today.
Nvidia’s GeForce Now has quickly become one of the top cloud gaming platforms. It offers an impressive library of games, great performance, and both free and paid membership options.
GeForce Now has been around since 2015, starting as a beta before officially launching in 2020. It utilizes Nvidia’s gaming GPUs in the cloud to deliver high frame rates and resolutions.
The library includes over 1,000 games across stores like Steam, Epic, Ubisoft, and Origin. New titles are frequently added. Performance will hit up to 1080p at 120fps depending on your membership tier.
There is a free membership tier with standard access. Paid options include Priority for $9.99 monthly which gets you extended session lengths, RTX graphics, and 1080p/60fps performance. The RTX 3080 tier for $19.99 monthly offers peak 1440p resolution and 120fps frame rates where supported.
GeForce Now is available on Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Chromebooks, and even Nvidia Shield TV. You can use various controllers and keyboards. The service recommends minimum 15Mbps internet for 720p 60fps gaming.
The huge game library and performance offered by GeForce Now is unmatched. Even free members get a solid experience. Potential downsides are some queue time on the free tier, and certain games being removed. Overall it’s a stellar cloud option.
Google stormed into cloud gaming in 2019 with the launch of Stadia. The technology giant utilized its experience with cloud services and data centers to enter the game streaming space.
Stadia handles the computational workload on Google’s custom AMD GPUs and CPUs. Games are streamed to your device of choice over the internet.
The Stadia games library currently sits around 200 titles, with a mix of newer releases and older games. Platforms include Stadia-exclusives, multi-platform, and indie games.
There are a few payment options. Stadia Pro is $9.99 monthly and gets you 4K streaming, exclusive discounts, and monthly free games. The Stadia Base free tier allows 1080p gaming while purchasing games individually.
Performance is generally solid thanks to Google’s infrastructure, with most games able to run at 4K 60fps on Stadia Pro. Minimum 10Mbps is required but 35Mbps is recommended.
Stadia works on most browsers, Android, and iOS devices. Special integration with Youtube allows for crowdsourced gaming features. Stadia also lets you play across devices seamlessly.
Stadia makes cloud gaming more approachable with its simplicity and convenience. But the game catalog lags behind competitors for now. Google will likely continue expanding the platform’s capabilities going forward.
Amazon’s cloud gaming service Luna takes a unique approach by offering separate game channels. These allow users to subscribe only to the genres they want.
Luna launched in 2020 and remains in early access for now. It leverages Amazon Web Services infrastructure to achieve minimal latency.
The channels include Luna+ with a mix of games for $5.99 monthly, Ubisoft+ channel, and Retro Channel for classic games. More channels are planned like one dedicated to family-friendly games.
The Luna+ channel has a library of around 100 games currently while Ubisoft+ offers access to new Ubisoft titles. Performance is up to 1080p 60fps depending on the game.
Luna is accessible on PC, Mac, Fire TV, iOS, and Android devices (via web app). Luna controller connects directly to the cloud servers. Minimum 10Mbps speeds are required.
Amazon-specific features like Prime member discounts and Alexa integration provide value for existing Amazon customers. Luna also allows game streaming to multiple devices simultaneously.
The channel approach gives users more flexibility in the types of games offered. However, the overall library is smaller than competitors. But new channels and games are consistently added.
Sony’s PlayStation Now provides access to hundreds of PS4, PS3, and PS2 games on demand. This includes downloading titles locally as well as cloud streaming.
First launched in 2014, PS Now requires a monthly or yearly subscription. Membership gives you unlimited access to the library of over 800 games.
The streaming technology handles up to 1080p resolution and utilizes PS4 console hardware on Sony’s servers. Users need minimum 5Mbps internet for 720p and 25Mbps for 1080p streaming.
There are over 300 PS4 games available, with new titles added regularly. However, the PS3 and PS2 games can only be streamed right now. This is due to differences in system architectures.
PS Now is accessible on PS4 and PS5 consoles as well as Windows PCs. Many first-party Sony titles like God of War, Uncharted, and The Last of Us are available. Dualshock controllers are supported.
The huge collection of PlayStation exclusive games is a great benefit of PS Now. There’s a vast legacy library. But streaming is capped at 720p for most titles and priced higher than competitors.
Xbox Cloud Gaming
Microsoft’s Xbox Cloud Gaming integrates directly with its Xbox Game Pass service to offer subscription members cloud game streaming.
Still in beta, Xbox Cloud Gaming first launched in 2020 and is included with Game Pass Ultimate for no extra cost.
The library is comprised of over 100 Xbox console and PC games available in Game Pass. This is expected to grow substantially over time.
Performance currently tops out at 720p 60fps due to hardware limitations. But upgrades to Series X server blades are coming soon for better frame rates and resolutions.
Xbox Cloud Gaming is playable across many devices such as Android phones and tablets, iPhones, Chromebooks, and PCs via browsers. Bluetooth controllers are supported.
The seamless integration with Xbox Game Pass is a major advantage, offering access to brand new Xbox exclusives right on launch day even via the cloud. But visual quality is lower than rivals. This should improve with Series X hardware.
How To Pick The Right Cloud Gaming Service
With plenty of excellent cloud gaming options now available, it can be tough deciding which platforms fit your needs best as a gamer and streamer. Here are some key factors to consider when choosing a service:
- Game library – Look at what games are offered and which genres or franchises you want to play or broadcast. Console exclusives? Multi-platform? Retro?
- Performance – Compare the visual quality, resolutions, and frame rates each service delivers to find the best streaming experience.
- Device availability – Make sure the service offers apps for the platforms and devices you want to use – mobile, TV, PC, etc.
- Free tier – See if the service offers a free tier or free trial so you can test performance before subscribing.
- Offline access – Some allow you to download select games locally for offline play. Great for unreliable connections.
- Price – Factor in subscription costs, discounts, additional charges etc. to find the optimal value.
- Internet speeds – Ensure your home internet speeds meet the minimums recommended for smooth high-quality gaming/streaming.
Prioritize the games you want and performance levels suited to your style of gaming or broadcasting. Weigh the pros and cons of each service accordingly. Testing different options yourself is ideal to get first-hand experience. Cloud gaming opens up exciting new possibilities for gamers and streamers alike.
Frequently Asked Questions About Cloud Gaming
If you’re new to playing or streaming games over the cloud, chances are you have some questions. Here we cover some of the key topics and concerns around cloud gaming services.
What internet speeds do I need for cloud gaming?
For 720p resolution, most services recommend a minimum of 10-20Mbps. For smooth 1080p gaming, 25-35Mbps is ideal. 4K gaming requires a very fast connection – 50Mbps and higher.
Can I play games offline?
Some cloud gaming platforms allow you to download select games to your device for offline gaming when you don’t have an internet connection. Check each service for details.
How does performance compare to gaming locally on a PC or console?
In optimal conditions, cloud gaming comes very close to local gaming. But you may notice slightly more latency and lower frame rates in fast-paced multiplayer games. Single player experiences are often seamless.
Do I need to own gaming hardware to use cloud services?
Nope! Because the games run on remote servers, all you need is a compatible screen and an internet connection. You can play using smartphones, tablets, low-end PCs, Macs, and more.
Are cloud gaming subscriptions cheaper than owning a console long term?
Over an extended period, cloud gaming works out cheaper than buying the latest high-end gaming gear and console hardware upgrades. But subscribing can cost more than just owning a base console.
What games are available on each cloud platform?
It varies widely – new releases, retro games, indies, exclusives etc. Check each service as libraries are changing all the time. Google Stadia has around 200 games, GeForce Now over 1000, while PlayStation Now has over 800.
How do I pay for cloud gaming services?
Most operate on a subscription model – monthly, 3-months, 6-months or annual plans. There are some free tiers with limited access too. You pay for the subscription and can then play any games included at no added cost.
Can I play multiplayer games on cloud gaming platforms?
Yes absolutely! Cloud gaming services fully support online competitive and cooperative multiplayer gaming. You connect just like you would playing multiplayer locally.
How is cloud gaming different from watching streams on Twitch/Youtube?
Cloud gaming means you are playing games over the internet yourself. Streaming services let you watch others play. So cloud gaming is interactive, streaming is viewing.
Does higher image quality affect cloud gaming performance?
Yes. The higher the target resolution, the faster your internet speeds need to be for smooth gameplay. 4K gaming requires much faster speeds than 1080p, for example.
Cloud gaming opens up powerful options for gamers and streamers no longer limited by local hardware. The ability to play the latest titles without an expensive PC or console is game changing.
With cloud services like GeForce Now, Google Stadia, PlayStation Now, Luna and Xbox Cloud Gaming, playing high fidelity games is possible on all types of devices. Just connect a controller and start playing!
Of course internet speeds are still a gating factor. Be sure to test performance thoroughly on your home network before committing to a service long term. Also compare libraries and pricing to find your best fit.
Cloud gaming is still evolving with new services, features and technologies arriving all the time. The convenience and accessibility is only going to keep improving. We’ve just scratched the surface of the potential cloud gaming enables.
What games would you most want to play or stream from the cloud? Let us know! We hope this overview has provided a solid introduction to the top cloud gaming platforms available right now. Game on!