The future of gaming is not on discs, but in the cloud. Today, there are many cloud gaming services to choose from, and they all stream games to your phone, tablet, TV or computer, turning each device into a gaming PC.
Much like Netflix turned the entertainment world upside down with its affordable movie and television show streaming service, game streaming services are the new wave of inexpensive options for trying out new games.
What is cloud gaming?
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Cloud gaming gets rid of the expensive gaming rig, console, or television set-top box required for traditional gaming. All of the games are streamed over the internet and broadcast to your device. All you need is a fast internet connection.
Cloud gaming services charge a monthly subscription fee, but for that price you can stream to any device, including mobile phones. Some games do require their own peripherals to work, but buying a controller is cheaper than buying a full gaming console.
Gaming in the cloud will consume a lot of data, so it's wise to check with your ISP or mobile data provider and get on an unlimited plan before starting.
Xbox Cloud Gaming
The service is in beta, and will be available in 22 countries in North America and Europe, as well as South Korea. Microsoft says they plan to add more countries to the list in the future.
To use Xbox Cloud Gaming, you must have an active Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription, a Bluetooth controller with support for Xbox games, an Android mobile device, a Wi-Fi or LTE data connection with at least 10Mbps down-speed, and the Xbox Game Pass Android App. The good news is most of the titles in the Xbox Game Pass library will be available to play directly from the cloud.
To get started, you need to connect a PlayStation-compatible controller to your computer, install the PlayStation Now app on Windows, and you're ready to turn your PC into a gaming console.
We show you how to connect a Dual Shock controller to a PC.
You can choose to stream the games to your PS4 console, or download them, and your subscription will include full access to most online multiplayer modes.
PlayStation Now does not include support for mobile devices at this time.
Nvidia GeForce Now
A robust service from graphics chip designer Nvidia. It turns nearly every laptop, desktop, Mac, Shield TV console, or Android mobile device into a gaming PC. You can stream games from your Steam, Origin, or other digital delivery library to your devices.
If you've already bought or downloaded the games, GeForce Now lets you have access to them from anywhere, for a low cost. You can play for one hour, each session, for free. Players who subscribe at the Founders level get extended session lengths and priority access to the service.
Stadia is Google's entry to the cloud gaming space. It offers amazing visuals with 4K streaming at 60 FPS for the games in its library. You can play on compatible laptops, desktops, phones and tablets. The Stadia Premiere Edition also includes TV play with Chromecast Ultra, a peripheral that costs extra money.
Access to Stadia is free to try, but the games are not. The Stadia Pro subscription includes free games every month, but most games cost money on the service. The selection of Google Stadia games is much smaller than its competitor's offerings as well.
Vortex is a cloud gaming service that makes PC games available for Android mobile devices, Windows 10 computers, and macOS. Like the other services on this list, you don't have to download new games, you just pay your subscription fee, connect to the server, and start playing games online.
You just need the Vortex app and a subscription to get started. Vortex offers 65 games at the Basic Plan subscription level, with 50 hours of play time, and the ability to play on various devices.
Access to 160 games opens up at the Pro and Ultra subscription levels, as does increased hours of play time per month. Right now, Vortex does not offer Full HD quality across all devices, but that is coming soon to the Pro and Ultra subscription tiers.
Prices start at $9.99/£7.99 a month
Shadow Boost is a different service than the others listed above, because it's a cloud PC with dedicated storage you can access from any device you own at any time.
It is a good option for people with lower internet speeds, because it offers an optimized experience for connections starting from 15mbps. Essentially it takes the "computer out of computing", allowing you to access a computer in the cloud to do all of your gaming, work, or file storage for the cost of a monthly subscription fee.
Shadow is the only cloud service on this list that includes access for iOS users. It claims it can run any game you own, at any time. Right now you have to pre-order the service because each account gets a dedicated computer in one of their data centers.
It costs $11.99/£12.99 a month.
Which cloud gaming service is right for you?
Like the plethora of television and movie streaming services out there, each cloud games streaming service offers different exclusive games and different levels of access on its platform.
Shadow Boost is great value for money because you get an entire PC with storage that you can access from anywhere. PlayStation Now offers the most games with its subscription, but they don't support play from phones or other mobile devices just yet. You should choose based on your gaming habits, and as each subscription is under $20 a month, you may find yourself picking more than one.
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