Normally, to play video games, you need pretty powerful hardware. The new Microsoft Xbox console is the textbook definition of that: it has a custom CPU-GPU combo, loads of RAM, and lightning-fast SSD storage to cover all your gaming needs. But there is a workaround to needing strong hardware to play games: streaming them.
Streaming has snuck into the gaming world a few years ago, and it is gaining increasing traction. This streaming, of course, is not the one you see on Twitch or the interactive games offered by Sexy Gaming: it’s a way to rent powerful computers in the cloud to run the games, with only the input (keyboard, mouse, or controller) sent toward them on your side. And the output, of course, streamed to your screen.
What is cloud gaming?
Basically, it is a “gaming on-demand” type of service that you can subscribe to for a flat monthly fee where you use the processing power of a remote computer to actually run games, with the screen output streamed to the users’ computer.
This eliminates the need for a strong gaming computer or a gaming console when it comes to playing games: the only thing you need to play games in the cloud is a computer (it can be a laptop, a desktop PC, a tablet, or even a smartphone) with a broadband internet connection and some type of an input device (it can be a touchscreen or a Bluetooth keyboard+mouse combo, a controller or such).
How much does it cost?
The cost of cloud gaming services depends on the service you subscribe to.
The Xbox Cloud Gaming service is part of the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate package that will set you back $1 in your first month and cost $14.99 afterward. For this fee, you’ll gain access to over 100 console games that you can play on any device you use to connect to your Xbox Game Pass account. Of course, in this case, you will need a compatible controller. The Xbox Cloud Gaming service is still in beta. Stadia, a cloud gaming service by Google, will set you back $9.99 (for the Pro version), with a free month on the house. There is also a Premiere edition with a “welcome package” of sorts that includes a Stadia controller as well. The service comes with a handful of games included and gives you the possibility to purchase any game and play it on Google’s servers.
Geforce Now is perhaps the most beloved of them all because of its free tier. It comes with its share of caveats, though: for one, it doesn’t come with any games included (but you can always play your own), and the game time in the free tier is limited to one hour. The paid tiers come with goodies like RTX support, priority access, and longer sessions – the premium tier, with a price tag of around 100 euros, comes with exclusive access to RTX 3080 servers, 1440p resolution at 120fps, and a free game: Crysis Remastered.
Should you invest in a console or a gaming PC under these conditions, or simply pay your monthly fee and play in the cloud?