What exactly is cloud gaming, and which among Nvidia GeForce Now, microsoft's Xbox Cloud Gaming (Game Pass), Amazon Luna, and PlayStation Plus stands out as the top service? Discover the answer in our extensive comparison!
Over the past few years, cloud gaming has consistently made headlines. This innovative approach to gaming has the potential to reshape the gaming industry in the near future. With greater reliability and stability compared to previous years, this technology could emerge as a genuine alternative to traditional gaming.
So, what does cloud gaming entail? How does it function? What are the various services available, and what sets them apart? These are the questions we'll delve into in this comprehensive article.
How does cloud gaming work?
In a nutshell, cloud gaming enables you to play video games on various devices without those devices handling the graphics processing. The computational power is shifted to remotely hosted servers, which execute the games and then transmit the visuals to the players. To access such a service, all you typically need is an internet connection and a screen to play on, whether it's a computer, a set-top box, a smart TV, a smartphone, or a tablet.
Following this concept, it becomes possible to play even the most demanding and sophisticated games on low-powered or affordable devices, as the server handles all the heavy lifting. This transformation in gaming is reminiscent of what's occurred in the world of video streaming services like Netflix or music platforms like Spotify.
However, the technology involved in cloud gaming is a bit more intricate. This is because it's crucial to minimize the delay (latency) between the server and the player as much as possible. Games are inherently interactive, unlike other media, and demand exceptionally quick responses since data cannot be preloaded. As a result, it's advisable to use a wired connection for the best quality, or at the very least, a 5 GHz router, Wi-Fi 6, or 6E if available.
Cloud Gaming Services
Xbox Cloud Gaming (within Game Pass)
Microsoft introduced its cloud gaming service, Xbox Cloud Gaming, as part of the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate package in September 2020. This service lets you stream a curated selection of Xbox games. You can even test it out for free, making it the perfect solution for enjoying Fortnite on your iPhone.
Initially limited to android devices, Game Pass expanded to most platforms by the summer of 2021. You can access it through an Xbox, Android devices, and any device with a web browser, including Windows and Mac PCs and iOS devices. On Windows, it's best to utilize the Xbox app, with the only requirement being an Xbox controller.
Xbox Cloud Gaming is gradually making its way to televisions, beginning with samsung TVs. To access it, you'll need a compatible controller. Samsung has also confirmed that its Smart Monitor range supports this feature. Alternatively, you can access Game Pass from any TV with a web browser integrated into the TV's operating system, although the experience might not be optimal.
- Xbox Game Pass Core: $6.99 per month
- Xbox Game Pass Console: $10.99 per month
- Xbox Game Pass PC: $9.99 per month
- Xbox Game Pass Ultimate: $14.99 per month
The Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription is the only one that provides access to cloud gaming. It offers an extensive game library, encompassing popular Microsoft franchises like Gears of War, Forza, Halo, Flight Simulator, games from Microsoft-owned studios like Bethesda (Doom, Wolfenstein, The Elder Scrolls Skyrim, etc.), titles from third-party and independent studios, and contributions from major third-party studios like EA through EA Play, available since March 2021.
The cloud catalog also features a selection of Xbox Originals and Xbox 360 games such as The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, Crimson Skies, Skate, Rage, and Perfect Dark Zero.
In total, there are approximately a hundred games available for streaming on Game Pass, whether on PC or Xbox. Please note that these are Xbox versions of the games, not PC versions.
The tests yielded positive results with good stability, provided you have a robust fiber internet connection. Microsoft recommends a minimum speed of 10 Mbps, but we suggest a slightly stronger connection, preferably wired or at least Wi-Fi 6, to prevent lag and image artifacts. You can also play via your smartphone's mobile network, although the quality of the streaming will depend on your 4G or 5g signal strength.
Certain games like Persona 4 Golden, Minecraft Dungeons, SpiritFarer, or Tell Me Why offer on-screen touch controls, eliminating the need for a controller. New games are consistently added to the cloud gaming catalog each month.
- Minimum Recommended Internet Speed: 10 Mbps
- Compatible Devices: Android smartphones, iPhones, iPads, Windows devices, Samsung TVs, and all Xbox consoles from Xbox One.
- Subscription: Included with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate ($14.99 per month)
- Game Library: Approximately a hundred titles.
Nvidia GeForce Now
Nvidia introduced its GeForce Now service in February 2020 after several years in beta testing. GeForce Now provides access to a range of compatible games sourced from the Steam, Epic Games, GoG, or Uplay game stores. Its key advantage is that it doesn't compel players to repurchase games they already own on these platforms. However, if you don't own the games, you'll need to purchase them separately, as the paid subscription doesn't include access to a game library.
Steam has seamlessly integrated GeForce Now into its platform via Cloud Play, enabling players to access Nvidia servers directly from the Steam client with just a few clicks. Nvidia's Achilles' heel lies in its inability to secure agreements with certain publishers who explicitly decline to offer their games on the service. Notable examples include Activision-Blizzard, 2K, and Microsoft's Xbox Game Studios. You can now find a comprehensive list of games available on the service.
Nvidia offers three tiers of service. The first tier is completely free and grants users access to one-hour play sessions. However, users may need to wait in a queue to access game servers. This tier is designed to allow as many players as possible to test the service at no cost.
The second tier is a paid subscription, priced at $9.99 per month or $49.99 for six months. It provides benefits such as queue skipping (within available slots), access to an RTX display (featuring ray tracing), and extends play sessions to 6 hours. Nvidia has placed a strong emphasis on ray tracing display capabilities for this service. For example, it garnered attention by running Cyberpunk 2077 in a superior version compared to console when the game was first released. Notably, by combining GeForce Now and Game Pass subscriptions, users can concurrently enjoy both game catalogs.
A third tier, known as the Ultimate subscription, offers the equivalent of an RTX 4080 in terms of graphical power. This boost enables gameplay in 4K resolution at 120 frames per second. Servers are also segregated, with an Adaptive Sync system that significantly enhances overall stability and prevents frame loss. Additionally, players can enjoy uninterrupted gaming sessions for up to 8 hours. This subscription is priced at $19.99 per month or $99.99 for six months.
The service is currently available on Windows and macOS PCs, Android smartphones and tablets, and the Nvidia Shield set-top box. Nvidia plans to expand GeForce Now to other platforms in the future. A web version is also accessible, particularly on iOS devices.
Minimum Recommended Internet Speed:
- 15 Mbps for 720p60 display
- 25 Mbps for 1080p60
- 35 Mbps for 1440p120
- 45 Mbps for 2160p120
- Nvidia Shield
- iOS (via web app)
- $9.99 per month
- $49.99 for six months
- $99.99 for six months (RTX 4080)
- Requires login to Steam, Epic Games Store, GOG, and Ubisoft Connect accounts.