Is cloud gaming for me?

Free Cloud Gaming Services

You’re interested in games, but don’t know where to start? Cloud gaming is perfect for you. 
I remember I bough a gaming laptop to be able to run heavy image analysis for work (2016), but ended up curious to try installing a game to see how it would run. 15 years without installing a non-mobile game/browser pass-time game creates a gap in knowledge hard to fill.
I had to ask on Facebook how to find games to install – as CDs were no longer a thing. That’s when I heard of Steam. It was soooo hard. I didn’t understand the interface, the icons, achievements, how to review things, why I couldn’t play game without updating.
After a lot of learning, I got to install The Witcher 3 and had a blast. Really awesome.
Still, my computer is 5 years old, I have to search actively for gaming news, or just buy new version of old games (e.g. my Steam library has Resident Evils from 0 to 7).
Because I had a Pixel phone long ago, Google thought of sending me an email in June 2019 about a product to launch on Cloud Gaming – Google Stadia (aka sDadia).
I bought two controllers to be able to play with my wife, and a Chromecast and a 4k TV I was postponing to update. The promise was to game in 4k.

The launch was full of trouble, but it delivered exactly what I was expecting. Easy gaming everywhere, no installs, no thinking on what to play. For other reasons, I was early beta on Geforce Now. (GFN). I needed to complete challenges on Destiny 2, a game I got for free on Stadia, but the queue times were so long without crossplay, I used GFN to be paired with PC players in seconds. As Stadia grew and Crossplay now enabled, I dropped GFN and use Steam if I want to play something on PC. Then I got early adoption of Amazon Luna. Sadly, the business model is not for me. Nowadays I play at least 25% of the time in PC Game Pass. Those are the 4 Cloud gaming services I will talk about. Only GFN and Stadia are really free. GFN has queue for free tier, and Stadia is limited to 1080p resolution on free tier, but no queue.

If you have loads of cash and a high care for high-end framerate, stability, RTX, go for Shadow PC, or mount your own. Followed by Xbox SS or PS5. No cloud gaming is a competitor against local processing and delivering. The closest you can get is GeForce Now.

 

Google Stadia (sDadia)

Consider it a Steam store in the clouds, if you may. It’s a game store, with your home library, screenshots, profile, achievements, friends, a explore tab, free games (no credit card needed, just a Gmail), demos (I recommend Rider’s Republic, 2h free demo) and A LOT of exclusive features for everyone. All you need is a device that runs Google Chrome, Safari or Microsoft Edge. So, smartphones, refrigerators, Tesla cars, iPads, Tablets, computers, Chromecast ultra, Google TV, Fire Stick, Xbox, others. If you have the dream of becoming a streamer, it can stream directly to Youtube even if you’re playing on your phone with just a link your account step. Just click on the website, login with your Gmail, you’ll likely be forced to get 1 month of free pro account. If you want another free month, click here to get one and give (if you sign up for pro later) me one. There is specific hardware and the controller feels amazing. Loses only for the new PS5 one, imho.

Strong candidates for Google Stadia
  • Casual gamers
  • Dads (and Moms)
  • Low in cash (it’s free)
  • No time for installs, updates, look for games
  • Big family, no need for many consoles for all. Any device works.
  • Have old USB/Bluetooth controllers in the house
  • People from other platforms of games with crossplay to play on the bathroom at work
Pros
  • Cheapest and fastest entry level (free, Gmail account)
  • Free demos
  • Very good with low speed internet (it says 10mbps needed, but 6 works well for 1080p)
  • Works well with 4g Mobile internet
  • Buy your games and keep them to build your library
  • Accessibility (tandem mode, good touch controls)
  • Best features included (direct Streaming with no hardware, StreamConnect, Crowd-Choice, Crowd-Play, Find a Party, Mobile as controller for other devices, etc etc etc)
Cons
  • Small library, virtually no exclusives
  • The name should drop Google, it feels like an inside small startup ignored by them
  • Lazy ports (it’s getting better), poor support  (e.g. Dead by Daylight)
  • Only one developer channel (Ubisoft +)
  • Hard to find multiplayer for some games without Cross-Platform
  • Complex troubleshooting
  • Latency is worse on Keyboard and mouse, and much better on Stadia Controller

 

Amazon Luna

Amazon Luna main concept is similar to Google Stadia. You run the game on Amazon Web Services  instead of Google Cloud, but you won’t notice. But the business model involves a rotating library, like Netflix. If a game leaves, you will not be able to keep it. Despite having a great library. Find somewhere else to play or something else to play (there’s plenty). There is also a lot of support for different devices, integration with Alexa and Amazon devices. The ports are of great quality, latency hard to notice. It feels like a Google Play/Apple Store/Amazon AppStore game passes added to the abilities to play high quality AAA titles and indies.

Strong candidates for Amazon Luna
  • Casual gamers
  • Dads (and Moms)
  • No time for installs, updates, look for games
  • Big family, no need for consoles for all. Almost any device works.
  • Have old USB/Bluetooth controllers in the house
Pros
  • $5.99 for 50 available high quality games
  • Very good with low speed internet (needs 10 Mbps)
  • Amazing Family Channel (+$2.99)
  • Easily play with friends without Luna account with Luna Couch
Cons
  • Small library, no exclusives
  • Entry cost
  • Hard to find multiplayer for some games without Cross-Platform
  • Complex troubleshooting
  • Rotating Library might leave you without the game you were playing

 

GeForce Now

GeForce Now (GFN) uses NVIDIA super powerful blades to make your potato computer/NVIDIA shield into a high end gaming computer. You must have an Epic Games Store or Steam account to buy the games ported to GFN. Epic Games have Free Games every week, many are on GFN, so you do have free games frequently. The ports are the same quality as Steam and Epic ports, and there is no need to think about cross-platform and queue times, as you are playing via PC. There are 3 tiers. Free composes 1h sessions with a queue time (relatively quick, but you could install a game with a good internet on this time) and 720p. But a library with almost all of the top 100 free-to-play games already ported. No other cloud service has this. The free tier is worse than the free version of its competitor in the build your own library model, Google Stadia. But if you have some cash ($9.99/mo, $100/year ) you get priority in the queue, 1080 60fps with RTX (Ray Tracing) on top of that. If you want to put some cash ($16.67/mo, $200/year), buy the NVIDIA Shield and controller, you can play 4k on your TV with minimum latency as if your TV was the most potent gaming computer for regular citizens. It is much better than any console, next gen or not, imho.

Strong candidates for GeForce Now
  • Casual gamers with large PC game stores libraries
  • Hardcore gamers with not enough cash to invest in a RTX computer
  • Have money or time, or both
  • No time for installs and updates
  • Have old USB/Bluetooth controllers in the house
  • Is good with K+M
Pros
  • Bring your library to cloud gaming to play o TV without cables (demands NVIDIA Shield)
  • Free games frequently with Epic Games
  • Best port possible for PC
  • Highest framerate, stability and best latency from Cloud Gaming Services (paid)
  • Fastest growing library of ported games
  • Discounts and perks for multi-month subscriptions
Cons
  • Bad Free tier (but already better than Luna or PC Game Pass)
  • Entry cost (subscription Tiers) for a huge improvement in quality
  • Complex first steps to link Epic and Steam
  • Bad interface
  • NVIDIA Shield hardware required to play without linking PC to TV and for 4k
  • No cloud gaming features

 

PC Game Pass (Xbox for PC)

PC Game Pass is the Xbox on top of your Windows PC. That makes clear one limitation for Mac users. Without Free tier, the business model is similar to Amazon Luna with a rotating library of games, but at 4k all tiers, as long as you have a device supporting it. The $9.99 tier has no access to cloud gaming, the $14.99 Ultimate tier includes cloud gaming for some games to “play anywhere” (especially your own previous Xboxes). It is currently the best value per dollar with the most desired titles for casual gamers (e.g. Minecrafts, Halos, Age of Empires, Windows Simulators, Forza Horizons, Hades, etc) . If your PC can run the games, the $9.99 version is great, but you will need to download, install, update, and all the drill. The ports are the Xbox or the Windows versions of the games, so no complaints either.

Strong candidates for PC Game Pass
  • Casual gamers, dads (and moms)
  • Hardcore Xbox gamers without access to Xbox Series S
  • Hardcore Xbox gamers who want the flexibility to play anywhere (Ultimate)
  • Have money or time, or both
  • Have old USB/Bluetooth controllers in the house
  • People who look at the current game library and salivate
Pros
  • Makes your old Xbox into a next gen Xbox
  • Best casual gaming library with frequent updates
  • Amazing ports and support
  • Xbox interface and integrated achievements systems
  • Easy streaming capacities
Cons
  • Entry cost (subscription only)
  • Rotating library might leave you behind (mostly for non-Microsoft owned Studios)
  • The interface looks very beta
  • No cloud gaming features
  • No discount for multi-month subscription
  • Install games
  • Noticeable latency (it has gotten better with the updates, will disappear soon, I guess)

” Free cloud gaming services are intimidating. The information is all over the place, unclear, incredibly sponsored, biased and misleading. So, I’ll classify the main ones for playing mainstream console and PC games. I will not focus on Shadow PC and similar services, as it’s not really cloud gaming, is a cloud PC with gaming capacity.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

wasabi controller