All Google Stadia streaming services are up to par


Photo: Alex Cranz (Gizmodo)

This week, Google announced Stadia, a cloud-based gaming service rather than a console in your living room or a gaming platform optimized in your study. The concept of streaming games on the Web is not new, however. These are the other services that Stadia will face, and what they offer.

First, let's quickly summarize what Stadia is. Essentially, it runs the games on Google's servers, then broadcasts them on the device of your choice with a resolution of up to 4K. This will work primarily on any device that can run Chrome or that supports the Chromecast protocol.

Running cloud games on a device means that Google can promise some cool tricks, like being able to easily swap devices and being able to easily share game states with other people, but we're still waiting for many details, like how much will all that cost.

For this to work, it takes a fast Internet connection and a way to minimize the gap between inputs and responses – what Google is trying to do with its own dedicated controller (it connects to the cloud directly via the wifi network). We'll have to wait to see how sophisticated Stadia is when it's finally going live, but in the meantime, that's what it's up against.

Nvidia GeForce now

Image: Nvidia

Nvidia launched its GeForce Now platform in 2015, and is still in beta, perhaps reflecting the difficulty of streaming in video games. The principle is identical to that of Google Stadia, with Nvidia GPUs and other hardware running the games, and then distributing them on your devices via the Web.

Here, the video is limited to 1080p at 60 frames per second, but at least it is already live, unlike the Google offer. For this maximum speed, Nvidia recommends a connection at 50 Mbps and will reduce the stream to 720p for connections of 25 Mbps and below. You are limited to four hours of play per session, but you will need to save the session and return later.

Originally offered only on the Shield TV Android box, GeForce Now has since been extended to PCs and Macs. You have access to a remote Windows PC in the cloud, where you can install any game from over 400 games and stream them. another computer or a shield. This is on top of the original Shield package, which focuses on a smaller list of less advanced titles.

Backups are managed in the cloud and allow a quick exchange between different devices. In addition to the hundreds of games (usually older ones) provided free with GeForce Now, you can also choose to enhance the selection by buying new games. Online multiplayer is supported for games that include it.

As we said, GeForce Now remains in beta and has evolved since its first appearance – like everyone else, Nvidia is still figuring out how this game works in streaming. There is a waiting list to register, but it is free until the full commercial launch takes place (which could be soon, now that Stadia arrives): you can access it in North America and Europe as soon as you get to the front row.

Shadow of the blade

Image: blade

Like what the GeForce Now service has transformed, Shadow from the French company Blade provides you with your own and powerful Windows 10 machine in the cloud – but in this case you can use it for video editing and editing. other intensive tasks, as well as for games. and Blade says it will work with an Internet connection as slow as 5 Mbps.

This is essentially a remote desktop configuration, with a stream of 720p, 60 fps maximum that you can get with a connection at 5 Mbps (15Mbps is recommended for an optimal experience, especially if you play). Blade says Shadow uses a secret sauce for AI to predict connectivity problems in advance and make the necessary adjustments.

Pay by the month and Shadow costs $ 35; stump up for one year at a time, and that equates to $ 30 a month. In either case, a free 30-day trial is available. If you need products other than games, it may be the best option at the moment: the service is available in certain areas of the United States, as well as in the UK, France. , Switzerland, Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany.

In terms of features, it's like having a Windows 10 PC in front of you, although we have noticed some limitations (the use of VPN is deprecated, for example, and the exploitation of cryptocurrency is not allowed no more). The Shadow app runs on Windows, macOS, Android (including Android TV) and iOS.

More recently, and perhaps most notably when it came to Stadia, Blade launched the Shadow Ghost: a $ 140 decoder that focuses exclusively on the game aspect of its service. Instead of using the application on a computer or phone, you connect the Ghost directly to your TV, connect a controller and continue.

PlayStation Now

Image: Sony

The two major players in the consoles, Sony and Microsoft, will not have been caught off guard by the unveiling of the Google Stadium. Despite the concerns over the bandwidth and latency we have today in 2019, streaming seems to be the future (or at least the future) for future games, and Sony and Microsoft are not going to get caught.

Indeed, Google plays to catch up. Sony's PlayStation Now subscription service has been broadcasting streaming games since 2014, even though it is a limited number of games on a limited number of devices. Today, you can stream games on a PC (via a dedicated application) or PS4, and use your DualShock controller for an input device, with streaming resolution limited to 720p (Sony indicates that a minimum connection speed of 5 Mbps is required). Multiplayer mode is also available.

At the time of writing this article, you can choose from over 750 titles on PS2, PS3 and PS4, and the selection continues to grow. The focus is on older titles rather than newer AAA blockbusters, but some PS4 games can be downloaded and played locally if you do not trust your broadband connection. PlayStation Now costs $ 20 per month if you pay per month, $ 45 if you pay three months in advance ($ 15 per month) or $ 100 per year (just over $ 8 per month), with one free trial available.

The service is live in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Japan, Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Norway, Denmark, Finland and Sweden. Online multiplayer is normally available for games that support it, and you can switch between titles on PlayStation 4 and on a separate Windows computer.

This sounds like a more cautious and limited attempt of what Google is trying (formerly, it supported more devices, including Bravia TVs, but it has now been scaled down). The service has its critics and is not always reliable, but it's more or less what one would expect from a company with an established gaming activity that wants to test new stuff.

Microsoft Project xCloud

Image: Microsoft

And what about Microsoft Project xCloud? From what we have heard so far (which is not so often), it seems very Stadia-esque. "Our vision of game evolution is similar to that of music and movies: entertainment should be available on demand and accessible from any screen," wrote Kareem Choudhry of Microsoft. in October.

Project xCloud will put Xbox games in the cloud without any extra work from developers, which already gives it a state-of-the-art global streaming technology and will not require any additional work from developers. developers. He already has an advantage over Stadia. Of course, Microsoft already has a lot of experience in building consoles and servers.

Public trials are starting this year, says Microsoft, with information provided by Xbox wireless controllers or "game-specific touch input overlay" for some mobile titles. The company also revealed that private testing was running at 10 Mbps connection speeds, so bandwidth might not be as demanding as Stadia.

With its existing cloud and game services (Azure, Xbox and Windows), Microsoft could be best positioned to leverage Google's offering. We do not know how much Project xCloud will cost, when and where it will be available, but it seems like it will be closely related to the $ 10 / month Xbox game pass.

We're still waiting to learn more about features, pricing, availability, etc., but expect to hear more when E3 takes place in June. Like Sony, Microsoft will support for the moment the traditional games and the future of streaming. It's about keeping the Xbox console as a "flagship experience" while providing an experience that works on any device (like Office or Skype).


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