In the last couple of years, the cloud gaming market has grown rapidly. A variety of services are now available, any one of which may be preferable to the others depending on your priorities and budget.
Today, let’s review the business models of all of the major cloud gaming services.
Anstream Arcade offers over 1,000 retro games, playable on PC, Mac, Linux, Android, Amazon Fire, and Nvidia Shield. Antstream is currently free-to-play. The company has stated that the service will be ad-supported at some point in the future. It seems that digital currency may also be implemented eventually. Currently, though, Antstream is 100% free.
The following services are available as subscription-based plans.
Blacknut is a subscription service. Subscribers gain instant access to over 500 games. Subscribers may play available titles for as long as their subscription persists. Blacknut may be played on Windows, Mac, and Linux; Android and iOS; and AndroidTV, Amazon Firestick, and Chromecast with Google TV.
Luna is a subscription service from Amazon. The service is currently in early access via invitation request. Unlike other gaming subscription services, Luna is offered in “channels”, each priced individually and focusing on a different demographic. The current channels include Luna+ and Family. Amazon has also announced a Retro Channel, release date to be announced.
Luna also supports cloud play of subscriptions to Ubisoft+ for $17.99 /month.
Luna+ Channel $5.99 /month | Family Channel $2.99 /month
PlayStation Now is a subscription service from Sony. Subscribers gain instant access to hundreds of games, streamed over the cloud on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, or PC. Additionally, subscribers may download select games (roughly 300) onto their PS4 or PS5.
$9.99 /month or $24.00 /three-months or $59.99 /twelve-months
Xbox Cloud Gaming is a streaming service from Microsoft, currently in beta. Access to cloud gaming is included as part of an Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription, which also includes Xbox Live Gold and EA Play. Cloud play is available on PC, Mac, the Xbox Game Pass app for Android, and as a PWA via Safari on iOS. Additionally, Microsoft has announced that cloud gaming will be coming to their consoles in the future.
$14.99 /month (First Month is $1)
Shadow is a PC rental subscription service. Shadow PCs run Windows 10, currently. Subscribers rent their own PC server in a data center. The server is streamed over the cloud to the subscriber’s devices, including PC, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS, AndroidTV, and tvOS. As a gaming subscription service, Shadow is unique in that subscribers can install games directly on to their rented PC. Popular examples would include games played on Steam and Epic Games Store, but running any of other exe or launcher is equally possible. In this way, Shadow is a bring-your-own-game business model.
These cloud gaming services don’t fit neatly into one category.
GeForce Now is a cloud gaming service from Nvidia. GeForce Now is a bring-your-own game business model. Players may stream supported games they’d independently purchased from Steam and Epic Games Store, specifically. GeForce Now also offers access to over 100 free-to-play titles. GeForce Now may be played on PC, Mac, Chromebook, Nvidia Shield, iOS, Android, and AndroidTV. Cloud play is available in two ways: free and two subscription tiers.
- Free | The free service of GeForce Now allows players access to cloud play at no cost. Play is limited to 1-hour sessions before players must disconnect, and players are also placed at the back of the queue for server availability, meaning players may have to wait before they can actually start playing. Gameplay is also restricted to 1080p and 60 fps.
- Paid Subscription – Priority Access | GeForce Now offers a subscription service called Priority Access. A subscription grants players to….priority access…to the GeForce Now servers, meaning they are more likely to jump right into a game without waiting. Priority Access subscribers may also play up to six hours without disconnecting.
- Priority Access | $9.99 /month or $49.99 /six-months
- Paid Subscription – RTX Now 3080 | GeForce Now offers a higher-tier subscription, currently available for pre-order, though being made available within the next couple of months. This subscription grants exclusive access to Nvidia’s top-tier servers running RTX 3080. Session length is also extended to eight hours, and subscribers can stream at 1440p and at 120fps on PC and Mac. On a Shield TV device, subscribers can stream at 4K.
- RTX Now 3080 | $99.99 /six-months
Stadia is a cloud gaming service from Google. Stadia allows players to both purchase games individually and subscribe for access.
- A La Carte | Stadia is currently the only cloud gaming service in which players may purchase games in the Stadia store, which are then exclusively playable over the Stadia service. Any games purchased in-full belong to the customer in perpetuity. They may play their purchased games at no extra cost. Owning a game includes online play.
- Paid Subscription | Additionally, Stadia offers a subscription service called Stadia Pro. Stadia Pro is most similar to Xbox Live and PlayStation Plus. Subscribers to Stadia Pro may “claim” currently available titles. As of today, roughly 30 games are available to claim (contrastingly, PlayStation and Xbox typically offer two to four games at any one time). As long as they are subscribed to Stadia Pro, then or at any point in the future, subscribers may play any and all games they had claimed. Stadia Pro also allows players access to 4K resolution and 7.1 surround sound.
- Stadia Pro | $9.99 /month
- Family Share | Any games you’ve purchased or have claimed while a Pro subscriber can be shared with your Google family group. The group loses access to games claimed from a Pro subscription when you’re Pro subscription lapses.
Stadia also supports cloud play of subscriptions to Ubisoft+ for $17.99 /month.