Over the years I’ve dabbled with a fair few cloud-based streaming services as I’ve always been intrigued as to whether it could work. I tried out the dedicated OnLive console, which came with one of the most horrendous controllers of all time, about six or so years ago. Artefacting was the major issue here, with terrible image quality that didn’t play to PC’s strengths. And then, well, OnLive floundered and shut down.
After this Sony bought up OnLive and Gaikai, shut down OnLive and reused the tech for PS Now. In its first incarnation, this allowed PlayStation 4 owners to stream and play PS3 games, and Sony has since rolled it out to PC, as well as adding a handful of PS4 titles to the library. It’s actually fairly decent, and using a controller helps to minimise the perception of input lag compared to a mouse and keyboard. Compared to the real thing though, it’s still got a way to go.
Which then brings me to LiquidSky, a streaming solution which even had the backing of AMD during its live Capsaicin event last year. I’ve been meaning to give it a trial for some time now, and finally gave it a shot this week. And, uh, it really isn’t very good. At all. Here I’ve got a 75Mb/s down / 19Mb/s up net speed, with LiquidSky suggesting a minimum of 5Mb/s download or, for ideal performance, 20Mb/s. The performance was nowhere near ideal. I tried out Gorogoa, a simple point and click adventure game, and the mouse lag was horrendous. It was like playing the game in a pool of treacle with a tub of vaseline smeared over my eyes. This was a panel-based adventure game with very little movement, so the prospect of trying to use LiquidSky for Street Fighter V is enough to make me gag.
And then this week I hear about Shadow, after pretender to the streaming crown. It’s only available in France and California for now, but they claim this is the replacement for desktop gaming PCs. You can either straight to your PC, laptop or even mobile, or you can buy their dedicated streaming box designed to run at 1080p / 144Hz. As I don’t live in France, nor California, sadly, I haven’t been able to give it a shot just yet. Considering my experience with the alternatives though, I’ve got major doubts. While the concept is very neat, it just doesn’t seem like the technology can possibly keep up with the demands.
There’s also the matter of cost to consider. LiquidSky offers a $20 per month package for its streaming service, on top of which you’ve still got to buy all your games and have a decent net connection. That’s $240 a year, or close to $1000 over four years. You could just buy a $1000 PC every four years for that price. You’re effectively paying for a timeshare when you could own your own home.
I would like some form of streaming tech to succeed, but it’s been around a decade now and it still doesn’t feel like we’re anywhere near a solution that comes close to the real thing. Is such a thing even possible on the scale it needs to be? If 20 million players wanted to use Shadow simultaneously, Shadow would need to have 20 million PCs equipped with GeForce GTX 1080’s to accommodate them. That’s just ludicrous.
Have any of you given any cloud-based game streaming services a go? Is there any future in it, or are they all doomed to lag behind a genuine PC or console? Let us know your thoughts!