Game streaming has been around for years, but it’s set to make a significant splash in 2020. Why are all of these companies racing to build the best streaming service, and how will streaming change gaming?
The First Year of True Game Streaming
2020 will be the first year where game streaming gets taken seriously. Sure, there are already some game streaming services on the market, like PlayStation Now and Shadow, but these services fail to show what makes game streaming so revolutionary, and they hardly hold a candle to the services that we’ll become familiar with in the next year.
The most talked about game streaming service as of right now is, of course, Google Stadia. It’s an affordable, open-platform service that’s capable of streaming 4K/60fps games to even the crappiest computers. But Google isn’t the only company that’s getting in on game streaming. In 2020, we’re set to see services like Orion, Microsoft XCloud, and Liquidsky hit the scene. Even Amazon and Walmart are interested in joining the market, and NVIDIA GEFORCE NOW (which has had an open beta on NVIDIA hardware for years) should reach the mass market.
Many companies see the potential in streaming games. But with all the hype, rumors, and speculation, what do we know for sure about game streaming services? Will they revolutionize gaming in 2020?
Great Quality at a Fair Price
While most game streaming services haven’t publicized their streaming quality just yet, Google has been more than happy to boast about the quality of Stadia. With a reliable internet connection (about 35mbps), you can stream games in 4K at 60fps with no perceivable latency. Naturally, lower streaming resolutions will result in more consistent framerates and less latency, and most people with a 20mbps connection should be able to stream in 1080p.
Somehow, companies like Google are performing this magic at a reasonable price. Stadia is set to launch with a free Base plan and a $10 a month Pro plan. With the free Base plan, you buy games from the Stadia store at regular retail price, and you can play them whenever you want. The Base plan restricts resolution at 1080p/60fps, but that’s not a big deal.
On the other hand, Stadia’s Pro plan is just $10 a month. That’s cheaper than Netflix’s “Standard” plan. This Pro plan comes with some free games, discounts, and 4K streaming, but you still have to buy most games at full retail price. And honestly, that’s fine. Stadia essentially gives you access to a library of games without the need to buy a console. A year of Stadia Pro is cheaper than an Xbox One, a PlayStation 4, or a Nintendo Switch. That’s huge for anyone who doesn’t want to shell out a few hundred dollars for a new console.
It’s important to note that Stadia Pro is about half the price of PlayStation Now and Shadow, and we don’t know how much people will have to pay for services like XCloud, NVIDIA GeForce Now, or any other 2020 streaming service. But it’s fair to assume that to compete with Stadia, these services will aim for a reasonable price point.
Everyone Has Streaming-Ready Hardware
The most exciting aspect of game streaming is its openness. With a service like Stadia or XCloud, games run on a computer in some remote corporate warehouse but streamed to your computer, phone, or game console. As a result, you can play AAA games on underpowered hardware, and you don’t have to buy a new console to get the latest gaming experience. Hell, you can even play the 2016 release of DOOM on your iPhone with Orion, or pause a game on your PC and start it again on your iPad.
Along with the technical ability to play big games on crappy hardware, most game streaming services are built specifically for multi-platform use. Stadia and Orion are “agnostic” services that are meant to work on any device, so long as the device manufacturer is open to the service. Anyone with a reliable internet connection will have the means to play AAA games without investing in a gaming PC or console.
That said, the early months of game streaming will be a little bit restrictive. At launch, Google’s Stadia service will only work on computers that can run the Chrome browser (including Chromebooks), Chromecast Ultra, and Pixel 3 phones (including the 3 XL and 3a). Console manufacturers like Microsoft and Sony don’t plan on opening their consoles to 3rd party game streaming services, but that could change over time.
There’s also the chance that some of these streaming services will be short on modern games. PlayStation Now’s catalog only consists of older games from the PS1-PS3 generations, so if Sony plans on being competitive in this market, it will need to expand its Now service with more modern titles. It seems like Stadia can host new games, but it’s hard to tell whether or not some of these services will shoot for the same heights.
Game Streaming Is Amazing, But Be Patient
With all of these game streaming services hanging right around the corner, it’s hard to tell which service you should sign up for. But whatever you do, try not to rush into anything. Some of these services are offering expensive “beta” modes that are oddly expensive for an unfinished product. And if we’ve learned anything from game consoles, foldable phones, and nifty tablets, it’s that early adopters tend to pay out of the nose for a sub-par experience.
But hey, we’re not going to stop you from pursuing your dreams. If you want early access to Stadia, go ahead and drop the $130 on a Stadia Founder’s Edition preorder (if you already have a Chromecast Ultra, this is a terrible deal). If you want to play DOOM on your iPhone, sign up for Bethesda’s Orion test program. And if you want to try Microsoft XCloud, well, you’ll have to wait until October of this year.
Of course, if you want game streaming right now, you could always sign up for PlayStation Now or Shadow. Just know that you aren’t getting the same game streaming experience that you’ll find with services like Stadia next year.