Last update: May. 21st 2019
Thinking of jumping on cloud gaming bandwagon? Well you are not alone. So are a few (!) companies. While trying to list the players, we ended up figuring out we could put together a table considering the sheer amount of them there are on the market today. We tried to compare each service based on what we knew and what was publicly available. We have not included “pure virtual desktop” players even though some of those folks below can be considered as simple virtual desktop. We’ve added them when they had a “gaming” twist or making your life easier from a gamer perspective. Many details were left for now, we will update the table as more information makes its way to the public. We are planning on doing a full benchmark with each service using our internal tools to measure latency, this will probably happen this summer. Stay tune.
What we can conclude already is they they all try to make you believe they are different, but at the end they all do the same stuff. They are streaming video and audio content to you, while carrying your inputs in the other direction. They mainly rely on the same type of encoders/decoders. If you are familiar with codec like h264, you know they can be expensive and heavy from a license and patent perspective. Writing your own one can be done (while some of those companies are fairly small), but before your software gets as fast as its hardware equivalent, it would take a lot of effort (if possible). As we’ve pointed out in a previous post on this blog, there are many areas where lag appears throughout this flow, and there are only a few places where those companies will be able to differentiate from others. Those differences are things like where they capture the feed on the renderer, how they relay controls information, how the feed is displayed on your screen. One area of interest is the network protocol used. But even there, the amount of things you can do to “be better than your competitors” is fairly limited.
Those companies are mainly running servers, or virtual machines in datacenters and offer you a fency website to get access to those resources. Their golden image will contains pre-installed games and maybe some distributing software like steam, gog and such. You will still have to own the game for most of those services. The devil is in the details, and that’s where it gets hard to differentiate them. Some use certain type of GPU, certain model of CPU, etc. We’ve even seen cases where a given cloud gaming service was providing different model of cpu each time you connect. You could get a 3Ghz CPU at some point, and later in the day only get a 2.1Ghz cpu.
We used the publicly available information to fill the table below. We used the highest possible resolution/framerate for pricing as everyone is looking for this (or else why would you not simply get an old PC).
We broke down those services in 3 groups:
-GaaS: Gaming a sa service. You get the virtual machine, and games are included for you to play. Some will give you the full VM (i.e. you can do non-game related stuff), others will only allow you to play their games.
-CaaS: Computer as a Service. You get a VM, mainly windows, which may have some games pre-installed. You have to pay for the VM, but you need to own the game. You type in your distributor account (i.e. steam) and they let you play whichever game you have. If the game is not pre-installed you need to download it first. In most cases, your VM will disappear when you don’t use it, so re-install may be needed.
-Self-streaming: Slightly different beast here. You provide the renderer hardware in this case. Their software allows you to play games remotely. Either your console or your PC at home will do the rendering while you play the game (which you need to own, through a subscription or direct license) on your mobile device (slower pc, tv, phone, tablet, etc.). They may allow interesting feature like split screen and such, which would not initially be supported in game.
You have 2 tables, one with the url you can click and the other with some details from our report. We will try to update it frequently and if you feel something should be updated drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org