Amazon has just put an end to its long-rumored Amazon Luna, which means the company is officially jumping into the cloud gaming ring – one that has grown denser over the past year. Google launched Stadia last November, Nvidia’s GeForce Now left beta in February, and Microsoft’s cloud gaming offering (formerly known as xCloud) will be included in a Game Pass Ultimate subscription starting September 15, despite it being currently only works with Android.
The race is on to see which (if any) of these cloud gaming services will resonate with customers, and every company approaches cloud gaming in a slightly different way. As you are trying to better understand each service, we have created this guide for you.
Amazon Luna offers all-you-can-play access to various game selections as part of separate “channels” – which sounds almost like a cable service. However, at startup you can only subscribe to one channel, Luna Plus, and only if you are accepted as an early access user. The only other channel announced so far is one that only contains Ubisoft games. And right now, you can’t buy individual games on Luna – you can only play what’s in the bundles. Luna Plus will have an introductory price of $ 5.99 per month, while the Ubisoft channel, currently listed as “Coming Soon”, has no price yet.
Games are streamed from Amazon’s widely used AWS cloud computing infrastructure (G4 instances in particular) with the promise of loading very quickly with no installation required. And when you buy the $ 49.99 custom Luna controller that is offered to Luna early access users, you can connect it directly to those servers while you play. According to Amazon, this means lower latency in the game than if you are using the controller via Bluetooth connection.
Luna will be available on PC, Mac, Fire TV and, unlike its competitors, iPhone and iPad. The iOS version of Luna is loud EngadgetA solution that allows Amazon to bypass Apple’s restrictive App Store rules for cloud gaming apps. Games will target up to 1080p, according to the Luna website, with 4K support for some games “coming soon”.
Amazon plans to have around 50 games each on the Luna Plus and Ubisoft channels, the company said Engadget. This number can be increased surprisingly easily over time, as Luna runs on Windows servers and Nvidia GPUs in Amazon’s AWS Compute Cloud, so developers can transfer their existing Windows games to them for them to run on Luna to get up and running.
For developers, this may be easier than bringing games to Stadia. As a result, developers need to port their games to Linux so they can run on Google’s server hardware – and it doesn’t hurt that many companies brought their console games to PC recently, including Sony.
Luna will also have integration with Twitch that will allow users to watch streams and start games that others are playing, but Amazon hasn’t said when this might be available.
You can register now to test the service early.
Google’s Stadia cloud gaming service seems pretty similar to Amazon’s Luna at first glance. It lets you stream games from Google’s distributed data centers straight to the device you’re playing it on. It also has a custom controller that can connect to Google’s servers to reduce latency and promises to feature YouTube prominently. The Stadia business model has some notable differences, however.
Instead of wired-like channels, Stadia gives you two different ways to access games. One is to buy individual titles at full price and stream them anytime at no additional cost.
You can also purchase Stadia Pro, a subscription service for $ 9.99 per month that allows you to request a regularly rotating set of games for free and keep them for as long as you pay the monthly fee. Stadia Pro also lets you play games that you purchase individually at up to 4K resolution, from the maximum resolution of 1080p available to non-pro users.
Getting developers to bring games to Stadia, however, could be more of a challenge than for other platforms – as mentioned earlier, developers need to port their games to Linux. Since you always buy a fresh copy of a game in Stadia, you sometimes leave your friends and game saves from other platforms behind. We found them Fate 2 and PUBG Server pretty empty in May. It is not yet clear whether this also applies to the Amazon Luna.
However, unlike Luna, the Stadia platform also offers (some) exclusive games and features made possible by the cloud, and creates games for Stadia itself. Amazon has not said whether it will sign its own game studios or server infrastructure to do something similar, but told reporters that for Luna it is “not geared towards things like exclusivity”.
Stadia is available on a slightly different platform mix than Luna: PC, Mac, Linux, ChromeOS, the Chromecast Ultra dongle for TVs and certain Android phones – but without iOS support. We have counted 88 games in the service at the time of this writing.
Microsoft Game Pass Ultimate Streaming, also known as xCloud
When you subscribe to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, which costs $ 14.99 a month, you can stream 150+ Xbox games from Microsoft’s data centers straight to the device you stream them to. As mentioned in the introduction, however, there is one major limitation that you can just Stream games on Android phones now.
There’s one more thing you should know about Microsoft’s cloud gaming service: it’s currently powered by Xbox One S hardware in Microsoft’s data centers. This means that the games you play may have poorer graphics and slower load times than other cloud gaming services that run on powerful servers. Even the best internet in the world won’t help an Xbox One S’s physical hardware load a game faster. However, Microsoft plans to upgrade to Xbox Series X hardware on its servers over the next year.
However, since your game saves are all stored in the Microsoft cloud, you can easily switch between games on your Xbox (many of which are also included in Xbox Game Pass) and an Android phone. You will also be playing online with other Xbox players. If you don’t want to use Microsoft’s cloud gaming service, you can stream games directly from your Xbox console to an Android phone or tablet that is on the same Wi-Fi network. This can result in a higher quality stream to your device.
Microsoft is also in a good position to keep adding games to the service, as in theory every game that comes to Game Pass could also be available through Microsoft’s cloud. Because it is Xbox hardware in a server rack, no porting is required for a developer to transfer their game from Xbox to Game Pass streaming. Developers only have to decide whether their games should be available in the cloud or not.
Nvidia’s GeForce Now
Nvidia’s approach with GeForce Now is that you can play existing PC games without needing a powerful PC right in front of you, and usually bring your game saves with you. And the company says there are more than 2,000 games available to stream on GeForce Now – far more than any of the other three services we’ve covered here.
But again, this is generally about games you already own, which is why the number is so high – and yet, not all developers have agreed to allow you to play your own titles. This has been an opt-in since the turmoil following the official launch of GeForce Now in February, when major developers like Activision Blizzard and Bethesda tore their titles out of service.
We don’t exactly know why the developers stopped their games, but it appears that Nvidia didn’t get permission to keep players streaming lots of games after GeForce Now switched from a free beta to a paid service. However, there are still a few notable developers who have chosen GeForce Now, including Bungie, Electronic Arts, Riot Games, and Valve.
If you pay $ 4.99 per month for the GeForce Now Founder tier, you can play your games as often as you want and Take advantage of the company’s ray-traced RTX Server graphics cards while you stream them for graphical enhancement.
But GeForce Now is unique in that you don’t necessarily have to pay to try it. There is also a free tier that lets you play games for an hour at a time, and you can download some of the hottest free games. Play games like Fourteen days, League of Legends and Fate 2 If you don’t already have compatible titles in your Steam, Epic Games or Uplay libraries. The free tier also runs on slightly less graphically efficient servers without ray tracing support.
GeForce Now now works on PC, Mac, Android, the Nvidia Shield and some Chromebooks and currently offers a maximum resolution of 1080p at 60 fps.