Cloud gaming has long been on everyone's lips. But what exactly is it and what distinguishes the various providers such as Google Stadia or PS Now from one another? GIGA explains which cloud gaming services are currently available, how they compare and what to look out for with the various subscriptions – so you are guaranteed to make the right choice.

Purchase advice

Your gaming PC is no longer the newest and is already sweating at the mere sight of upcoming AAA releases like Cyberpunk 2077? You now have two options: Either you give your computer an expensive upgrade – for example in the form of a new graphics card. Or you can opt for one of the numerous cloud gaming services, making the purchase of a new, expensive computer obsolete.

Such services often only cost you a fraction of a powerful gaming computer per month and still allow you to play all imaginable games. But that is by no means the only reason why a subscription with one of the numerous providers could be worthwhile. We took a closer look at some of the most popular cloud services and went into detail about the respective services, options and costs.

The best cloud gaming providers 2020: content

Cloud gaming services 2020: all GIGA recommendations at a glance

Available games Price (monthly) platform offer
Shadow from 12.99 euros PC, Mac, Android, iOS At Shadow
PlayStation Now 800+ 9.99 euros PC, PS4 In the PS Store
Google Stadia 40+ free /9.99 euros PC, Android In the Google Store
GeForce Now 1,000+ free of charge / 5.49 euros PC, Mac, Android, Shield TV At Nvidia

The absolute all-rounder: Shadow

advantages

  • Numerous possible uses outside of gaming
  • Supports ray tracing
  • Unlimited play options
  • Available for PC, Mac, iOS and Android

disadvantage

  • High price
  • Operation sometimes associated with more effort

If you are looking for a true all-rounder among cloud gaming services, you have come to the right place at Shadow. Here you get access to your own virtual Windows PC. So you can stream every game you own from the cloud. In addition, users can also use this virtual computer for numerous things apart from gaming. Photo editing or video editing? No problem.

In the future, you will also have various subscriptions available. So if you are willing to dig a little deeper into your pocket, you get access to all the more powerful hardware and can even benefit from 4K graphics and ray tracing. It should be said that even the cheapest subscription is more than sufficient to play almost every popular title in the best quality and full HD resolution. So there's something for everyone, especially since Shadow works on just about any platform.

Note: The configurations Shadow Ultra for 24.99 euros and Infinite for 39.99 euros per month are currently not available. For this reason, new customers are currently only offered the standard Shadow Boost subscription from EUR 12.99.

For console gamers: PlayStation Now

To the provider: PlayStation Now

advantages

  • Large selection of PS2, PS3 and PS4 games
  • Numerous titles can also be played offline
  • PS4 exclusive playable on PC

disadvantage

  • PS4 controller required (also on the PC)
  • Many games only available at short notice
  • Game streaming limited to 720p and 30 FPS

Sony's subscription service doesn't even require a console. Because PlayStation Now works not only on PS4, but also on Windows PCs (optionally with Dualshock controller). The service is available for 9.99 euros a month, 24.99 euros for three months or 59.99 euros for one year. The extensive program includes over 800 games from all genres that originally appeared on the PS2, PS3 or PS4. You can get a taste of the service thanks to a seven-day trial phase.

The titles can either be downloaded (not for PS3 games) or streamed directly – depending on whether you have enough hard drive space or a good internet connection. Caution: Some games are only available for a few months, which is why they should be tackled first. Scores remain locally or in the cloud and can still be used when purchasing the purchased versions.

The selection of games is excellent: there are must-haves such as GTA 5, Uncharted 4, The Last of Us and Persona 5. PS3 classics such as Red Dead Redemption, Metal Gear Solid 4, Bioshock or Fallout New Vegas are also convincing. By the way, via PS Now multiplayer games (e.g. in GTA Online or Elder Scrolls Online) are also possible. Trophies can also be won. Sony recommends a bandwidth of at least 5 Mbit / s for streaming. In practice, however, 25 Mbit / s and connection via LAN cable are advisable. Otherwise dropouts and stuttering can occur every now and then. In short, PlayStation Now offers a wide range at a fair price.

Start the photo gallery(16 pictures)

PlayStation Now: All the games you can stream + list

Inexpensive alternative: Google Stadia

advantages

  • Stadia Base can be used free of charge
  • Regularly free games for Stadia Pro owners
  • Optional controller with useful additional functions

disadvantage

  • Games must be purchased separately
  • Purchased games are tied to the platform
  • No crossplay
  • Small selection of games

Google is currently pursuing a completely different concept with its Stadia cloud gaming offering. Stadia is an independent platform, such as the PC or PS4. This means that only games that you have purchased separately for the platform or that are included in the Stadia Pro subscription for just under 10 euros per month can be streamed via Stadia. As far as online titles such as Destiny 2 are concerned, no cross-play with other platforms is currently planned. So this should be taken into account when making a purchase decision.

The seamless integration of Stadia into its previous ecosystem is praiseworthy. For example, if you opt for the Premiere Edition, you will receive the Stadia Controller including Google Chromecast in addition to the Pro subscription. The latter is also necessary for gaming on the television, while the controller is purely optional. Thanks to dedicated buttons for screenshots and the Google Assistant, this is much smarter than ordinary controllers.

As promising as Google Stadia sounds overall, it still feels more like an unfinished beta in places. Many basic functions are still missing and, according to Google, should only be provided with later updates. The largely lacking integration of crossplay is also questionable. But you can use Stadia in the basic version completely free of charge. So the ideal opportunity to try out the service without hesitation in order to form your own judgment afterwards.

Easiest handling: GeForce Now

advantages

  • Free version available
  • Easy handling thanks to numerous pre-installed games
  • Constantly growing selection of games
  • Supports ray tracing

disadvantage

  • Some games are not supported
  • Founders Edition has limited availability

GeForce Now from Nvidia can be best described as a mixture of the Shadow and Google Stadia services. On the one hand, there is a predefined selection of games, but with over 400 titles (and the trend is rising) it is much more extensive than at Stadia. On the other hand, there is no platform connection and it is up to you which device you want to use for gaming. However, it would be advisable to take a look at the list of supported games beforehand.

Another great advantage of GeForce Now is its ease of use. Over 200 games are pre-installed and if you already have them, you can start right away with just one click. All other games can be downloaded within a few seconds and are therefore just as easily accessible. Eternal download times goodbye!

Basically, you have two options: You can either use the service for free or you can become a founder member for 5.49 euros a month. However, the first variant has the catch that you can play for a maximum of one hour at a time. The paid version, however, allows longer sessions and even supports ray tracing.

That's how we tested

Cloud gaming is now available on almost all common platforms. For this reason, it was also important for us to cover each of these areas with our selection. This is to ensure that, ideally, there is a suitable provider for everyone. In order to be able to give you the best possible overview, we have included external opinions in our decision in addition to our own experiences.

At this point it should be mentioned that cloud gaming is still a relatively new concept. At the same time, however, this is developing rapidly, which is particularly evident from the individual providers. These offer you increasingly more features or completely new subscription models.

Which services are coming in the future?

At this point, other cloud gaming services should be mentioned that will come onto the market in the foreseeable future. Two applications await you directly from Microsoft. The more interesting of the two is arguably Cloud gaming – formerly known as xCloud. Theoretically, the service is already available to owners of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, but it is still in the beta phase. Yet you already have the ability to choose from over 100 Xbox titles and stream them from the cloud to your smartphone both via WLAN and via the cellular network. The counterpart for console gamers would then be Xbox Console Streaming: Here you stream the games directly from your own Xbox One to a mobile device.

Medion also wants to get involved in the cloud gaming sector in the future and will be involved in the foreseeable future Medion ERAZER Cloud Gaming go to the start. Similar to the competition, there should also be a predefined selection of games here. At the beginning, however, this is limited to around 50 titles, all of which are included in the subscription for 9.99 euros per month. It remains to be seen which games these will be and which ones will be added in the future.

Cloud gaming: how does it work?

Typically, the majority of cloud streaming services work the same way: you stand by Server with extremely powerful hardware available, on which your own respective games then actually run. Only the output image is streamed to your device via an app. Therefore it doesn't matter how much power it has. The external server does the real work.

This means: As long as the device of your choice – it can be either a smartphone, tablet or an outdated PC / laptop – can play videos smoothly, you can probably easily fall back on cloud gaming.

Good internet is needed: what do I have to consider?

As is well known, the devil lies in the detail. The most important factor when it comes to gaming from the cloud: a fast and stable internet connection. Here, of course, the numerous services try to undercut each other by advertising with the lowest possible minimum requirements in relation to the required Internet performance. This information moves between 5 Mbit / s up to 35 Mbit / s or more. The rule of thumb is: The better your gaming experience should be (FPS, refresh rate, resolution and graphics quality), the more powerful your internet must be.

So that you don't lose track of so many numbers, here is a short calculation example. Suppose you have one 16,000 lineso that would be a speed of converted about 16 Mbit / s correspond. Most services, however, require at least 20 Mbit / s so that you can play at least with a resolution of 1080p and a smooth 60 FPS.

Our recommendation: For the best gaming experience, you should have at least a 50,000 line and look for a reliable provider. Conveniently, you can have your Internet speed tested directly on the website of the service with some providers such as Google Stadia. So you can find out in advance whether an upgrade of your own Internet is even necessary.

How do the services differ?

At first glance, the cloud gaming offerings may all look very similar, but they differ greatly in some points. It starts with what resolution you want to play in. While some services only offer a resolution of 1080p you can even offer in other services 4K or with one increased refresh rate of 144 Hz play. Here everything again depends on your available internet connection more pixels or FPS always need more bandwidth.

The next big point would be the games themselves. Many of the providers offer one predefined selection of games. Experience has shown that this is constantly being expanded, but should your absolute favorite game still not be there, it could be a knockout criterion. It would therefore be advisable to find out about the games catalog on offer in advance. In the case of Shadow, you'll even get a complete virtual Windows PC made available. In this case, you have theoretically unlimited possibilities that are not limited to gambling.

Cloud gaming subscription as the ideal solution?

In the meantime, the numerous subscription structures seem to be mixing up and more and more hybrids are emerging a good example of this is PlayStation Now. On the one hand, this subscription offers you a game flat rate and at the same time you can stream games on your console as well as on your PC. This all-round package appears as the logical consequence of the previous development and we will probably appear more in this form in the future.

Daniel Nawrat
Daniel Nawrat, GIGA expert for computers, gaming hardware and games.

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