Google Stadia vs. xCloud vs. PS Now: A Game Streaming Service Buying Guide
Even AAA titles are expected begin migrating from the humble consoles they once required to streaming services like Google’s Stadia, Microsoft’s xCloud, and Sony’s PS Now. This new generation of gaming services are already making some big promises: An all-you-can-eat menu of games without download times, cartridges and discs, or pricy hardware.
Soon enough, the cloud gaming landscape will be as crowded as the entertainment streaming market. Just like TV fans have to decide whether Hulu or HBO Go best complements their Netflix subscription, it could be the same for video games within the next few years.
Each forthcoming game streaming service will have a distinct list of features and titles that will appeal to a certain type of gamers. Here’s how to decided which is best for you.
PS Now Price
PlayStation Now is the only currently available cloud gaming service out of the bunch and uses pricing model that the other services are expected to mirror. Sony also gives any interested users a 7-day free trial to test out their service.
PlayStation owners can pay $19.99 per month to access Sony’s cloud gaming archive. If you take into account that all major games cost $60 to buy online or at a store, PS Now is worth it even if users play one game a month.
PS Now Games
Sony offers access to over 600 PS4, PS3 and PS2 games via both PS4 and Windows PC, meaning users don’t even need to buy the console to get started. But at the moment, it’s primarily a way for PS owners to get a dose of nostalgia they can’t get with their modern-day hardware.
Most recently, Sony added 10 more games to the service in an April 2 update and Metal Gear Solid fans will be hyped at the additions:
- Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
- Metal Gear Solid Ground Zeroes
- Chronicles of Teddy: Harmony of Exidus
- WRC 5 Fia World Rally Championship
- Star Wars Bounty Hunter
- Star Wars Jedi Starfighter
- Star Wars Racer Revenge
- Shadow Complex Remastered
- Shiness: The Lightning Kingdom
- Grand Kingdom
Sony’s expansive library is where PS Now shines. All other services have proposed grand visions of console-less futures, but many of them have yet to announce a roster anywhere near the size of Sony’s.
PS Now Hardware
PS Now set the bar for streaming services ever since it was first announced in 2014. But it also never solved the problem of needing expensive hardware to run. Users still need either a PS4 console or a Windows computer to run the service, smartphones and tablets are out of the question.
The service also recommends that PS Now subscribers used wired internet connection or risk laggy and delayed games. When I tried running 2010 Red Dead Redemption on my PS4 using a wireless connection, the game couldn’t even get through cut scenes without stuttering. User experience will heavily rely on the quality of their broadband signal.
Stadia has yet to be released, but Google triumphantly announced the service and its vision for the future of gaming during GDC this year.
Google has yet to name a price, but it’s likely that it’ll place itself close to PS Now to lure users way from Sony. Stadia offers perhaps the grandest vision of the services announced so far, by promising to completely eliminate the need to buy gaming consoles and PCs, allowing gamers to run everything entirely on the Google Chrome web browser. This will likely make it more affordable if users factor in the hardware needed to play other services.
Stadia Next Update?
Google has yet to announce a firm date for when Stadia will become available, but they have said it will launch in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Europe in 2019. In an interview with Polygon, Phil Harrison, the head of Stadia, said to expect another update in June.
“So you’ll see a pretty amazing lineup come June,” he said. “The summer is when we will be next back out in public [but] we’re not confirming E3.”
It is unlikely that Google will launch Stadia before it announces a full roster of games that will be available to subscribers. Since the company might not be attending E3, it is looking like it will host a standalone summer event to announce the menu of games.
Stadia has already announced its partnership with Id Software, and revealed that the science fiction-horror shooter Doom Eternal will be one of the first major games to launch on the service. Id’s executive producer Marty Stratton said it only took a week for Id to optimize the game for Google’s new platform, suggesting that other game developers could do the same.
Google also confirmed that Dylan Cuthbert’s Q-Games will be creating a title centered around Stadia’s “state share” feature, which lets users start playing a game straight from YouTube. Q-Games is best known for its PixelJunk series, which features a variety of multiplayer and co-op mini games, from racing games to platform shooters. A Stadia release could be a racing or shooting game that uses YouTube as a lobby to let players either watch a live match or jump in and play.
- Assassin’s Creed Odyssey will almost certainly be available on Stadia off the bat. The Ubisoft game was available for play during the Project Stream beta and was used to demo Stadia during GDC. Other potential releases include:
- Trials Rising: The multiplayer motor-cross racing game was released in late February on PC and all major consoles, but would lend itself perfectly to Stadia’s “state share” feature. Users could watch a race play out and then grab their controller to join the action.
- Skull and Bones: Slated to launch as early as April, the naval warfare game will let players live out their pirate fantasies on the virtual high seas. It’s expect to offer single-player and multiplayer options.
- Anno 1800: The real-time strategy game is a riff on Civilization franchise and is set to be launch on April 16.
Stadia Controller and Other Hardware
Google recently announced that Stadia will also come with its own controller that looks a lot a lot like a fusion of the Xbox One controller and Sony’s DualShock 4. It will come with a Google Assistant button and a Capture button that offers unique in-game experiences, while also attempting to keep lag to a minimum.
Unlike traditional gaming controllers that are directly synced to consoles, Stadia’s will use wifi to connect to Google servers. This requires it to be cleared by the FCC to sell, which is still a hurdle Stadia hasn’t cleared, but will be a crucial part of the plan to provide a lag-free gaming experience.
The controller will be able to connect to a wide array of devices, including smartphones, tablets, laptops, and TVs.
On the other hand, Microsoft’s xCloud service is rumored to be tied to the upcoming Xbox Scarlett releases. But the service has been demonstrated as being capable of running games on Android smartphones and tablets.
Sony and Microsoft have long been console nemeses, so it’s likely that xCloud will be priced competitively with PS Now. The fact that users won’t need a console or PC to run the service gives it an edge over Sony and might result in xCloud being overall cheaper to play.
xCloud Launch Date
Users might not need to wait that long to give xCloud a test drive. A third console, named “Xbox Maverick,” is also reportedly in the works and has been described as a disc-less device that could be available for pre-order in April 2019, according to reporting by Windows Central.
It would be the first major console to ditch CDs or cartridges, and it could be the piece of hardware that lets gamers participate in the public trials of xCloud.
Microsoft’s cloud service will have the most hardware options out of the bunch. It’s expected to launch two next-generation consoles code named “Anaconda” and “Lockhart” after the release of Maverick and they will all likely rely on the xCloud.
The CEO of semiconductor company AMD, told CNBC that the company is partnering with Microsoft to create a cloud-centric console.
“We’re partnered with them in game consoles – I think we have a vision of where cloud computing is going, and we’re working closely with them,” she said. “We’re working with both Sony and Microsoft on consoles, and they both have their specific secret sauce that we’re helping them do.”
The best part about this “secret sauce” is that it will likely be optional. Microsoft has expressed interest in taking console gaming to other devices. It’s possible that its consoles will offer the best performance and game-play experience, but users looking for a bargain could still play on their phone instead of splashing out for a brand-new Xbox.
When it comes to a roster, Microsoft gamers will likely have a lot to choose from. The first batch of games will probably be limited to Xbox One titles, but once Scarlett is released we could begin to see exclusive Microsoft games on xCloud to entice gamers.
The following games have all been featured in Microsoft demos of xCloud, suggesting they’ll be available upon launch.
- Forza Horizon 4
- Halo 5: Guardians
- Gears of War 4
- Sea of Thieves
The game streaming revolution is only just beginning to get underway. But with so many options, there are bound to be trade-offs.