Video game streaming from data centers is on the horizon, with major players including Google, Microsoft, Sony and Nvidia to battle for a dominant position in the multi-million gaming market.
Nvidia's GeForce Now began as a subscription service that let players stream a library of games to PCs and Shield devices. A new beta version provides a remote desktop that hosts a selection of about 400 games purchased through digital distribution services like Steam. GeForce Now allows users to stream from Nvidia’s data centers in the US and Europe to PC, Mac and Shield TV. The paid service itself does not sell content. Pricing of the service has not been announced.
Sony’s PlayStation Now service streams PS2, PS3 and PS4 games to PC and the PS4 consoles. Some PS2 and PS4 games can be downloaded to a PS4. PS Now requires a paid subscription, it streams both exclusive originals and licensed content and it does not sell the content.
Sony says there are more than 700 games available through PS Now. However, many popular games available for the PS4 are not part of PS Now. PS Now games stream from Sony’s servers which can stream at 60 frames per second but are limited to 720p resolution. GeForce Now, Stadia and xCloud's 4K are all promising 4K gaming. But Sony has announced a new partnership with Microsoft that could result more options for PS Now.
Google's recently announced Stadia streaming service strives to deliver games to any platform that can run the Chrome browser or connect to a Chromecast. Its subscription based with a free entry-level tier. Stadia currently has 31 announced games although it’s almost certain more will be added before the service launches in November. Stadia games will stream from Google’s network of data centers.
Unlike Netflix, Stadia sells the content it streams. Pro subscribers will get free games periodically.
A recent reddit AMA with Stadia product director Andrey Doronichev reads:
“To be clear, Stadia Pro is not “Netflix for Games” like some people have mentioned, a closer comparison would be like Xbox Live Gold or PlayStation Plus,” he says. “The Pro subscribers get 4K/HDR streaming, 5.1 sound, exclusive discounts and access to some free games. Roughly one free game per month give or take. Starting with Destiny 2 .”
Google Stadia is building up a free arsenal of titles. The draw is that you don’t need console hardware, but a Stadia controller is 25% the cost of a console itself. And you need to purchase all other games on the service individually.
Compared to the Xbox Live Gold or PlayStation Plus, Google Stadia would cost you $120 a year for the 4K streaming tier -- effectively twice the price of either of those, but with the "no hardware" advantage.
Information about Microsoft’s xCloud is still limited. It’s assumed xCloud will require a paid subscription. Third-party developers will create most xCloud content but Xbox’s growing family of in-house developers will almost certainly provide exclusive originals. xCloud will stream games the player has purchased. Games will stream to PC and the Xbox consoles from Microsoft’s network of data centers.
xCloud sounds a lot like Stadia but it is expected to offer more games and exclusives. Microsoft is also offering the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, a new subscription service that collapses Xbox Live Gold and Xbox Game Pass into a single subscription. Live Gold brings access to online multiplayer games, discounts on games and a monthly selection of free games. Game Pass gives access to a library of over 100 games that includes Xbox exclusives and some games from third-party developers that are available on the day they release.
In the near future, we could expect Microsoft to combine the xCloud and Game Pass Ultimate. That would offer you a library of games to stream that would include games available on the day they release combined with a streaming service for the Xbox and Windows games you own.