Game streaming services are all the rage at the moment, providing gamers with a way to instantly stream a library of games from PCs, Macs and mobile devices via the internet. But while the idea of streaming games to your phone sounds appealing, there’s more to it than that; not all game streaming services are created equal, and the offering can vary wildly between the various services.
But that’s where we at Tech Advisor come in; we’ve already been using the various game streaming services available in 2020, and here’s where we showcase our favourites, along with buying advice to help you make the right choice for your gaming needs.
Game streaming service buying advice
Before we get into our selection of the best game streaming services available right now, let’s first discuss what you should consider before subscribing.
Types of streaming service
As it stands, there are two types of streaming service available right now: one type provides a range of games for you to stream from a dedicated library, like PlayStation Now, while the other provides the tech to stream games that you already own, like GeForce Now and Shadow.
You need to consider what you want out of your streaming service. If you’ve already got a large collection of PC games, but your computer just isn’t up to scratch anymore, a service that provides a way to play existing games like Shadow or GeForce Now would be ideal. But if you’re new to the world of gaming, a service that provides a large library of on-demand games (like PS Now) would likely be better.
With any kind of streaming service, internet connectivity is key, but it’s more crucial than ever where streaming games is concerned. This is due to how game streaming works; the games are rendered remotely at datacentres and streamed to your PC (or other device of choice), with your inputs then sent back to the same datacentres in real-time.
If you’ve got a sub-par internet connection, chances are you’ll experience severe input lag that makes gaming virtually impossible. The minimum requirements vary by streaming services, so do your research and run a speed test on your home network to see which is best for your needs.
For those with slow internet speeds, why not consider a game subscription service instead? It may take longer to access the games initially, but it’s certainly better than dealing with streaming issues.
While this may seem fairly obvious, it’s always worth mentioning; make sure your platform of choice is supported by the streaming service you subscribe to. Most offer PC support as standard, but depending on the service, you might also be able to stream your favourite games on Macs, tablets, smartphones and even TVs.
It’s also worth noting that if you’re a PS4 player, you’re limited to PlayStation Now, the only game streaming service available on Sony’s console. If you were looking for an Xbox-compatible streaming service, you’re out of luck – for now, at least – as Microsoft’s equivalent Project xCloud is still currently in beta.
Best game streaming services of 2020
Nvidia GeForce Now
Until very recently, Nvidia’s GeForce Now was arguably the best-value game streaming service on the market, not least because it was completely free to use (while in beta).
Unlike PlayStation Now, which offers a library of curated games to play, Nvidia’s game streaming service provides the capabilities to stream games that you already own across the likes of Steam, UPlay and other PC-based stores.
A library of just over 500 games comes pre-installed on Nvidia’s servers and are available for instant streaming, not only on PC but Mac, mobile and Nvidia’s Shield TV too. The games are rendered remotely using Nvidia’s own GeForce GPUs for the best possible quality and, for those with a fast-enough internet connection, there’s an Ultra Streaming Mode that increases framerate from 60 to 120fps.
The one shift undermining GeForce Now as the game streaming platform of choice is that since the service moved out of beta, publishers like Activision-Blizzard and Bethesda have removed the majority of their games from the service, meaning support has been lost for some of the biggest titles currently out there.
So long as you’re a fan of the supported titles that remain though, this might still be the best choice.
For more information, take a look at our Nvidia GeForce Now explainer.
While many game streaming services are relatively new, Sony’s PlayStation Now service launched way back in 2014, and aside from boasting a library of over 600 PlayStation titles to play, it’s the only way to play PlayStation games on a PC. Yes, that’s right, PlayStation Now is available not only on PS4 but PC too, allowing you to stream your favourite PS4, PS3 and PS2 games on practically any Windows-based PC or laptop (with a 5mbps internet connection or faster).
The library consists of over 250 PS4 titles, along with over 350 classic PS2 and PS3 titles like Red Dead Redemption, Borderlands and The Last of Us. While streaming is primarily how the service works, you can also download games onto your PS4 to play offline, access higher resolutions (up to 4K on PS4 Pro) and experience 5.1 surround sound.
Is PS Now worth it? We think so.
Shadow differs from other streaming services in our roundup because it doesn’t just provide access to a select library of games. Instead, Shadow provides the entire Windows 10 experience, allowing you to install any game or launcher that you want, and tweak your settings as you would if you were playing a game on your own PC at home.
Shadow’s infrastructure is impressive too; it runs on professional graphics cards that deliver the same performance as (at least) Nvidia’s GTX 1080, along with (at least) 12GB of RAM and incredible 1Gb/s download speeds that allows you to download huge games in a matter of minutes. If your internet connection is up to scratch, you can stream games up to 144Hz in 1080p, or 60Hz at 4K, with no noticeable lag. There are also apps available for not only PC and Mac but iOS, Android and even Ubuntu.
2020 is the year that Shadow really takes off too, with three tiers of monthly payment models, a recent expansion to offer support across the whole of the US and new partners like LG Electronics bolstering the service’s infrastructure.
The base Shadow Boost plan launches in June 2020 and costs £14.99 a month or an equivalent £12.99 a month, if you commit to 12 months. For your money, you gain access to a cloud-accessible PC sporting the specs mentioned earlier.
If you want something beefier, there’s Shadow Ultra for £29.99/£24.99 a month, which grants you 4K visuals with Ray Tracing by way of an Nvidia RTX 2080 equivalent (plus a few other enhancements), while the company’s top-tier Infinite service costs £49.99 or £39.99 a month and throws in twice the memory and storage of Ultra, with an RTX Titan equivalent running the show.
Comparatively speaking, the service might seem pricey at first glance, but considering what’s on offer, we think it’s worth it – it’s certainly cheaper than buying a gaming PC with similar specs! Check out our review of the Shadow Ghost, the optional hardware component of the service that lets you plug in peripherals and play on a TV too.
Most similar in nature to PS Now, Google Stadia is the company’s first real foray into gaming and its an ambitious concept right out the gate.
Google’s using its might and resources to offer gamers a high-powered cloud-accessible console capable of delivering up to 4K visuals at 60fps, complete with 5.1 surround sound.
If you’ve already read anything about Stadia you know that at its November 2019 launch, a fair few promised features were missing and in some cases, still are. Things are always improving, however, with a growing games library that now includes titles like Red Dead Redemption 2 and the promise of Cyberpunk 2077, when it launches.
What’s more, the service will see tight integration with YouTube, so you can watch or stream Stadia games and jump directly from being a viewer to a player with a click or a tap.
4K support is now available across the Chromecast Ultra and compatible PCs, while Google also extended smartphone support to include devices like the Razer Phone 2 and the Galaxy S20 line.
For the time being the Stadia controller is needed to play wirelessly with you Chromecast Ultra but it should eventually work across all your devices this way. Until then, you can play on your PC or phone using the official Stadia controller or a number of other compatible controllers, connected via USB.
Stadia Pro (4K visuals, free games each month and 5.1 surround sound) costs £8.99 a month, while Stadia Base (1080p visuals, no free games, stereo sound) will be arriving later in 2020.
Check out the latest Google Stadia news for more details about the service.
While most other entrants in our chart are PC or console-based game streaming services, Hatch aims to look after the mobile gamers. The game streaming service offers a range of 100+ highly-rated mobile games, including Leo’s Fortune, Monument Valley, Crashlands and Hitman GO, available to stream instantly. As well as playing games whenever you fancy, you can also join casual eSports tournaments and go up against friends and other mobile gamers around the world to compete for real prizes.
The streaming service works surprisingly well too, with little-to-no difference in terms of graphics or gameplay, and brings the high-end mobile gaming experience to those without a high-end smartphone.
The only limitation right now is that the game streaming service has been built with 5G in mind, so you’ll need a decent internet connection to stream the library of games on offer. We’ve tried it on 4G with middling results, so unless you’re an early adopter of 5G, chances are you’ll only be using it when connected to Wi-Fi – until 5G is more readily available, anyway.
Interested? Take a look at it on Google Play right now.