Gaming technology advances with every passing day and every passing year, and right now, we’re in an era where power is very much in the hands of buyers. There are multiple different platforms competing for your purchase or subscription money, and competition means lower prices and a wider range of choices for gamers. While that should definitely be seen as a positive, it does make things harder in terms of reaching a decision about which platform is the best for you.
When we say ‘platform,’ we’re no longer just talking about consoles. It’s no longer a requirement to own a console or even a PC in order to play video games. So long as you have a device with a screen, a controller, and an internet connection, you can now play games via streaming. This is the same method that’s been successfully used by online slots websites for the past fifteen years. When the internet came along, casino companies realized that they could build online slots websites such as Rose Slots and offer customers almost everything they could find in a casino from the comfort of their own home. Now, online slots are more popular than the ‘real’ casinos they imitate. The providers of video gaming streaming platforms are hoping for a similar revolution in gaming.
Whether or not that revolution happens is down to the public. If enough gamers make the jump, it will happen. If they don’t, Sony and Microsoft will remain dominant, with Nintendo feeding on scraps in the background. Which of the no-console platforms would work best for you? Let’s take a look.
Of all the streaming platforms that were likely to create waves in the marketplace, Google’s Stadia service was expected to be the one with the best shot at success. It went live in November and struggled to attract players at first, but after launching a free-to-play tier in April, it’s starting to pick up steam. The idea behind Stadia is simple. It’s an app. You open it and play games through your phone, your laptop or desktop, or even your smart television. You still buy games the same way you would with any video games console, but the games are stored on a remote server and streamed to you through the internet, meaning you don’t need any special hardware at home to play them.
Initially, you had to buy a Stadia controller to play, but now you can hook up almost any existing main-brand video game controller. The free tier won’t give you access to many games and limits your playing time, but picking up a controller and playing great games free of charge through your television is a great novelty.
Most of the things we just said about Stadia are also true about Apple Arcade, but there are also a few key differences. Stadia is where you’ll find the latest big-name, big-budget video game releases. Apple Arcade is where you’ll find smaller, gentler games that might remind you of the titles you played in your youth. We’re talking Pac Man, Frogger, Space Invaders, and other vintage classics. As you might expect based on that, Apple Arcade is a lot cheaper than Google Stadia. In fact, it’s available for less than five dollars per month as a subscription.
The lack of R-rated thrillers and special-effects laden games has made Apple Arcade a popular choice for families. Children love the simple games, and adults love the nostalgic experience. There’s no denying that this platform can be a lot of fun, but if you come looking for the latest ‘Call of Duty’ or ‘Grand Theft Auto,’ you’re going to be disappointed.
The previous two platforms we’ve mentioned so far don’t require you to own any specialist gaming equipment whatsoever. Uplay Plus isn’t like that. You don’t need a PlayStation or an Xbox to use it, but you will at least need a PC capable of reasonable performance. So long as you have something suitable in your home, there’s no reason why Uplay Plus couldn’t become your favorite gaming platform. Your fifteen dollar per month subscription charge gets you access to almost the entire Ubisoft back catalog.
If you’re not the sort of person who knows games by their developer, allow us to fill in the blanks. Ubisoft is the company that brought us ‘Assassin’s Creed,’ ‘Ghost Recon,’ and ‘Far Cry,’ and those high-profile blockbusters are just the tip of the iceberg. There are a few drawbacks, though. Obviously, games not made by Ubisoft are out of the question. You can’t use this service on your mobile phone, as you can with the other two platforms we mentioned. Also, Mac users are out of luck, as there isn’t an iOS version of the platform. Uplay Plus is great if you’re a Ubisoft fan, but a little restrictive otherwise.
Nvidia’s streaming platform has been hiding in plain sight for years. It launched in Beta testing mode in 2013 but went unnoticed by everyone other than the few users who knew about it and signed up to help Nvidia test it. It suddenly went live to the whole world in February 2020 and caught Google off guard, quickly asserting itself as an existential threat to Stadia. The functionality of the platform is almost identical, and to top things off, GeForce Now has – or had – a lot of games that you won’t find on Stadia.
On paper, GeForce Now offers more range to players for a lower price than Google Stadia. In practice, it might be in trouble. Several developers claimed that Nvidia didn’t have their permission to host games on the platform, and since the launch in February, we’ve seen 2K, Bethesda, and Activision order the company to remove all of their titles. That’s already weakened the service, and if other developers follow suit, the platform could be doomed. Nvidia is trying to negotiate with the disgruntled developers to bring them back on board. The long term health of GeForce Now probably depends on whether they’re successful in doing so. This platform might turn out to be fantastic, but we’d be inclined to see how things play out for the next few months before committing to a subscription.
So there you have it. Apple Arcade is the most fun and family-focused platform, Uplay Plus is a must for Ubisoft fans, Stadia is finding its feet as a true alternative to the PlayStation and Xbox, and GeForce Now will probably either defeat Stadia or die trying within the next twelve months. Those are the basics – now it’s over to you to decide!