The movement of futuristic cloud gaming was born too soon and died sooner than that, especially for the notorious hype and failure of Google’s Stadia. But we might be seeing a renaissance here in 2020 because cloud gaming services are rapidly getting better and sweeter and we have some flag bearers as well. Shadow Cloud Gaming is a virtual gaming service that I think has the guts and guns to compete with the big boys; Google, Microsoft, and Sony.
Before we proceed, I want to make it clear that this is not a sponsored post. Spoiler alert, you’ll find me praising Shadow Gaming a lot because what they are offering is good and unique. While small in scale, they are very ambitious and that is what we like to see in the field of gaming, and business.
What is Shadow gaming?
Perhaps you know what Shadow gaming is, it is a cloud-based gaming service. But this single sentence won’t be the complete explanation of what they are offering. Shadow is different from other cloud gaming services like Stadia or Xbox cloud.
Instead of letting you play games on PCs or smartphones from a library of games, like Stadia, PS Now, GeForce Now, or Xbox Cloud offer, Shadow gaming offers a full-fledged virtual computer for you with specs that you can see and select. And it is not just limited to gaming, although it is specialized for it.
With Shadow, you get a virtual PC that you can access using their app on your PC, Mac, Android, or iOS device. You can store files, edit documents, run software such as Adobe Creative Suite (Photoshop, Premier, etc). It is like having a high-end PC that you pay a small monthly fee for.
How Shadow works
I’ll keep it short and move to the section on what I like about their service. For a traditional PC, you have a monitor, peripherals (keyboard, mouse, etc), and the CPU. The CPU is where the processor, GPU, etc sit. This is what your PC is.
Your monitor is connected to the PC with a wire. This wire is how you access the PC via the monitor and peripherals. What Shadow gaming offers is something very similar. They give you a PC which is placed miles away from your location. You can use your monitor and keyboards to connect with Shadow’s PC. But instead of a wire, the PC is connected using your internet connection. This is the gist of it.
What I like about the service
There are a lot of things I like about Shadow gaming and I think you’ll like them too. To make it concise and easy to read, I’ll put them in a list form. Take a look;
Instead of vaguely offering the features like Stadia or other cloud gaming services do, such as 1080p streaming, low-latency gameplay, compatibility, etc, Shadow gives you the entire spec sheet of the virtual PC you pay for. You get to know what GPU, CPU, RAM, and storage you are getting, making the service more transparent.
You get a PC, not just a service. Most of the other popular services let you play the game, either what’s on their game library or the games you own. For a cloud gaming service, that’s enough, but wouldn’t it be great to get more? Shadow, as mentioned above, gives you a high-end virtual PC that is secure and capable of doing a lot more, along with gaming.
Run any game you want. Many of the cloud gaming services like PS Now, Xbox Cloud, and Stadia offer the games they have on their library. So if you want to play, let’s say, Hitman 2 but the game is not there in the library, you can’t play it. Shadow has no such limitations. Since you get a virtual PC, install any game you want that you would have on your PC and play it. No library, no issues.
Pricing: While the service is not the cheapest offering in the cloud gaming market, it sure is well worth it. Stadia offers a free tier with 1080p gaming but only the games in their library can be played. Same with PS Now and Xbox cloud (with no free offering). Even competitive cloud gaming services such as Vortex gaming are not offering even close to what they are asking for. Shadow is different.
Great user experience: With an easy to access website and all the crucial information accessible easily, Shadow gaming’s services are very easy to use. All you need is to get their app available for all major platforms, even Ubuntu and tvOS, and use your virtual machine. All the updates, tweakings, management, etc are done from their side. This seems like a simple thing but wait till you get stuck in a cesspool of technical problems. It’s a nightmare. Thankfully that does not happen here.
Compatibility: As already stated, Shadow gaming lets you play games on Mac, Windows, Android, iOS, etc. But it also offers a diverse range of peripherals as well. If you are using a phone, then there’s virtual keyboard support, touchscreen controls, keyboard, and controller support as well. Connect your PS4 or Xbox controller and start playing.
Shadow Boost specs
The only available plan, the Boost plan offers some decent power to your virtual PC. Take a look at the specs you’ll be getting if you get this plan. The other two plans’ pricing has been in flux and therefore removed from their site, but we have mentioned an expected price.
Shadow Boost Plan
|CPU||4-cores, 8-threads, 3.4 GHz or similar|
|GPU||GeForce GTX 1080 or similar|
|STORAGE||256GB base, upgradable|
|OS||Windows 10 64-bit|
|PRICE||$11.99/mo for yearly plan|
Shadow Ultra Plan
|GPU||RTX 2080, 16GB, Ray Tracing|
|STORAGE||512GB, SSD + HDD|
|OS||Windows 10, 64-bit|
|PRICE||NA. expected – $25/mo|
Shadow Infinite Plans
|GPU||Titan RTX, 24GB, Ray Tracing|
|STORAGE||1TB, 256 SSD + 768 GB HDD|
|OS||Windows 10, 64-bit|
|PRICE||NA. expected – $40/mo|
Things I don’t like about Shadow
Even the sweetest dreams come to an end. And just like that, no cloud gaming service is perfect. There are some things I don’t like about it, although this list is going to be a short one.
Delayed deployment: As of now, you can only choose one of their three plans; Shadow Boost for $11.99/month for the yearly plan and $14.99 a month for the monthly plan. That’s not all. If I buy the Boost plan today (December 4), my virtual machine will be ready to use by December 29, almost a month later. This waiting period was for California. Choose Connecticut and the waiting period jumps to February 25!
Just one tier is available. The Boost plan (which comes with capable hardware) is the only plan you can choose. The other upcoming plans have been in the “coming soon” mode for more than 6 months. The other plans are all Ray-tracing ready with very powerful hardware, so they are worth the wait.
Lag and stutter: While the gameplay for most of the casual games is smooth, with some high-end games running over 60fps at 1080p, playing competitive games like CS: GO or Rainbow Six is not recommended because even the tiny lags are noticeable and affect the game. But this is an issue for all cloud gaming services and not just Shadow.
Some important things
Before we conclude the article, we wanted to give some important, easy-to-miss information about this gaming service. Starting with the refund and free trial option.
There is no free trial offered. You’ll have to pay for the whole month and wait for a month to start using it.
Coming to refund, you can ask for a refund only if you are in the Explorer states which is a list of states where they have not entirely deployed their services. There are only 10 states under this list. You can see the list here.
In their FAQ section, it states that their support team will determine if you are eligible for a refund. So I don’t know what that determining process is exactly, perhaps they’ll have a council that deems whether you are worthy of a refund or not.
Coming to security, it is stated in their FAQs that only the users can see their data and no one else. Shadow only monitors non-sensitive data such as analytics and system stats.
Shadow gaming is unique and there is no doubt about that. What it is offering is perhaps one of the best services if you compare them with what the competitors are offering. Since you get a full-specced virtual PC, there is a lot of flexibility, freedom, and control on offer.
Here’s a paradox; Shadow is offering some of the best services in its field. That’s the best thing about them. The worst thing about them is the time they are taking to deliver the service. It is like making a really revolutionary gaming PC at a really great price, but when it comes to buying, all you can see is Out of Stock.
Read more on cloud gaming and cloud services. Take a look at these articles:
Cloud gaming services to choose from; A comprehensive list.