If you’re a gamer, there’s no time like the present. Thousands of high-quality games are released every single year, and keeping up with new releases could be a full-time job. While there are console-exclusives still out there, most games are cross-released and many allow cross-platform playing, so friends with different systems can still game together. With that in mind, how’s a gamer to decide which system to use? While there are detractors out in the world, most people will say your best option is to simply build a gaming PC. A computer is all but guaranteed give you better performance than a gaming console, and it certainly offers you more flexibility (not to mention your machine won’t be phased out of the “generation” after five or six years). Unfortunately, building a PC can be a challenge for the uninitiated and buying one pre-built can be incredibly expensive.
Well, that used to be true, anyway. Tech company Blade SAS has developed a workaround for would-be PC gamers on a budget. The program, called Shadow, functions similarly to how a “virtual machine” can let Mac users run Windows programs from their desktop. The user installs the Shadow client on their device, and when they launch the application they’ll be instantly inside an up-to-date Windows desktop. The ambitious idea is to let gamers use whatever device they currently own to play PC games, replacing the buy-in cost (which can easily be upwards of $1,000) with a monthly subscription. Does it work? Yes.
Shadow’s innovation is its use of cloud computing. Blade SAS has massive data centers scattered across the globe. Inside these physical locations, Shadow employees are putting together gaming-capable Windows PCs and linking them to the cloud. Shadow’s users, through the client, can use whatever piece of tech they have lying around to stream content from the data center.
The beauty of this set up is that someone can use their “Shadow PC” on just about any Internet-connected device with a screen. Because all you are doing is streaming video, if you want to interact with your Shadow PC via a laptop, tablet, or even cell phone, you can go right ahead, and you won’t have any issues. All versions of the client install quickly, and all of them work.
For the more futurist gamers out there, Shadow is currently developing a client that is stable enough for VR games. Though currently VR is not “officially supported” Shadow users have already had success connecting their headsets to their Shadow PCs with apps like Virtual Desktop or the Oculus Link. Shadow’s native VR client is in an alpha testing stage, and it promises to make the PCVR experience more seamless and accessible than ever before.
Is there a catch to all this? Not really. Because of streaming’s heavy bandwidth demands, you’ll need a fairly strong Internet connection to enjoy Shadow, and you’ll need a superb connection if you want to stretch the client’s capabilities for running VR. You can compare your network situation to the ideal for Shadow on their website, and it’s worth noting that even meeting the minimum requirements will offer you an experience with hardly any latency issues. After signing up for Shadow it can take 2-3 weeks for the team to build a PC for you at their data center, but then all the joys of gaming on a high-end computer are yours for as little as $12 a month.