While some people—like Ubisoft’s CEO—are of the opinion that cloud gaming will eventually replace consoles entirely, we’re not quite there yet. Instead, for this generation, cloud gaming is generally considered an add-on service. Both Microsoft and Sony are offering cloud gaming options that let players stream games to some combination of mobile devices and computer, in addition to their hardware consoles. Stadia, on the other hand, lives exclusively in the cloud.
All three provide a similar core service, but they do so in very different ways. Stadia, for example, is best viewed as a replacement for the console itself. Instead of buying expensive hardware up front, you can pay a monthly fee for access to the platform (or not, more on that below). Microsoft’s cloud gaming is primarily a way to play games on mobile devices. And PlayStation Now is largely a backward-compatibility service that even allows you to play on a PC.
Nvidia’s GeForce Now is also a game-streaming contender worth considering, but it’s aimed more at the PC market. It uses your existing library of games on stores like Steam, Epic, and so on. If you’re a PC gamer looking for a way to stream your games, this is your best option regardless of what we touch on throughout the rest of this article. As for all the other services, which one is worthwhile to you is highly specific not only to your needs but also which console you’re considering. So we’ll break them down one at a time.