Cloud Gaming Returns

The Verge has details from French technologists the Blade Group on their efforts at making streaming PC games from the cloud more viable. This has arguably failed to live up to the hype that surrounded the initial introduction of the idea of playing on a remote computer using a lower-powered device as a front-end after several companies worked on ironing out latency issues. Blade's take on this involves each user having a computer dedicated to their sessions, and they are now expanding trials of the service to the U.S. starting in California. This will not be cheap, as this ends up running between $420 and $600 per year, and their preliminary hands-on experience with the beta does not necessarily suggest this is worth it. Word is:
I was able to give Shadow a brief test in The Verge offices in New York City — two and a half thousand miles away from Blade’s California data center — on Blade’s dedicated box, a Mac, and an Android phone (with a Bluetooth controller). While the experience was occasionally jittery between our office Wi-Fi and the less than optimal test conditions, playing Rise of the Tomb Raider on an Android phone was still a pretty impressive experience. But we’ll have to wait to see how it handles under intended conditions before we make any final judgements.

Blade has only sold a few thousand devices in France, largely due to the speed at which it can scale up, since each user needs a dedicated machine in an at least somewhat local data center for the service to work well. The model may come under strain on the larger scale (in terms of both users and geography) that Blade is seeking in the United States.

Aside from the service’s very limited availability, there’s also the price. Giving users dedicated machines is a costly venture, and Blade subscriptions aren’t exactly cheap, running at $34.95/month for a one-year subscription, $39.95/month for three months, or $49.95/month without any long term commitments. Subscribers are looking at what basically amounts to renting a high-end gaming PC for between $420 to $600 per year, and that’s before you factor in the cost of games, which you’ll have to buy and install on your cloud machine just like you would on any other PC.