Shadow's Cloud Service Could Make Gaming PCs Obsolete

LAS VEGAS — Ever wish you could play The Witcher 3 on your smartphone, or sneak in a few rounds of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds on your old, busted laptop? Doing so could soon become possible thanks to Shadow, a cloud-based gaming service that lets you access a virtual high-end gaming PC from just about any device you own.

Shadow's proprietary PC-streaming box.

Shadow's proprietary PC-streaming box.

Launching soon for a starting subscription price of $35 per month, Shadow lets you remotely access a fully-featured Windows 10 PC that uses a powerful Intel Xeon processor, 12GB of RAM, 256GB of storage space and high-end Nvidia graphics. Shadow says each customer’s cloud-based PC will get updates over time, ensuring you’ll be able to play the latest games at high settings.

The service has dedicated apps for Windows, macOS and Android (with iOS coming eventually), letting you turn any compatible desktop, laptop or smartphone into a powerful gaming machine. You’ll also be able to access the service from Shadow’s upcoming gaming box: a tiny, 7-inch streaming machine with slick red backlighting and all of the ports you need to easily plug and play from your desk or living room.

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I got my hands on Shadow at CES 2018 and came away impressed. I played a bit of The Witcher 3 and Rise of the Tomb Raider on an Android smartphone running the service, and save for some minor moments of buffering and input lag, it largely looked and felt just like it would on a powerful PC. I also played some Star Wars Battlefront II on a big TV using Shadow’s dedicated streaming box, and the experience was similarly smooth.

Shadow allows high-end games like Rise of the Tomb Raider to run on a phone.

Shadow allows high-end games like Rise of the Tomb Raider to run on a phone.

But while Shadow performs well, will it be a good value? The service starts at $35 per month for a one-year commitment, $40 per month for a three-month commitment and $50 per month for no commitment. There’s no U.S. pricing on Shadow’s own streaming box, but the company expects it to cost well over $100.

While that’s all cheaper than, say, buying a $1,500 gaming desktop upfront, it’s still a decent expense -- especially considering you’ll still have to buy your own games.

There are already alternatives out there, including LiquidSky, a service that offers similar cloud-gaming features for as little as $10 a month. There’s also Nvidia’s GeForce Now service, which lets you stream a growing library of titles that includes The Witcher 3 and Batman: Arkham Knight to your Shield TV device starting at $8 per month.

Still, Shadow could end up being an attractive option for folks who aren’t quite ready to commit to buying a gaming PC, or simply anyone who wants to be able to play games without having to be near a desktop.

The service has already sold over 5,000 subscriptions in France, and is currently available for pre-order for California customers, with a wider U.S. rollout planned for summer. We look forward to putting this Netflix-like approach to owning a gaming PC through its paces once it lands in our hands.

Credit: Tom's Guide

Michael Andronico

Mike Andronico is Senior Writer at CNNUnderscored. He was formerly Managing Editor at Tom's Guide, where he wrote extensively on gaming, as well as running the show on the news front. When not at work, you can usually catch him playing Street Fighter, devouring Twitch streams and trying to convince people that Hawkeye is the best Avenger.