Cloud based gaming solutions have been tried in the past, with OnLive being the biggest and most public example that has since crashed and burned rather spectacularly. Streaming technology and broadband speeds have only increased since then, so maybe it’s time to give it another go.
That’s certainly the aim of Playkey, a Russian company which recently expanded into Ireland and the UK.
The idea behind cloud gaming is actually pretty amazing. Basically the game itself is loaded up on a server which is a fast computer at another location. The service like Playkey allows you to connect to that server, where the game footage is streamed to your computer. At the same time your inputs on the keyboard and controller are being sent back.
The idea is that gamers can use a very basic laptop or slower desktop to play new games at high graphics settings without having to worry about slowdown. The game is being played by another fast computer, with the results of your remote key presses being sent via the internet, the game on the other end reacts and then the footage is piped back to you.
It’s a great concept, and brings AAA games to a wider audience of people who are using lower end hardware, or even something like a Mac which doesn’t necessarily support every game which is released.
I got the chance to try out the Playkey service recently, and it’s fair to say there’s potential there.
It’s a simple process to get setup, visit the site, download the client and then sign up. Basically you pay a subscription to access the service, starting at one hour for a euro, up to about 45 euro for six months.
Now to the real meat of the matter - that cost doesn’t really give you any games. Ok so you do get to play Evolve Stage 2, World of Tanks, World of Warships, War Thunder, Eve Online and Flatout 2 as part of the subscription. They’re pretty much all free games already.
For anything else you already have to own the game through Steam to be able to play. Essentially Playkey is giving you remote access to some of your games on Steam, and making them available to play on lower end hardware.
You can buy the game through Playkey as well, where the pricing seems to generally be pretty comparable to Steam or even a little lower.
As for the titles themselves, there’s a pretty good selection including GTA V, The Witcher 3, Civ 6, Skyrim Special Edition, Mafia 3, Mankind Divided, Doom, Rise of the Tomb Raider and Hitman.
Once you’ve synced up your Steam account to confirm you own the game, then it’s time to play. And here’s another niggle - connecting to the server can take a really long time. It usually estimates 23 seconds until you’re ready to play but often takes up to two or three minutes. These games might take a minute or so to load if you were playing them locally anyway, so it’s not a massive problem.
And then you’re suddenly in a game, despite the fact that you’re on a laptop or any kind of computer you fancy. It’s a pretty magical process, especially given the fact that you can get fairly high end graphics out of some of the newer titles.
The Witcher 3 looks as spectacular as you could ever want it to be, and stepping back into the amazing vistas of Skyrim is always a pleasure.
Lag is always a potential problem with cloud services and it does plague Playkey from time to time. Generally I was more aware of it at the start of sessions, which again isn’t that unusual. It’s not a major problem for the more contemplative titles but might make you miss a shot or two in Doom or create some frustrations for twitchy folks in Overwatch.
For reference I’m using a Virgin Media line in Ireland with 60 meg down and 6 meg up.
Playkey definitely works, and delivers the best quality graphics I’ve personally seen on a streaming service. It does feel like it’s quite a specific target audience though, seeing as it requires a game to be owned on Steam before use.
Presumably if you have an active Steam account you also have a PC somewhere to play those games, so Playkey might be if you want to dabble on your laptop or maybe (god forbid) at work - but the high broadband speed requirements could be an issue.
If you do meet these requirements and are interested, it’s worth giving the service a go. To test stability, you can play Flatout 2 for free or maybe give it a quick one week trial for around 11 quid.
For more visit Playkey.net.