High-end gaming computers can be expensive… and it’s not necessarily a one-time investment. If you spend $1000 or more to get the best CPU, graphics card, memory, storage, and peripherals available today, you may be tempted to upgrade one or all of those components in a year or two.

So maybe French startup Blade‘s idea to essentially rent users a virtual high-end gaming rig isn’t entirely crazy.

For prices starting at $35 per month what you get is a dedicated virtual PC that Blade calls Shadow. It’s hosted in the cloud and has the equivalent of an Intel Core i7 quad-core processor, 12GB of RAM, 256GB of storage, and an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 graphics card.

You can then use it to stream games over the internet to virtually any device including a PC, Mac, tablet, smartphone, or even smart TV.

While it might seem kind of crazy to rent a computer that’s not even sitting in  your house, the upshot is that Blade says Shadow will be upgraded regularly, so you never need to shell out extra money to get a better graphics card or a faster processor.

On the down side, since games are streamed over the internet, you’ll want a pretty speedy internet connection with low latency. Blade recommends a connection of at least 15 Mbps, and the company will only offer its Shadow service in areas where Blade has data servers. The service is already available in France, and this week the company announced that it’s rolling out service in California on February 15th, with plans to be available across the US by this summer.

Keep in mind, this isn’t a Netflix-for-games style service. You’re not paying a monthly fee to access games. You’re paying to access a virtual PC. You’ll still need to buy and install games separately.

While you should be able to stream games to your current hardware using Windows, Mac, or Android apps, Blade also plans to offer a “Shadow Box” later this year, that’s basically a compact computer with two DisplayPort jacks, two USB 3.0 and two USB 2.0 ports, an Ethernet jack, and an AMD processor.

It’s basically a little computer designed for interacting with your virtual PC, allowing you to leave a piece of dedicated hardware by your TV if you don’t want to keep plugging and unplugging your computer to game in the living room, for example.

The Shadow box supports real-time decoding of 1080p content at 144 Hz or 4K content at 60 Hz.

Overall, it’s an intriguing idea for folks that want a dedicated gaming PC that also lets you play PC games on a phone or tablet and who don’t want to go through the hassle of setting up their own system and then keeping it up to date. But streaming over the internet is intrinsically less reliable than playing games locally, so even though Blade says its technology offers “zero latency,” there’s always a chance that you could experience a little lag that would affect gameplay based on your network conditions.

The solution also isn’t exactly cheap: $35 per month equals about $420 per year, and you only get that price when you make a 1-year commitment. A three-month commitment brings the price up to $40 per month, and a no-commitment plan is $50 per month.

press release via Polygon

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15 replies on “Would you pay $420 per year for a cloud-based virtual gaming PC?”

  1. I’ll give this a go. I was really pleased with Paperspace, but it doesn’t work behind NAT and the Linux client is shite. Maybe Blade solves these issues.

  2. Great timing. Just as net neutrality is dying. I can see it now from Comcast: “Oh, you want game streaming quality, that will be an extra $15 a month” and “You say you need lower latency, that will be an extra $15 a month” and don’t forget about “You went over your gaming usage cap (separate from total usage cap). You can’t tie up all our bandwidth for playing games. It will be OK though if you pay another extra $15 a month”.

  3. Streaming has advanced quite a bit for games over the net but for the purists this service seems to target they will never accept this as the streaming will also incur an image quality hit to varying degrees.

    HEVC/H.265 is just an extension of H.264 and has all the same flaws, any games with lots of particles or a sandy desert will destroy image quality for example.

    AV1 codec sounds like it may be better suited towards streaming games but that’s probably another 1-2 years away before it’s ready for general use.

  4. all other considerations aside, I just don’t see how you could expect consistently good performance if the hardware isn’t local.

  5. There are other services that are a lot more competitive. If they can get even lower latency than those services AND offer 4k streaming – then I’ll think about $35/month.

  6. How much would it cost to rent a GPU-equipped box from say AWS? Sure you have to… urm… well you don’t really have to do anything extra, and you’ll only pay for time it’s on. Looks like AWS would charge you about a dollar an hour for that.

  7. Considering inputlag … no, not a chance.
    “zero latency” is just a lie.

    1. I haven’t had problems with input lag on ps now, it really does just depend on your connection speed I’d say 20 Mbps would guarantee performance and visual quality even if the minimum requirements are a lot lower.

      1. I’d say bandwidth has very little to do with this kind of lag. It’s the latency that matters.

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