Plex, a company that got its start by offering a way to stream your personal media collection from a home computer or server, is now… a lot more complicated to describe.

In recent years the company has added support for live TV, an ad-supported movie and TV streaming service, podcast support, and other features.

Now Plex is also getting into the game streaming business. The company has launched Plex Arcade, a subscription service that lets you stream a collection of old Atari games, although there’s also support for adding your own ROMs.

Unlike game streaming services from Google, Microsoft, and NVIDIA, Plex Arcade doesn’t stream games from the cloud. Instead it works much the same way as the core Plex media streaming service – you set up a Plex server on an always-running PC and then you can stream to any supported device.

In the case of Plex Arcade, there are some limitations though. You’ll need a Plex Server running on a PC or Mac. Linux isn’t supported. And you’ll only be able to stream games to:

  • Android phones, tablets, and TVs
  • iPhones, iPads, iPods touch, and Apple TV
  • Chrome web browser

Those limitations are due to the fact that Plex has partnered with Parsec to power the service, and Parsec doesn’t support Linux. And the reason this is a subscription service is because it comes with access to a collection of games licensed from Atari.

Plex says “virtually any Bluetooth enabled game controller” should work with the service, or if you’re playing on a touchscreen device, you can use on-screen controlers.

Prices start at $3 per month for Plex Pass members. If you don’t have a Plex Pass subscription then you’ll need to pay $5 for access to the Plex Arcade… which honestly feels like kind of expensive for what amounts to 27 games from four decades ago. At least there’s a 7 day free trial.

Plex acknowledges that Plex Arcade might be a bit of a tough sell, so the company is launching it as something of an experiment to see if there’s interest in the platform. If enough people sign up, maybe the company will expand on the current offering. If not, maybe Plex will pull the plug.

Still, it’s an interesting experiment in bringing you movies, TV shows, music, podcasts, and games all in one experience.

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9 replies on “Plex Arcade brings retro game streaming to the media center app (starting at $3 per month)”

  1. Interesting… I have a Plex server and I’ve used Parsec, but I never thought of gluing the two together before.

    It really is a pity Parsec’s server is windows-only; their client is pretty great.

  2. That seems like a complex, limiting, and kind of expensive way to run a simple game emulator.

    1. Thats the axiom of Plex in general. Everything they offer to do for a monthly fee, and with the involvement of a privacy-invasive online server could all easily be done with free software that doesn’t involve an account/server that keeps records of your private information.

      Every time someone mentions Plex, I feel obligated to share my tinfoil-hat theory that Plex is simply a data-mining honeypot operation that is posturing to sell themselves off to whomever might be interested in owning a large database of user meta-data that contains libraries of pirated movie file names that their users are holding.

      Their recent partnership with Warner Bros should be concerning to anyone who has used Plex with pirated movies.

      1. I would strongly emphasize the tinfoil hat part of your theory because my experience was nothing short than spectacular with Plex. To date, nothing has provided me the streaming prowess for my ~50 TB cinema and TV show collection that Plex has. HDR to SDR conversion is an absolute joke or simply MIA on the other “offerings” like Jellyfin. I cannot even pre-download content with Jellyfin and the other offerings across all platforms. And do not get me started on the issues of getting the other offerings to be consistently seen across the world.

        I bought Plex lifetime recently after beating my head with years of the trials and tribulations of the free offerings. Let me tell you: you get what you pay for. Plex is amazing for my all my content and it really struts its stuff with my UHD 4K collection. Watching Disney’s Aladdin or Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings on my iPhone 12 Pro Max is excellent thanks to proper HDR support for local playback and SDR tone mapping when on the go. My direct rips of movies work flawlessly because the developers saw to it to enable Dolby Vision support across the whole supported ecosystem including iOS even on my iPhone 12 Pro Max. The biggest ah-ha! moment was the watch together feature.

        The other offerings are quite clunky, get out of sync often, and rely on hackish add-ons for a watch together feature. Plex’s, on the other, is as simple as a professional service like Disney Plus except it was running on my own hardware (in this case, a custom Ryzen 7 PRO 4750G HTPC). Simultaneously streaming to our local Apple TV in 4K while a family member at college viewed in 1080p went off without a hitch.

        Truth is, the big brother data tracking talk is mostly a bunch of bunk and really a lame excuse from the cheapskate haters who refuse to plunk down the cash for an excellent product. I had bought into that notion but I wish had not. I can tell you the product is incredibly solid and lives up to the hype, and I wish I did much sooner. Sure, studios like Warner Bros. are taking notice and are supporting Plex, but that is because of the massive surge in Plex server owners due to the pandemic. Like it or not, even with the rise of freeware and open source alternatives like Jellyfin, none of them yet comes close to the versatility, reliability, or ubiquity of Plex.

        1. Your argument makes no sense. How does your spectacular experience have anything to do with privacy concerns? I have no doubt that the service works well. Good for you.

          That doesn’t make me feel any better about their privacy policy.

          Even if their own intentions are completely benign, this data is only a subpoena away. And their policy offers you no protection in the event Plex is acquired by another company.

          It doesn’t serve my interests in any way to allow companies to collect metadata about me in any situation. The contents of my hard drive are the last thing I’d ever allow someone to collect data on. Much less, the pirated movies on my hard drive.

          1. Good for you. I am glad to hear your movies are pirated. Mine are not and they are all pulled from my own legally acquired physical media. As for what exactly is being tracked, I won’t beat a dead horse but most of the data collection is anonymized. As for the subpoena, that would only occur for people found pirating which would unfortunately included individuals like yourself. I am sorry you feel that way, but most of what you said is a bunch of conspiracy theory-laden bunk.

    2. I argued below about my support for Plex as a streaming service. However, do not mistake my strong praise for Plex’ss streaming platform as universal support for all their ventures. I do not share in the same admiration for their arcade service as I do their streaming platform, and I never will. I just am not sold on this arcade service and I think it is a bad move when simply focusing on their streaming platform would be better. Moonlight and Launchbox beat this by a county mile that I cannot think what drove them to even try this. I can play everything from virtual pinball tables to exotic arcade machines, I can scrap all sorts of content to present my games with manuals and pause menus, and I fine tune the organization and presentation to suit. I appreciate Plex trying to branch out, but it is going to be an uphill battle when far more competent solutions are already deeply entrenched and even more so with the pandemic. I don’t foresee this lasting long as they already are getting a lot of flack from their loyal customers for it being inferior to and costing more than the well-established solutions.

      1. To clarify, I am referring to using Moonlight and Launchbox (via BigBox) paired as a better solution. I mean, you can simply add Launchbox to NVIDIA Gamestream as a launchable game, and BigBox as an interface is lightyears ahead of what this paid subscription has to offer. A license to full premium Launchbox with their BigBox interface is just $75 for life and everything “just works” if you follow the numerous easy-to-follow official video tutorials from ETA PRIME and others. I can play Dreamcast or PS4 or DOSBox or ScummVM or SNES or Atari 5200 or etc., with a much better presentation and streamlined way of organizing and playing your games..

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