Cloud gaming vs. console gaming

With the popularity of cloud gaming on the rise, many have speculated a grim future for consoles like PlayStation, Nintendo and Xbox. Is cloud streaming worth it? With services like Google Stadia, you can stream games via the cloud without expensive hardware, so you’re only dependent on a reliable internet connection.

Gamers are increasingly turning away from physical games in favor of digital and cloud-based alternatives. However, Zion Market Research reports consoles are also taking advantage of cloud gaming, improving features to better support streaming. 

Across 2019, gamers still favor consoles as they continue to sell at increasing rates

Compare cloud gaming and console gamingĀ 

Both console and cloud gaming subscriptions enjoy ad-free content. The following data compares the top three cloud gaming services with the most popular consoles.

ConsoleCloud service
Popular available servicesNintendo, PlayStation, XboxApple Arcade, Project Google Stadia, Project xCloud
Price typeUpfront costMonthly subscription
Free trial availableNoYes
StorageOn hardwareUnlimited
Offline playYesOn Apple Arcade
Resolution1080p4K
Key featuresDownloadable content, game ownership, play offlineNo hardware, multi-device and traditional controller compatibility

Which gaming platform has the right experience for you?

Cloud streaming services offer unlimited gaming libraries housed on remote servers, freeing you up from the worry of shrinking hardware space. Services like Stadia Pro have subscription discounts and free monthly games, but you’ll still need to purchase games on an individual basis.

Premium cloud gaming like Google Stadia Pro will set you back $9.99/mo., including the cost of a Stadia controller and Chromecast Ultra. Google’s cloud-based service is cheaper than the likes of popular consoles while promising the same, if not better, resolution and sound quality. 

Microsoft’s Project xCloud is still in beta without a release date or price. However, Xbox mentioned xCloud could be offered through Xbox Game Pass with your Xbox One console acting as a free server. 

By comparison, the retail price for the major gaming consoles doesn’t start below $200 and amounts to more with additional hardware. 

User experience

Consoles suffer from exhaustive loading screens, updates and downloads that can try your patience. The speed of cloud gaming is dependent on servers and your internet connection. So headaches like excessive updates and downloads won’t affect you since you’re streaming directly from the source. 

PlayStation 4 and Xbox One both have dashboards that are easily traversable and pleasing to the eye. You can quickly navigate to your friends list, user profile, downloads and a dozen other apps that are organized by boxes on your screen. 

Stadia’s interface, contrarily, doesn’t necessarily excite and is more concerned with saving bandwidth. Apple Arcade doesn’t have an interface and instead is accessible through the app store where games are downloaded like any of your other apps. 

Console gaming offers both online and offline use, depending on the game. If you’re a gamer who lives in an area with unreliable internet, prefers to own your games or desires console-exclusive content, you’ll be more satisfied with a console.

Since Apple Arcade is exclusive to Apple products, it’s limited to a specific list of devices including Apple TV, iPad, iPhone and macOS. 

With the use of Google Chrome, Google Stadia boasts a larger list of compatible devices, including Macs and PCs, smartphones, tablets, TVs and more

Customization

Google Stadia and Apple Arcade function as monthly subscription services with interchangeable devices. Apple Arcade allows upwards of six family members per account, whereas Google Stadia won’t release a similar plan until 2020. 

Spectating has never been easier with Stadia. You can easily watch professional gamers play on a video stream duplicated for a wide audience without the purchase of the game itself. 

You save big by only paying for the games. Without the cost of expensive hardware every six to seven years, you can instead purchase games directly to play on devices you already own. 

An upside to cloud gaming is how you’ll benefit from your subscription service’s exclusive upgrades as they provide add-ons and discounts as part of your plan. For instance, Apple Arcade doesn’t permit outside costs or fees to improve its gaming experience. Whereas Google Stadia still offers add-ons similar to consoles by the form of expansion packs, but these upgrades are included with its Stadia Pro subscription service. 

Extras

Cloud gaming provides most of your favorite categories: brawlers, fighting, first-person shooter, multiplayer, platform jumpers, puzzle, racing, RPG and sports. However, keep in mind the games depend on each cloud gaming service. 

Apple Arcade has almost entirely all exclusive content. By contrast, Stadia possesses only one exclusive game, Gylt. It offers a shortlist of popular brands like Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey ad Final Fantasy XV that are also available on the console. 

Disadvantages

You’ll need a great internet connection to enjoy cloud-based gaming. Many places across the US suffer from poor internet connectivity and data caps. Nonetheless, console gaming is restricted by expensive hardware, large amounts of data and upgrades that must be downloaded to play.

The takeaway

If you want to play all the latest popular games, or you regularly deal with internet connectivity issues, you may be happier with your console. However, if you live in an area with good internet and crave the ability to play your favorite games across multiple devices, cloud gaming is right for you. 

Zack Kulm

Zack Kulm is a writer and contributor of soda.com. He covers a variety of topics from entertainment and gaming technologies to pop culture commentary. Kulm received a degree in English from Penn State University and Film Studies from Pittsburgh Filmmakers Institute. He also produces award-winning documentaries.