No PC, no problem: Shadow supercharges cloud gaming with lower prices, faster hardware, and VR

Shadow, the cloud-based PC gaming service that’s been trickling into the United States since early 2018, is leveling up hard now that Nvidia’s rival GeForce Now has launched. On Thursday, Shadow revealed much cheaper pricing, much more powerful hardware options, an overhauled interface for TVs and mobile devices, and—get this—an initiative to drive latency-sensitive virtual reality experiences from the cloud. Wow. Better yet, while publishers have been yanking their games from GeForce Now left and right, every game you own works just fine on Shadow.

That’s because unlike GeForce Now, which wraps its service in a customized launcher devoted to games cached on Nvidia’s servers, Shadow’s renting out full-blown virtualized Windows 10 gaming PCs in the cloud. You’re getting the full desktop experience, and can run tax software, Photoshop, or video capture tools just as easily as you can cutting-edge PC games. While GeForce Now is essentially like running the games you own on a virtual PC in the cloud, Shadow is exactly that. That makes it less seamless as a pure game launcher, perhaps, but much more versatile.

And now it’s a lot cheaper—and potentially very powerful.

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A Shadow virtual Windows 10 PC running on a MacBook.

France-based Shadow launched in the United States in California alone before slowly spreading across the country, and it came with a chest-clutching price of $34.95 per month. On Thursday, the company announced that it’s finally available throughout the continental U.S., spearheaded by a “Shadow Boost” tier that costs just $11.99 per month. That’s less than the price of a standard Netflix subscription, albeit more than Nvidia’s $5 introductory price for GeForce Now.

Your money grants you access to some powerful virtualized hardware. Shadow Boost accounts come with the equivalent of a GeForce GTX 1080 graphics card, a four-core 3.4GHz CPU, 12GB of RAM, and 256GB of storage space, with the ability to buy more capacity at $3 per 256GB. That’s outstanding value for a rig capable of playing virtually any game with few visual compromises.

You can install whatever you want on your dedicated storage space. While GeForce Now caches games on its servers for virtually instantaneous installation, Shadow doesn’t, so you’ll still need to wait for software to download onto your cloud rig. That said, the approach also helps Shadow circumvent the mass exodus of publishers that’s plagued Nvidia’s service.

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The new Shadow subscription offerings.

Shadow Boost is immediately available. Two more powerful tiers will be “offered to a limited number of users this summer before wider availability later this year.”

Shadow Ultra targets people who want an even better gaming experience, upping the graphics output to the equivalent of a fierce GeForce RTX 2080, complete with ray tracing capabilities and the ability to play games in up to 4K, though you may need to tweak some visual settings in especially grueling titles. The processor and RAM upgrade to 4GHz and 16GB, respectively. It’ll cost $25 per month.

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