Blade: Is Netflix for Gaming Finally Here?

Image shows a tv with streaming services. Used in article describing online game streaming

Online streaming, the holy grail of gaming, may finally be claimed by start-up Blade as it launches it’s cloud-based gaming service in the United States. The French company, which has been around since 2016, is setting out to turn any device into a gaming device with Shadow. Subscribers to Shadow will be able to launch gaming from any device they own so long as it has a screen and an internet connection. Imagine Netflix and Hulu but instead of streaming the Office, you can stream – and play – CS:GO.

The obvious benefit to such a service would be cutting out the necessity of buying an expensive gaming pc. Subscribers are given a sleek, Shadow box which connects with your devices. The box itself is tuned into Blade’s cloud service which is hosted in a secured, nearby datacenter where each subscriber has their own dedicated computer. From that datacenter, gamers can expect  “high-end” Nvidia graphics card that delivers 1080p gaming at 144Hz or 4K at 60Hz, 12GB of DDR4 RAM, 8 threads on a Xeon processor and 256GB of storage. An equivalent home computer could cost several thousand dollars while Shadow’s service will cost about $35 per month. If that price remains, or doesn’t offer a barebones service, you would essentially pay for the price of an expensive computer over a few years. Price is likely not going to be the thing that stops this service however.

Before you go a preorder a Shadow box, the service will only be available in California – at least for the first part of the year. Blade has a dedicated datacenter in the state and will offer its service on a limited basis. The service will go live on February 15th with Blade claiming to expand to the entirety of the continental US by summer.

Can it Work?

Experts tend to agree the service can only work if it delivers on its seamless game experience, the cost benefit is higher than getting a pc, and whether the company itself can sustain its model. It was the latter of those which sunk previous game streaming service OnLive. While the service worked tirelessly to minimize an latency issues with streaming, it was never able to figure out the numbers it needed for profit. Maintaining data centers proved to be too costly for the service which was eventually sold. There have been other failed game streaming serviced as well. GeForce from NVIDIA and LiquidSky are two services that have yet to leave their beta stages. History would show that the odds are stacked against Blade and their Shadow

Is Blade Different?

Early testing of the service has shown latency to be at a minimum, with streaming even working well on Android devices. It will likely come down to how well Blade can get people to sign up for its service and still maintain the integrity of its data centers. In France, Blade was able to acquire 5,000 customers, half of whom decided to make their switch over to Shadow permanent.  Only time can tell if this Shadow can forever disrupt the gaming industry or go the way of failed streaming services before it.