Home / Tech / Blade’s Shadow cloud PC service reinvents cloud gaming one more time

Blade’s Shadow cloud PC service reinvents cloud gaming one more time

OnLive, LiquidSky, and now Blade’s Shadow: A short line of startups has tried to eliminate the need for a local PC and put games on a remote, powerful server. Now Blade is expanding from France into the United States—but taking it slowly.

Blade will begin taking early signups for the Shadow service Thursday, providing each customer with their own virtual server running on the Blade’s Palo Alto, California-based campus. For the price—a rather eye-popping $34.95 per month, minimum—users will receive a dedicated 8-thread Intel Xeon CPU, 12GB of RAM, and an Nvidia GPU that will stream games at 4K resolution at 60 frames per second, company executives claim. Blade execs also showed off a dedicated Shadow box that will boast its own ports and CPU, which will launch later this year.

Cloud gaming’s premise is easy to understand: Users run the Blade client on their own hardware, including tablets. Mouse, keyboard, and controller input is sent upstream to the Blade server and processed there, while the game’s video and sound is streamed downstream to the client, like video. Theoretically, that allows gamers to play whatever games they’d like with minimal hardware investment. The downside is that any back-and-forth latency can render a game unplayable.

Blade won’t sell games; Blade wants to lease you a replacement for a desktop PC, complete with a copy of Windows 10. You’ll be able to “download” games from your existing Steam library to the Blade Shadow and play them there. “Essentially, the goal is to replace the desktop PC completely,” said Asher Kagan, the president and co-founder of Blade, in an interview.

The story behind the story: From personal experience, OnLive’s service ran nearly flawlessly, helped by servers in relatively close physical proximity and net code specifically designed to minimize latency. In a demonstration by Blade’s executives, we, too, saw minimal latency. But what killed OnLive was its unsustainable business proposition. Dedicated cloud servers were too expensive to maintain, and nailing the number that users would need at any one time was difficult. OnLive even got two chances, and failed both times. After an optimistic start, Nvidia slammed the brakes on its GeForce Now beta, claiming the company is still “years away” from a viable service. And LiquidSky? Still in beta. The odds are therefore against Blade.

shadow box blade Blade

Blade’s Shadow Box.

What you’ll pay for Shadow, and what you’ll get

According to Kagan, Blade will offer a configuration that’s a cross between a server and a gaming PC, with the equivalent of Core i7 performance. Kagan also pledged to upgrade the hardware periodically, as new CPUs and GPUS become available.

For now, though, Shadow subscribers will lease the following hardware, tucked into a server at its data center, Kagan said:

  • CPU: 2.1GHz Xeon E5-2620 V4
  • GPU: Nvidia Quadro P5000 (16GB RAM) 
  • Resolution: 1080p at 144 frames per second, or [email protected] fps
  • RAM: 12GB
  • Storage: 256GB
  • Throughput: “Zero latency,” Blade claims, if the user’s throughput is above 15 Mbps

Users can access the virtual Shadow PCs from a desktop PC, Mac, tablet or smartphone, with dedicated Windows, MacOS and Android apps. To do so, though, they’ll need to pay: 

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