The promise of cloud gaming is that you can do it from anywhere using any device with internet access and a good enough browser (each cloud gaming service seems to have its own requirements at the forefront of the browser). You can play super demanding games even if you’re on a work trip, without a work laptop or at home with the main TV on – or you don’t want to sit on the sofa. But the biggest promise of cloud gaming is that, no matter where you are, if you have a phone, you get all your games.
In practice, this is a bad idea. After happily spending the past few weeks using my Steam deck to play games in the cloud, I will never voluntarily try cloud gaming on my phone again. Valve’s huge do-anything handheld PC has made me realize that, in fact, sometimes dedicated gaming hardware is better! The Swiss Army Knife approach to mobile gaming promised by cloud gaming on your phone is just as useful as the tax on a real Swiss Army knife. I appreciate the effort, but I don’t really want to use it.
I have tried cloud gaming functionality on my phone Too much. I have tried Red Dead Redemption 2 And Star Wars JD: Fallen Order And Hello And Machines of war And many other games. Each time, I am shocked because, Holy Shit, these are demanding AAA games that usually require expensive (and noisy) hardware. Playing on my phone. It feels like a promise made to me by tech companies decades ago.
But when you play cloud games on your phone for a long period of time, the surprise disappears. Cloud gaming drains the phone’s battery quickly, which means you can and will worry about the battery. While waiting for a flight at the airport I once thought cloud gaming would be a miracle, but as my phone got hotter than the sun and the battery lasted, I was more worried about finding somewhere to plug in than the storyline. RDR2. I still need my phone to get power for the rest of the trip.
Cloud gaming interferes with everything else for which phones are good. Suggestions from other non-gaming apps identify themselves at the most annoying times. If your mother calls to check your flight, you will be immediately removed from your game. A friend sends you a text to see when to pick you up? You must exit the game to respond. You can’t check Instagram without potentially losing your progress in the game and having to wait while trying to reconnect the phone to the cloud gaming server.
But the worst part of cloud gaming on the phone is the controls. Most services include a touchscreen control overlay. The controls themselves fight for screen real estate and, if you’re like me and haven’t mastered the on-screen digital joysticks, you’ll be disappointed. Accessories like the Razer Kishi and Backbone want to make the phone a great tool for that kind of hardcore gaming, and I have a Kissy that I’ve used gamely with more than one Android phone, but I still have to remember. Bring things with me. Kishi is not something that is simply kept in my purse or automatically added to my pocket when I leave the house. And, if I have to remember to bring a whole little controller dongle on my phone to make cloud gaming enjoyable even remotely, I really can’t play games anywhere at any time. I probably have a completely separate device.
After my steam deck arrived, cloud gaming on the phone made me think of my affection, but also intense dissatisfaction. I’ve been playing for the last two weeks Star Wars JD: Fallen Order In addition to the same feeling of amazement on Xbox cloud gaming on my Steam deck, and when I first do cloud gaming on my phone, I also get the bonus of actually enjoying the experience.
Instead of being a last resort, cloud gaming seems to be my first choice when I’m on the steam deck. I can’t wait for Sony and Nvidia and even Google’s cloud gaming solutions to come up and move on. The game doesn’t feel crowded. The controls just work. I can plug in and play while I’m charging, and if I run out of battery, I can just … do other things instead of living in extreme fear of being completely disconnected from the outside world.
Do I need something lighter and quieter than a steam deck for all my cloud gaming needs? Exactly. Phones can already work, and with a new beef mobile GPU on the horizon like ARM’s Ray-tracing-capable Immortalis, there’s likely to be a really good mobile gaming solution without the need for custom chips (which rely on both the Nintendo Switch and Steam Deck), which seems closer than ever . Companies like Ion and GPD are trying to build it. But, I don’t need Immortalis GPU if the only goal is cloud games on the go. When the internet is good, cloud gaming is enough for AAA gaming on the go. This means you don’t need the most powerful GPU or CPU. All you need is a battery that can drain and support a nice display, 5G and rock-solid Wi-Fi.
I know such a device sounds like a phone, but it shouldn’t be a phone. That should be her own story. Because now that I’ve experienced really fun mobile cloud gaming, I don’t want to go back to my phone. This is great for a lot of things – cloud gaming is not one of them.