Shadow wants to make game demos cool again with cloud computing
Shadow is introducing some new use cases for its cloud computing service at the Game Developers Conference. In particular, the company wants to partner with game publishers so that they can create virtual booths to showcase game demos.
While Shadow now offers several services, the company is better known for its cloud computing service for gamers and other people who need a powerful computer. Instead of running apps and games locally, users can boot up a Windows instance on a server in a data center near them.
The video feed is then streamed to their local device. Unlike traditional cloud gaming services, Shadow offers a full Windows instance, which means that you can install whatever you want. And if you live near a Shadow data center and you have a solid internet connection, the service works pretty well.
Clicking on a link to start a game demo
For the past few months, the company has tried to find new ways to leverage its streaming and virtualization technologies. For instance, the company partnered with Bandai Namco to help them with Elden Ring press reviews. Instead of sending product keys to media outlets, the company set up Shadow instances with Elden Ring on it.
Shadow wants to formalize this offering and it is calling it Echo Sessions. There are several advantages with that setup. First, it’s easier to control the experience as everyone has the same CPU, GPU and RAM setup.
Second, the game publisher or PR agency can have a look at sessions in real time. It can be helpful to check if someone is stuck. In addition to Elden Ring, Shadow has facilitated the PR campaigns of Little Nightmares II and One Piece Odyssey.
Echo Sessions can also be used for playtesting, a process that is widely used in the video game industry to see if a game is enjoyable. Shadow can record playtests and ask for post-play feedback. Game developers can also use Echo Sessions for internal QA testing — and that setup is compatible with remote work.
Image Credits: Shadow
Shadow wants to go one step further with Virtual Booth. As the name suggests, it works a bit like a booth at a gaming convention. You wait in line, play a demo and put down the gamepad for the next person. In that case, you don’t need to be physically present.
When Google introduced Stadia, the company promised that you would be able to launch a game by clicking on a link below a YouTube video to start playing a game. Shadow essentially wants to deliver on that promise — but with game demos.
You click on a link and you get some instructions while the Windows instance boots up in the background. And then, you are instantly transported to the game. After a certain amount of time, the stream automatically stops.
It works in your web browser and it can be configured with some pre-demo and post-demo screens. For instance, the game publisher can ask for contact details when you first load up the page. Players can rate the game at the end of the demo and get a preorder discount if they liked it. If the demo didn’t go well, the game publisher can start a different demo with other game mechanisms. The company aims to release Virtual Booth this fall.
Shadow for Makers
Shadow is clarifying its subscription lineup for customers who want a cloud PC that they can access 24/7. The basic subscription comes with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080, 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage for $29.99 per month, or €29.99 in Europe.
Users can get an Nvidia RTX A4500, an AMD EPYC 7543P CPU with 4 cores and 8 threads, 16GB of RAM and 256GB of storage for another $14.99 per month (or €14.99). And that "Power Upgrade" premium plan has been working well, as 25% of Shadow’s user base is now on the premium plan just a few months after its launch. Those two options aren’t changing.
Enterprise customers can order several Shadow instances for their whole team. Once again, there are several configurations with prices ranging from $59/€59 per instance per month to $139/€139. This is also pretty much what the company announced in November 2022.
There is still some work to do on Shadow for Enterprise as the company gave me a long list of features that it plans to add. For example, Shadow wants to offer a way to create images so that admins can create new Shadow instances with a preconfigured Windows image. The company is also working on IPv6 support, Active Directory support, certifications, service-level agreements, etc.
Shadow is also addressing a third type of customers with a new offering called Shadow for Makers. This tier is designed for prosumers, freelancers, 3D artists, video editors and other people who want to work from a Shadow PC. Right now, the configurations look a lot like Shadow's basic configuration and Shadow with the Power Upgrade. Shadow for Makers costs a bit more ($5/€5 per month) than the regular offering, but comes with more storage (1TB).
A big difference is that Shadow for Makers comes with Windows 10 Home while Shadow for Enterprise offers Windows 10 Enterprise. That’s one of the reasons why Shadow for Makers is cheaper than Shadow for Enterprise. The company plans to roll out Windows 11 support in the coming weeks.
With Shadow for Makers, the company hopes that demanding users who don’t need management tools, a Windows Professional license and some certifications will think about Shadow. Once again, this is all about addressing as many users as possible with its cloud computing service.