GeForce NOW vs. xCloud vs. Stadia – Full Comparison

With the launch of Nvidia GeForce NOW this week, I thought it would be a great time to put the current top services from major gaming brands head-to-head to see which comes out on top, and which may be best for you.

What is game streaming?

Game streaming is basically a way to play full console and PC games from any mobile device, laptop, or PC, even if that device cannot natively run that game itself. Instead of installing the game to your PC, console, or mobile device, you just use an app or web-browser that you access the game from. You access the game from a remote datacenter it’s pre-installed on, and then just hit play to start the game. Once you hit play, your device takes your controller or mouse/keyboard inputs and sends it over the internet cloud to the remote server that’s running the game. In real-time, the server runs the game and sends a high-res video feed back to your device’s screen. This all happens instantaneously, so as long as you have a fast connection, it will feel like you are playing the game right on your device locally.

Done well, it opens up the possibility of playing AAA console/PC games from any device anywhere you have internet. It also provides the benefit of not needing to wait for a game to download, install, or update, allowing instant access to the games you love. This may seem trivial, until you realize it can save you hours of valuable time, as well as money in not needing to buy more or faster storage every time you need more room for games or want to load them faster.

With that in mind, there are now a bevy of streaming services to choose from, some free, some paid, and some freemium (free with paid premium options). Some are also still in a beta testing phase and aren’t yet final. Today, we’ll be comparing three streaming services from some of the biggest companies and will see how they compare.

Methodology

The game I used to test every service was Destiny 2. Since every service offers this game, it’s only fair to use it as a basis for comparison. To get an idea on how each service compares to a native game experience, I’ve compared each service against the Windows 10/Steam version as a base running on my gaming PC connected via ethernet to a fast fiber optic connection. On that setup, I used a mouse and keyboard and an Xbox One Elite controller connected via USB. Subsequent tests were in the Chrome browser for Stadia, the GeForce NOW desktop app, and the xCloud beta app on my Android phone. For the mobile comparison between each service, I used a Google Pixel 3 XL Android phone connected to a 5GHz WiFi connection on the same network, with an Xbox One S controller connected over Bluetooth as my controller. The Bluetooth connection will add a negligible amount of input lag compared to using a USB connection for the controller, which I did not have access to at the time of this review. Many people will use a Bluetooth controller to play, so this should be a good representation of the common mobile experience.

My comparisons will be based on my subjective experience with each, as I am unable to measure exact latency figures accurately using any tool available at the moment. Being very attentive and experienced with gaming in several formats, though, I feel I have a good perception of the differences, so my anecdotal experiences here should reflect your experience, as well, provided you have a good-quality internet connection and live close enough to the data center for each service.

Without further ado, let’s see how Destiny 2 compares on each service.

Performance Comparisons

Google Stadia

Setup

Getting the game ready to go on Stadia is a piece of cake. After redeeming the game, it will appear in your library. Press the play button on the game, and the game begins loading instantly. After a few seconds, you are seeing the Bungie logo.

Loading Time

Loading times were almost the same as PC, but a few seconds less. Whereas my PC with the game installed on a HDD loaded into The Observatory at about 1:30, Stadia loaded in at around 1:10. This time is notably improved due to Stadia’s SSD tech vs. my PC’s HDD the game is installed on.

Visuals

The Google Stadia version runs at 1080p, but is sent through bitrate compression, so comes off noticeably more blurry than the PC version. The graphics settings are not as high as the PC version, so I noticed more aliasing on edges as a result. However, these sacrifices are made to offer a solid 60fps, which results in a smoother and more responsive experience compared to console, where it runs at half the framerate, 30fps. With this in mind, Stadia’s presentation, while a bit soft, is more responsive.

Audio

Testing the audio, it is noticeably not as high-fidelity as the PC version, but I could still hear everything clearly. It’s like listening to a decent quality MP3 file instead of a lossless WAV or FLAC file. Thankfully, the quality is good enough that it doesn’t bother me at all.

Performance & Latency

Onto the most crucial part for playability: latency. Testing with a keyboard and mouse, additional input latency here is noticeable compared to PC, but the game is surprisingly still very responsive. While running, jumping, and changing my camera’s direction, I could perceive a slight delay, but after a few seconds, it felt totally fine to me. I was initially afraid of how much the latency would be here, but the mouse and keyboard feels very playable here. Switching over to a controller on the PC version, it feels slightly less responsive, but that’s just the nature of controller actions vs. a mouse and keyboard. Over on Stadia’s side, it feels less responsive with a controller than on PC, but I feel it’s still something I can get used to. In this case, I prefer mouse and keyboard for a faster response, though. Notably, Stadia has no controller rumble with an Xbox One controller on PC, but the other streaming services do.

GeForce NOW

Setup

Having just launched out of a lengthy beta period, GeForce NOW is the newest of the bunch. And it performs very well… when it works. To get started with a Steam game on GeForce NOW, once you find the game on the service, you press play. Unlike on Stadia, you need to authenticate through Steam first. My game needed to be updated there, but once I pressed update, it happened instantaneously. Once there, I pressed play within the streaming version of Steam, and the game started to load. On first load, it ran within 30 seconds. However, on subsequent sessions, it took upwards of two minutes to get going. Stadia and xCloud both beat it there for convenience.

Loading Time

As for the loading times once in the game itself, I was very impressed here. Whereas my PC and Stadia both clocked in over a minute, GeForce NOW took less than 30 seconds. It’s truly amazing how fast Nvidia’s storage implementation is here. Whatever Nvidia is using for their servers is a much faster SSD implementation than Stadia, though Stadia still beats any current PC or console HDD.

Note: on a subsequent Stadia session, that service loaded The Observatory in just over 10 seconds, which is amazing. Whether that’s because the game was still loaded into the server’s memory from my previous play session, though, I’m not sure. So I will not be counting those results in the comparison for now.

Visuals

Onto visuals, the graphics looked notably sharper than Stadia’s, even though both games run at 1080p. Once into the game, the visuals looked higher-quality too. Since you’re running the Steam version of the game here, you can adjust many of the video settings and see that Nvidia’s remote PC can run every setting at max or near-max settings and get very high framerates. Aliasing looked slightly more noticeable compared to my gaming PC, but this may be due to the compressed feed. Compared to my PC, the game looked a bit softer, but most of the same high-quality settings were on.

Audio

Audio-wise, the audio sounded a bit better than Stadia’s, but still noticeably compressed over the PC version. I’m very impressed with the audio quality here, given it’s coming from a compressed feed.

Latency & Performance

Onto performance. My network test from within the GeForce NOW app showed that I had just a 3ms latency between my location and the US Southwest server! Therefore, my experience should be very responsive. Stadia is known to add 40ms of latency at least to games from one reviewer’s tests, but with 3ms here, it should have a huge advantage in responsiveness.

And finally, onto input lag. I must say, the input lag here is the most impressive I’ve ever experienced on any streaming service. Input lag was noticeably better than Stadia due to my 3ms connection to Nvidia’s Southwest server. It felt nearly identical to the PC experience, which was great. Unfortunately, though the response was fast, the video had many more microstutters throughout vs. Stadia, though, making for a slightly less pleasing experience. This didn’t detract from the gameplay, but made it look a bit worse than Stadia or PC visually due to microstutters. I’d compare it to looking similar to screen-tearing, but it’s a different effect.

Mobile Comparisons

Here’s where we jump from testing the game on my PC between the services to testing strictly on my mobile device.

Project xCloud (beta)

As Microsoft’s Project xCloud service is still in beta, it only runs on Android devices for now via the xCloud app. As this is a beta, performance may improve in the consumer release, but for now, here are the results.

Setup

The setup on Project xCloud was quite simple. It offers a clean interface where you simply scroll down the list and choose your game, then hit play. I’d say it’s in between Stadia and GeForce NOW in ease of getting a game running.

Loading Time

Loading times on xCloud were about the same as my PC, clocking in at just over a minute to The Observatory. It’s within the general range of PC and Stadia.

Visuals

Image quality is decent at 720p since it’s on a small mobile screen. It’s better than I expected given it’s running on a mobile device. However, you can see some macroblocking from compression occasionally. Some aliasing is noticeable, but not nearly as much as on PC, due to the smaller screen. Visual settings look to be very similar to an Xbox One S, but don’t approach the quality of the Xbox One X, mostly due to resolution. Crucially, since the version here is based on the Xbox One version and runs on similar hardware, the game only runs at 30fps, which impacts smoothness and responsiveness noticeably.

Audio

The sound quality here was good, but as seen with the other two services, noticeably compressed. However, I did not notice any negative effects due to too low of a bitrate and the sound was pleasing overall. I’d categorize it similar to Stadia’s performance here.

Latency & Performance

Here’s the most crucial part. Unfortunately, xCloud has, hands-down, the most noticeable input lag here. Whereas on PC and GeForce NOW I could forget I wasn’t streaming the game due to its responsiveness, with Stadia and xCloud, the response time is always slightly noticeable. Whereas Stadia is easier to get used to, after several minutes of playing through the game’s opening moments, I was constantly aware of a more sluggish response here. Crucially, I didn’t have too much issue hitting the game’s enemies, but when I missed, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I would have been a bit more accurate playing on another platform.

Thankfully, the game had very little in the way of stuttering. Even though the game felt a little laggy to control, it was very stable and consistent, which in the end is the most important. Too much stuttering or dropouts and you could get killed or miss your shot. That didn’t happen here.

Google Stadia (Mobile)

Setup

Google Stadia’s setup on mobile is very similar to on PC. Just download the Google Stadia app, choose the game from the list, then choose your device (in this case your phone), and then hit play. The game begins loading in, just like on the Chrome browser.

Loading Time

Loading time was, in this instance, better than my first run on PC. I loaded into The Observatory in seconds this time, potentially because my previous session may have been in the server’s memory already. This is speculation, though,

Visuals

Stadia was slightly better than xCloud in visual quality. Aliasing was, again, less noticeable here due to the smaller screen. Visual settings looked similar to xCloud, and identical to the PC browser version of Stadia.

Audio

Over my Bluetooth headphones, the game sounded slightly different than xCloud, however it also did not sound bad to me. They were similar enough that I can’t pick one over the other. Both are clear and get a thumbs up from me.

Latency & Performance

Stadia was noticeably better than xCloud in terms of response. I felt slightly more latency compared to my controller on PC, but it was very negligible. The WiFi and Bluetooth don’t add too much latency over my desktop ethernet and USB connections, fortunately.

Interestingly, Stadia stuttered far more on my WiFi, though, compared to the desktop experience and Project xCloud. I played for a few minutes and the microstutters persisted throughout. Though still playable and not too distracting, this did affect my enjoyment of the game more than the microstutters I experienced using GeForce NOW through PC. xCloud beats it here.

GeForce NOW (Mobile)

Setup

GeForce NOW on mobile has a similar interface to the desktop version, but I’d say it’s slightly more simple. Like on PC, you choose your game from your game library and load in.

xCloud and Stadia have a more quick and simple interface vs. the other two, as you still need to go through the extra Steam authentication layers to launch the game. One cool feature on GeForce NOW mobile vs. PC, though, is you can use your touchscreen on the Steam interface within the app.

Unfortunately, once I hit play on the game, even though I was on mobile this time, the game still took over 2 minutes to start.

Loading Time

Once in the game, I experienced the same 30-second load time as on PC. Not as fast as Stadia on my subsequent sessions using it, but still very speedy.

Visuals

Compared to Stadia and xCloud, image quality was easily the best out of the three, due to the higher PC settings. Aliasing was less noticeable than PC too, due to the smaller screen. This is the way to go for the best visual quality.

Audio

Unfortunately, this was the first out of any of the ways to play that disappointed me. On mobile specifically, GeForce NOW had a noticeably lower audio bitrate than on PC, and lower than any of the other platforms I tested. I can tell the sound was lower quality, as cymbals and high strings in the music had a low-quality whooshing sound that took place of the details in the music, giving it a low-quality MP3 effect, something that for me as an audiophile, cannot contend with. I’m not asking for lossless quality here, but Nvidia may have gotten a bit too lenient with the sound quality on this version.

Latency & Performance

Finally, onto latency. Thankfully, the excellent PC performance I received carries over to the mobile version over WiFi and Bluetooth. GeForce NOW was the fastest out of all three services on mobile and felt almost like playing on my PC natively. Though there was some additional stuttering over WiFi, it fell in between what I experienced on the mobile versions of Stadia and xCloud.

Picking a Winner?

Google Stadia

In terms of absolute convenience, Stadia takes the cake for the most easy way to get to your games anywhere. With a simple interface and no hoops to jump through, it operates more like a game console in that it is very simple to get to your games and play with minimal issues and less troubleshooting to get things working. Stadia feels the most polished out of all three experiences in that regard.

For me in my location, input lag is more prominent on Stadia vs. GeForce NOW, though your results will vary. For example, if you live closer to a Google datacenter and further away from an Nvidia datacenter, you will most likely have the opposite experience. Stadia is the most stable over an ethernet connection, with less microstuttering. But on mobile WiFi, I experienced more hiccups vs. the other services. Visual quality will be the lowest of the three at the current moment, but still looks at least as good as an Xbox One S. On other games, native 4K matches Xbox One X or higher.

In terms of value proposition, though, Stadia offers the toughest sell if you already own a PC or Xbox game library, with only 2 free monthly games as part of the $10/month subscription. Stadia is aiming to be a primary gaming platform competing directly with Xbox and PlayStation, and therefore the store will resemble those, with full prices and occasional game sales. Given that Xbox Game Pass is coming to xCloud, unless Google introduces a Stadia game subscription with a catalogue of included games, xCloud will offer many more games included in its subscription when it launches.

Stadia currently offers a library of 42 games, though Google has stated it will have 120+ by the end of 2020.

If you want the most convenient and polished experience that “just works” everywhere you go, though, Stadia wins in this regard. Whereas GeForce NOW can feel a little janky getting a game up and running sometimes, Stadia always works as soon as you hit play. The experience just feels more magical and similar to what console gamers have come to expect.

Nvidia GeForce NOW

GeForce NOW is the best option for you if you don’t want to compromise on PC quality, but need to play where you don’t have a gaming PC setup. For existing PC gamers, this service is a win, as you get instant access to over 1000+ Steam games, playable for no additional charge as long as they’re in your Steam library.

Visuals are top notch, boasting a high-end Nvidia GPU with 16GB of VRAM and RTX graphics if you take advantage of their paid Founders tier. The service overall offers the lowest latency on desktop PCs and mobile, and the experience is great on both, though mobile sound quality isn’t great.

With access to over 1000+ games from Steam and the Epic Games Store (provided you own them), GeForce NOW gets you a lot of value for its free tier or its premium tier, just $5/month, provided you already have a library of PC games. However, if you are just trying out cloud gaming for the first time and don’t own any PC games, both Stadia and xCloud are already outpacing Nvidia’s selection of just 30+ included games.

Microsoft Project xCloud

Project xCloud is a bit of a different animal from Stadia and GeForce NOW at the moment, due to it still being in beta testing, only being available on Android, and not having a final payment model at the moment.

In its current state, xCloud has the most noticeable input lag out of the three services. However, it is the only service you can play Xbox exclusives on, and crucially, it will likely end up having the most value for an Xbox gamer.

With support for Xbox consoles and PC in the future, coupled with the prospect of Xbox Game Pass coming and many developers only needing to simply “flip a switch” to allow for their games to come over to xCloud, xCloud could become a serious contender for the cloud streaming battle over the next several years.

As of this writing, xCloud has over 90 titles in the beta, and will continue to grow after the beta hits its final release.

It Really Depends on You

While all of these services has their pros and cons, I would be very happy playing Destiny on any of them. Besides their technical performance, which service you choose will more likely be based on which ecosystem you are already a part of.

With Microsoft’s xCloud, someone who already owns an Xbox will get the most value out of the service, as Microsoft has stated that Xbox console gaming will continue to be the focus for the premiere experience, with xCloud serving as a complimentary experience when you cannot be at your console. With the service coming to Windows and Xbox later this year, though, Microsoft’s ambitions could be growing. Eventually seeing 4K and HDR support isn’t out of the realm of possibility.

With GeForce NOW, Nvidia is targeting the audience who already has a gaming PC with a Steam library, but wants to play those games away from their PC with little compromise. Similar to Microsoft’s focus with xCloud, Nvidia sees the service as mostly a companion to when you are not at your gaming rig, not necessarily the primary place to play, given its short native game library and lack of 4K support.

Google Stadia is the first and only major streaming service that aims to make streaming the primary way you play games, rather than a companion. As a streaming-first platform, then, Google tries harder to deliver a full console or PC-like experience with features like 4K, HDR, and 60FPS.

The downside of being a new platform is it requires you to build your library from scratch VS. playing games you already owned from Xbox or PC, but offers the promise of features you can only experience in the cloud, such as 40-person car races, thousand player battle royales, splitscreen over the internet, more destructible environments, and Google Assistant support. While not all of these features are available quite yet, they show that Google is trying to build the future of gaming by putting the baseline of power in the cloud, where less limits exist than even the most powerful PC hardware.

Pure value for money isn’t quite there yet over the other services, but if Google’s promises come true, they could come out far ahead in game experiences once they start making good on their promises.

At the moment, whatever service you choose depends on which ecosystem you’re in (or not in) at the moment, what quality you desire, and where you want to play your games. One would be wise to look at the future trajectory of these services and ecosystems too before committing too much into any of them.

Regardless, we do know one thing for sure: with cloud gaming services allowing people the option to play true high-end games anywhere, the market for game streaming will only continue to grow.

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Project xCloud E3 Demo – First Impressions and New Details

We got a chance to go hands-on with Xbox’s upcoming game streaming service, Project xCloud, at the Xbox booth at E3. We were also able to ask a few questions to one of the developers on the project.

Here are our impressions:

The games we demoed were Gears of War and Resident Evil 7 on an Android smartphone tethered to an Xbox One controller.

While playing Resident Evil 7, the game was very responsive. I always do the “menu-test” while judging latency, and the menu selection seemed instant as I moved the d-pad between selections. Gears of War controlled nicely too, though I could judge a small amount of latency when moving the camera around. It remained very playable, though, and was impressive being on WiFi.

As for quality, the visual quality looked great. The video was very clear and had no visible artifacts. I was told it was running at 720p.

When asked if 4K will come down the road for bigger screens besides mobile devices, he said, “Eventually we will get there. 720p doesn’t look good blown up on bigger screens, so when we launch on bigger screens we will get there.”

When I asked if the hardware being used is comparable to an Xbox One S or X console, I was told that it isn’t comparable to either. The service is using a custom hardware in Azure data centers that isn’t directly comparable. It sounds like it can be upgraded as time goes on to fulfill higher resolutions and more powerful hardware.

As for the gameplay experience, it was smooth enough to be playable. However, there was some noticable stuttering throughout my demo. But I can’t say it will be like this in the consumer version, because it could be the interference with many people in the Xbox booth interfering with the signal. Even so, it was a remarkably playable and nearly lag-free experience, and I came away impressed.

The demo ran on 5Ghz WiFi at their E3 booth. When asked if the 5Ghz made a difference compared to the 2.4Ghz band, I was told it will run well on 2.4G WiFi too. According to the developer, in their solution, the difference between 2.4G WiFi and 5G WiFi is the least important factor in the latency equation for xCloud.

The app we used was a custom app built just for the E3 demo, but when asked, the developer said they don’t yet know what format they will end up packaging xCloud in when it launches and that’s something they still need to figure out. It could be in the Xbox app or have its own standalone app.

Some other details I was told:

The service will launch on mobile first in October, and needs around 10-15mb download speed to run well.

While playing, the phone sees it as just a streaming video, so as long as it the phone can stream video, it will work well.

Final Thoughts

Overall, it appears it is still early days for xCloud, as some of the details have yet to be fleshed out, and it will launch as a mobile experience first. At launch, it has a very different target from other streaming services like Google Stadia.

But what I played at E3 was very promising, and with the fact that the service will be leveraged by potentially thousands of games, and be upgraded down the line to be playable on more devices with higher resolutions, it could end up being the top dog of game streaming in the future. It’s too early to tell at the moment, as all of the tech is still being developed, but I can say with confidence that game streaming services like xCloud will certainly become a viable way to play games in the future.

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Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order E3 Game Preview – New Details

EA and Respawn held an extended gameplay demo for Star Wars Jedi Fallen Order Wednesday at the Xbox E3 stage. A producer on the game was there to share a 45 min gameplay demo and discussion on the game, where we learned new details.

The demo starts about 10 mins before the 15-min demo shown off on the EA Play livestream, and explains more about how the game’s main protagonist, Cal, finds himself in the land of Kasshyk. He starts off in a forest-like area and we get to see more interactions with the different characters, an epic sequence where Cal takes control of (and then crashes) an AT-AT, and see a brief glimpse of force freeze powers and how skill trees will work in the game. For a detailed write-up on the demo, visit Eurogamer’s story.

In addition to the demo, a short Q&A session was held by the producer after the gameplay session.

Some other details shared with us by the producer follow:

First off, the E3 demo starts approximately 3 hours into the game.

He elaborates that this demo shows off a side mission, not core to the main story of the game, because the team didn’t want to spoil the story so far before release. Because the game is still in alpha development stage, he stated that there is still a lot of work left to do before the game releases.

On the story, he explains that the team crafted the story hand in hand with LucasFilm, and the story will be part of the main canon.

He also said there will be no “BioWare-style” story progression, meaning your actions won’t change the story too much. Therefore, there will not be any “dark side vs light side” choices to affect the story, and no cliffhanger ending.

On the main character, Cal, his story goes like this:

He has just survived the purge of order 66, and goes through what it means to trust again throughout the game.

He is a padawan in training with lots of learning to do, and throughout the game, he learns on the job. The producer explains that Cal takes on a hero’s journey to become a Jedi knight, restore Jedi order

As for the actor who plays Cal, the team wanted someone who was like a young Clint Eastwood. Cameron (the actor) ended up in the “other” folder in their auditions folder, but the lead writer went through and picked him back up from the pile.

As for the gameplay difficulty seen in the demo, the lead producer, Blair, played on 200th plus his playthrough, and the settings were tuned to show off gameplay. However, besides the tweaks, the host told us that the game was set to about normal difficulty.

The control scheme is designed so that the player decides how they want to play. The game is designed so that as the player levels up, you as a player level up at same time by getting better with the game.

On the subject of how long the game will be, the producer told us that the game takes on a metroidvania style design, where if you want to 100% the game, you will need to retraverse previously visited areas.

You will also have many upgrades throughout the game. For example, You can upgrade your Droid, BD1, with a new capacitor to short circuit construction panlea, and throughout the game, you will unlock new abilities to interact with the world.

As another example. Abilities like force push can knock over obstacles to unlock previously unreachable areas.

The game will have at least 7 planets.

Lastly, as for what the demo is running on, we were told the gameplay demo is being played on a development PC with an Xbox controller plugged in.

The team is still exploring PC features like raytracing and optimizing, but he said it should support 4K on Xbox One X.

That’s all the details we have for now.

Stay tuned to Gamer Splash for further coverage on Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order and more exclusive gaming news.

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Nintendo Still Has a Lot to Prove in 2019

With the second calendar year of the Nintendo Switch now in the books, it’s now time to look to 2019 and all it has in store for the Switch.

Nintendo has had its share of ups and downs this year. Although Nintendo had some great moments in 2018, like the launch of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and Pokemon Let’s Go, it’s been a much softer year in terms of first-party content for Nintendo Switch.

2017, in comparison, was stacked with hits throughout the year, with Breath of the Wild, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Splatoon 2, and Super Mario Odyssey all filling out that year and making the Switch Nintendo’s fastest-selling console. In contrast, due to a lack of first-party hits, the Switch hasn’t sold so fast this year.

Additionally, the ill-received launch of Nintendo Switch Online and the lack of more legacy content (Virtual Console) on Nintendo Switch, have left fans eagerly awaiting solutions to these problems.

With 2018 now over, fans have been looking eagerly to 2019 for Nintendo to release more games, and hardware. While we know another Pokemon game, Animal Crossing, Luigi’s Mansion, and Fire Emblem games are coming next year, there are still many unanswered questions in regards to what else Nintendo has up its sleeve.

Indeed, in 2018, after numerous credible rumors, Nintendo fans expected games like Metroid Prime Trilogy, Metroid Prime 4, Bayonetta 3, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD, and Star Fox Racing to be announced at E3 or The Game Awards. However, many gamers were left in the cold with these games never showing up. Even then, despite these games not coming to light, some of these credible sources have said that these games are real and in development – they just haven’t been shown yet.

Additionally, credible rumors of a much-needed Nintendo Switch hardware upgrade have fueled fans’ desires to see what Nintendo has cooking, even more. With certain Switch games suffering from very low resolutions, bad framerates, or many third-party games simply not being able to make it over from other modern consoles to Switch (Resident Evil 2, I’m looking at you), an upgraded Switch that could potentially handle these games with ease has never felt so necessary.

Thus, we look forward to 2019 with excitement for the new titles on Nintendo’s hardware, but also anticipation for what Nintendo hasn’t shown yet.

Since Nintendo Directs have been a thing, as the important Holiday season comes to a close, Nintendo has always hosted a Nintendo Direct in January to inform fans and investors what they are planning for the new year.

Besides seeing more info on expected games, if Nintendo wants to truly stay competitive and in many fans’ and investors’ good graces, January is the time to finally pull the lid off of some of the surprises it has in 2019.

As we reflect on 2018, it’s never been a better time to be a Nintendo fan, not only for what it has offered thus far, but especially for what it has in store in 2019. If Nintendo’s track record is anything to go by, we will find out very soon.

What do you hope to see on Switch in 2019? Let us know in the comments below.

Nintendo, You’re Doing Cloud Saves Wrong

Ever since the Nintendo Switch came out in March 2017, despite having many modern and lauded features, many have been quick to point out some of its flaws. From launch until today, there has been no cloud save feature for games on the system.

Whereas Xbox and PlayStation have had cloud saves since last generation, 2017’s Nintendo Switch had no such feature. When Nintendo finally announced that the paid Nintendo Switch Online subscription service would offer cloud saves, many gamers rejoiced. No more, many thought, would a gamer who lost his Nintendo Switch have to restart his 300-hour Breath of the Wild game save, from scratch. He would no longer have to grind his way back up to the top in Splatoon 2.

But today’s news that certain games would not support cloud saves came as a surprise. Whereas a rival system like the Xbox One saves every single game to the cloud universally, it appears Nintendo is allowing each developer to “opt-in” to whether they want to use cloud saves or not.

Here is the current list of games that do not support cloud saves:

Splatoon 2

Pokémon Let’s Go Eevee & Pikachu

FIFA 19

NBA 2K19

Dark Souls Remastered

Dead Cells

It’s worth noting that all of the multiplatform games on this list support cloud saves on Xbox and PlayStation. And this list is likely to grow.

Worse yet, Nintendo’s official reasoning behind the change is maddening and confusing, to say the least.

Per Game Informer, here is Nintendo’s response to the issue:

The vast majority of Nintendo Switch games will support Save Data Cloud backup. However, in certain games this feature would make it possible to, for example, regain items that had been traded to other players, or revert to a higher online multiplayer ranking that had been lost. To ensure fair play, Save Data Cloud backup may not be enabled for such games. To ensure that Save Data Cloud backups cannot be used to unfairly affect online multiplayer rankings, the feature will not be enabled in Splatoon 2.

Breaking this down, this response indicates a very important distinction in the way Nintendo is conceptualizing its cloud saving feature. Besides not being available at a system level for each game, Nintendo’s response makes it clear that players’ cloud saves will not be automatically synced to the cloud, like Xbox One’s system enforces. Per Nintendo’s words, this looks more and more like Nintendo will be instead implementing cloud saves with the same thought process as how it implements them on the NES Classic Edition; That is, Nintendo will give gamers different cloud saving “slots,” the same way as it does with offline single player games such as Breath of the Wild. Players can then choose to load up one of, potentially many, “cloud saves” from a cloud save list, the same way players can load up any normal offline save from their offline save list.

There are many reasons having multiple save files are beneficial for offline play in single-player games. Say you got stuck in a tough boss battle with low health and few items, making it near-impossible to get through it. What do you do? Bingo: fire up a previous save and stock up on items before you face that bad boy again. Or say you were near the end of a game and your character suddenly died, the game then forcing you to restart from far back. A save file closer to where you were before is helpful in this situation, as well.

However, there is a good reason online games, such as Splatoon, Halo, and Gran Turismo, don’t give you save slots (at least in the online portions). The reason is because all of the online data is stored in the cloud.

Now, from a certain perspective, Nintendo’s logic in their response is sound. If it is indeed possible to revert saves to alter online play, then it is a good call for Nintendo to not allow cloud saves on Switch.

The issue is that this situation is only possible in the first place, because Nintendo implemented an inferior cloud save model, where it gives players the option to revert players’ local saves to previous cloud saves created at an earlier time. In this case, as unfortunate as it is, Nintendo is making the right decision to thwart cheaters.

But why isn’t this an issue on Xbox One and PlayStation, and how are these platforms able to have cloud saves on each and every game without the same concerns Nintendo has? This is because these systems do not allow for reverting a current offline or online game save to a previous, specifically Online version. The only way Nintendo’s concern makes sense is if it is allowing players to revert their game saves to previous online game saves. So, it’s rather obvious this is the kind of system Nintendo intends to implement here.

This approach to cloud saves makes sense for single-player games such as Super Mario Odyssey or Breath of the Wild. However, it should not be a one-size-fits-all approach, because games that dare to have online components like Splatoon 2 and FIFA 19 become a victim to that decision, Nintendo putting online gaming fairness en masse over individual save data security.

It is also puzzling to me why, if Nintendo does want to stick with its cloud save data reversion feature, Nintendo can’t achieve the technical issue of allowing single-player save data in a game like Splatoon 2 to be reverted without affecting a player’s online rankings. This suggests that a player’s online data is tied to the offline game save data, when it should have been saved in the cloud all along. Now that we know this is the case, it’s another reason Nintendo has done things wrong here and is having to make this decision.

This situation also makes me wonder why Nintendo can’t just make sure that once a console is connected to the internet, it adopts a system like Xbox One’s, where instead of giving the player the option to revert to a previous online save, the system automatically synchronizes the player’s latest game save, whether offline or online, and overwrites the older one.

Nintendo could simply choose to implement this auto-synchronization function for online games and preserve the cloud save function, and if it wants, it can use revertable cloud saves for games such as Breath of the Wild. There’s no reason why the Switch cannot use two different cloud save systems for two very different kind of games, when that framework can allow the benefit of cloud saves to games such as Splatoon 2. Implementing this approach would work, and gamers would benefit.

Not implementing this approach signals to me that Nintendo’s current game save system is out of date, and thus incompatible with this set-up, or Nintendo wants to keep everything simple for gamers and would rather have the same exact cloud save functions across every game. However, the victims of this decision, then, are online multiplayer games.

Nintendo has dug themselves into a pretty large hole here. But they can solve this.

If they simply adopt a universal auto-synchronization system like Xbox One’s, or even do this for only games with online multiplayer, then precious save data for games like Splatoon 2 would be able to be safely backed up to the cloud, and gamers could finally rejoice at the feeling that their save data will be safe, no matter what happens to their Switch.

As it stands now, though, it looks like cloud saves will be a neat feature to have for offline Nintendo Switch games, but a gamer who happens to lose or damage his Nintendo Switch will still have to start from scratch for a game like Splatoon 2.

Nintendo still has time to fix this. If not when the service launches, then any time after. But as of now, fans of online games on Nintendo’s system will still have to be subject to uncertainty regarding their save data. And in 2018, that is not acceptable.

Mega Man 30th Anniversary Panel at Comic Con 2018 – Exclusive

The producers of the Mega Man series hosted a panel on all things Mega Man at San Diego Comic-Con this past weekend. Get an exclusive look at concept art, new gameplay, and a behind-the-scenes look at the making of Mega Man X Legacy Collection 1 & 2, as well as Mega Man 11.

 

For more on Mega Man, Comic-Con, and everything gaming, be sure to follow Gamer Splash.

-Noah Sanchez, Gamer Splash

Resident Evil 2 Panel Recording – Comic Con 2018 Exclusive

Gamer Splash was on hand to record a large portion of the Resident Evil 2 panel at this past weekend’s San Diego Comic-Con. Check out a behind-the-scenes look at the making of Resident Evil 2 remake, including never-before-seen concept art.

Check out the full clip below:

Follow Gamer Splash for more exclusives from Comic-Con and future gaming events.

-Noah Sanchez, Gamer Splash