The idea of streaming your game from your desktop PC to another screen isn’t new, but products like Nvidia’s Shield and the Steam Link offer the service only if your gaming PC and the other screen share the same network. In other words, you can stream your games only if you’re home. LiquidSky wants to change the game (no pun intended) by allowing you to play your games on any Windows, Mac, or Linux computer as well as Android phones and tablets through its cloud service. At CES, the company showed off the software’s main hub for users, announced additional support for Android apps, and revealed new pricing plans.
LiquidSky, which is still in beta, works by putting the PC in the cloud. You can log into your various accounts (Steam, Uplay, GOG, Battle.net, etc.) and download your game libraries to the LiquidSky "cloud PC." You can then play those games on essentially any desktop PC, laptop, or Android phone or tablet by streaming the gameplay from LiquidSky's servers.
There are, however, a few issues with game streaming, such as the hardware requirements to run graphics-heavy games on LiquidSky’s servers, and more importantly, overall latency. However, the company says it servers have “high-performance hardware” and “ultra low latency” to ensure the streaming experience is not only clear, but also nearly lag-free. However, the company's video tutorial on optimizing Blizzard's Overwatch on LiquidSky seems to show that you will need to tweak the game's graphics settings to further reduce latency.
The so-called “central hub” of LiquidSky is what you see when you fire up the app on your computer or mobile device. From there, you can access your desktop’s game library. With the newly-announced support for Android apps, you can access an even larger selection of games.
There’s also another section called SkyLounge where you can watch other users play different games. You can also renew your LiquidSky subscription through the third section of the hub, called the SkyStore.
Just like other streaming services such as Netflix or Amazon Prime, LiquidSky relies on a subscription-based payment plan. Specifically, you buy SkyCredits, which equal to one hour of game time. Currently there are three subscription options for LiquidSky: The “Pay-As-You-Go” plan lets you buy SkyCredits at $0.50 each, although you have to buy a minimum of 10 SkyCredits. The plan also offers 100GB of cloud storage or “SkyStorage.”
There’s also a “Gamer” plan that gives you 80 SkyCredits and 500GB of storage per month at $14.99, but you can also purchase additional credits at $0.30 each. The plan also lets you roll over the SkyCredits you didn’t use in the previous month so that you don’t lose any unplayed hours (you can keep up to 720 SkyCredits). For $39.99, you can get the Unlimited plan, which doesn’t have a SkyCredit limit and gets you 1TB of cloud storage.
With LiquidSky’s latest announcement however, the monthly plan will now start at $9.99 with up to 1TB in cloud storage. The company also revealed another subscription plan that removes the numerous advertisements that go along with the service (you can watch the ads in order to earn more SkyCredits). However, it wasn’t specific on the price for the ad-free plan.
One To Watch
LiquidSky’s approach to game streaming is ambitious, to be sure. However, there were numerous attempts to bring this type of streaming service to the public before. OnLive attempted the same feat a few years ago, but in 2015, the service was shut down and its assets were sold to Sony, presumably to help build the foundation for the PlayStation Now streaming service. The subscription prices seem reasonable, but the real test will be presentation and latency. If the service delivers on low-latency gaming coupled with “high-performance hardware” on its servers, LiquidSky might be be a player as the definitive source for game streaming.
Update, /9/17, 9:10am: A previous version of this article misstated the nature of the client/streaming set up. The copy has been amended.