Credit where credit’s due: Google’s Stadia is a fun little gizmo that more or less works as advertised. It’s got some fantastic games in its library, it offers a better experience than six-year-old current-gen consoles, and it feels like the future.
But Amazon Luna, the latest platform to enter the game-streaming arena, seems far more likely to end up as Microsoft’s main competition.
Game Pass, Luna, and Stadia comparison
Cloud gaming (“Project xCloud”) is just one facet of Xbox Game Pass — an incredible new feature that gives players the option to play their favorite games pretty much anywhere.
When Google launched Stadia late last year, I was certainly impressed at what it could do. But a lot of that had to do with the fact that the company sent me a review kit containing both a Chromecast Ultra adapter and a new Google Pixel phone. I didn’t have to go to any trouble to get it working.
To this day, Google’s service still requires a Chromecast Ultra and Stadia gamepad to play on your TV. Compatibility appears to be a big issue for the platform in general.
Again, Stadia has great games and works as intended — but Amazon’s taking things a step further, and marketing the Luna as a service that works on devices its customers already own.
Which is how, for instance, something like Pokémon Go became such a phenomenon — or the arcades of the 1980s. Nobody had to go out and buy anything; the game was right there at your fingertips.
Heck, even James Caan of Godfather fame — an 80-year-old actor worth tens of millions — is playing Angry Birds these days. Because he doesn’t have to fiddle with a Chromecast to do it.
Luna lets you subscribe and start playing
With Amazon Luna and Game Pass, players can subscribe, grab their device, and start playing. Much like Netflix or HBO Max. And this will be especially more true once Microsoft’s touch controls expand to include more games.
In early access, Luna’s already compatible with keyboard and mouse, Xbox One controllers, and Sony’s DualShock 4 gamepad. So the Luna controller, attractive purple accents aside, is entirely optional.
And users can play on PC, Mac, Fire TV, and iOS — with Android support coming in a matter of “weeks.” The service offers integration with Alexa and Twitch.
Amazon Luna’s games library
Unfortunately for Stadia, another one of Amazon Luna’s biggest selling points is that it offers what Google’s service failed to deliver: a Netflix-like content library with a single, affordable price point.
If you sign up for Luna+, or add additional channels (e.g., an EA or Ubisoft channel), you have tons of games in your library — in an instant. Stadia still wants people to buy games at $60 a pop, and that’s not the forward-thinking leap people seem to want from cloud-based tech.
Will Luna catch on like Game Pass? Time will tell. But with Amazon’s philosophy of “frictionless entry,” and the platform’s existing customer base through Prime and Twitch, it’s not looking great for Stadia right now.
Luna is currently in early access, by invitation, for $5.99 a month.