Playing high-end desktop VR games currently requires some serious PC hardware, but that may not be the case for much longer. Cloud gaming service Shadow has announced a “VR Exploration Program,” which we think is a fancy way of saying “beta.” Next month, Shadow will let you stream VR games from a server directly to a VR headset, freeing you from your gaming PC.
While there are plenty of VR experiences that run on devices like the Oculus Quest without a PC, these are nowhere near as visually impressive as what you can get on a PC with a powerful video card. However, standalone VR is a much more immersive experience because you can move around freely without worrying about tripping over a cable. Shadow already runs a standard game streaming platform, and adding VR to the mix could make it easier to enjoy the best virtual reality has to offer.
Shadow will begin accepting applications on March 13th, and a second round of applications will begin on March 24th. The test itself will start on April 1st, but you’ll need to meet several important criteria to have a shot at getting in. Firstly, you’ll need an Oculus Quest, which is the only device that will work at first. You’ll also need an internet connection with at least 100Mbps down and 20Mbps up. Your connection to Shadow’s servers has to be 15ms or less, and you’ll have to use a 5GHz router at home.
Like other game streaming services, all the heavy lifting happens in the cloud. Your headset will simply receive a high-resolution video stream of the gameplay, and your control inputs stream back up to the server. Latency is sometimes a problem with traditional games streamed from the cloud, but players will be especially sensitive to lag in VR. That’s probably why you need such low ping to be considered for the beta test.
Shadow doesn’t sell games like Stadia, and it’s not as tightly integrated with game distribution platforms as GeForce Now. When you subscribe to Shadow, you get an instance of Windows 10 in the cloud. You can install any game you own from services like Steam, Uplay, Epic, and so on. Plans start at $12 per month (if paid yearly), which gets you A GeForce 1080-equivalent experience with 256GB of storage. Shadow has not said if it plans an additional charge for playing VR games.
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