Tech Up! How Playkey Game Streaming Works

By Tomas Barry 05.12.2016

There's no denying, for all its superiority, that PC gaming can be an expensive pursuit. Keeping a machine on the favourable side of a game's recommended specifications can be a tiresome challenge, especially once it's a few years old or if it's a laptop with limited potential for upgrades. Likewise, with the updates to the PS4 and Xbox One, it's difficult to posit consoles as the solution for high-quality gaming on a budget. For some gamers, who view both options as too expensive or too large an investment, Playkey offers a quite impressive, innovative and viable solution. After a basic look at the service, Cubed3 delves back in for a more in-depth look into what is on offer…

The Playkey online streaming service makes internal components irrelevant. It uses a substantial remote server to provide a high quality video stream to any laptop, PC, iMac or Macbook Pro, without any noticeable lag or frame drops. So long as the user has a reasonable broadband connection (Playkey recommends 10MB), players can leap into a sizeable collection of videogame hits, including Grand Theft Auto V, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and Doom. Although the current selection could do with some padding out, games are being added all the time. There are also some free-to-play titles such as EVE online and Flatout 2 available, and this selection will presumably be expanded in the future, too. Pleasingly, Playkey seems quite receptive to the most popular requests of its user-base, meaning the collection of titles available is a sort of 'best of' playlist voted for by the users. This might be quite an appealing prospect to those with less time and money to dedicate to gaming, looking to sample some of the most popular AAA titles around without shelling out for a capable computer or console.

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Crucially, if you own a product on Steam and it's also available through the service, you can play those titles on Playkey without having to re-purchase. After a simple and painless authentication process, it's good to go. The subscription packages for the service seem to be fairly versatile, with very reasonable rates for month-to-month, three- and six-month plans. The usage fee seems suitably lightweight for those on a budget and considering it chalks up to just a fraction of the price of console or gaming PC, it's definitely a smart way to experience high quality experiences. Intriguingly, Playkey is also in talks with some Smart TV manufacturers, so there's the possibility that the service will be available on even more devices in the future. Up to four controllers can be used via Bluetooth or USB cable, which when tested didn't create any notable input lag.

Initially, it feels quite odd to launch into a high performance game like GTAV on that dusty old laptop that you gave up on years ago but, then again, online streaming services in gaming are still a relatively new phenomenon, especially since the early birds to the idea, such as Gaikai and OnLive, got eaten up by Sony some years back. Although the premise of streaming games might imply less stability to some gamers, Playkey appears to be a very stable and durable service.

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It was tested on a connection that occasionally drops to around the lower recommended limit (5MB) for the service, at which point it would drop into low performance mode dynamically, without any stutter or frames dropped. Likewise, on a faster broadband connection (12MB) the service stayed consistently on its highest fidelity setting, which provided an impressive level of clarity, very comparable to a gaming computer running on high and, at times, towards ultra mode. Playkey makes use of Nvidia GRID to ensure the best image quality possible. This scalability is discreetly integrated, meaning there's no interruption to the experience should the connection be anything less than ideal.

As an online streaming service, Playkey also removes the anxiety of whether or not your machine will be capable of playing the next high performance AAA title, something many will appreciate. While it can't exactly replace anyone's primary gaming device at this time, since at this point it only offers a relatively small-scale selection of games, there is definitely huge potential for it to grow in the future. For now, Playkey should be praised for its vision and ingenuity, and for giving gamers a chance to liberate their old machines, deemed not capable of handling a modern game without keeling over. Certainly, it seems to prove that Cloud gaming has become a very viable possibility in the here and now, which is very exciting.

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