Parsec, Paperspace and Shadow: cloud gaming providers value for money comparison

HardPenguin
6 min readJul 17, 2018

…but what is cloud gaming?

Those who know me are already well aware that I talk a lot about cloud gaming. As a full-time Linux user with no dual-boot to Windows I am always looking for alternative ways to play PC games that are not supported on my platform of choice. That’s why renting a Windows server with a powerful, dedicated GPU for a monthly fee is a practical choice for me.

The concept is simple — I send the mouse, keyboard or gamepad input to the server and it streams the video and audio back to me with unnoticeable delay. It works really well, mostly thanks to highly efficient software solutions and fast internet connection, both of which are easily available these days. That way I don’t have to set up a physical Windows machine in my house.

My cloud gaming service of choice is Parsec. Their partnership with cloud provider Paperspace makes it easy for me to rent and manage a Windows gaming server right from their web interface. With Paperspace I can pay per hour, instead of paying for entire month upfront, which saves me money if I don’t want to play much that particular month.

However, I have recently noticed that a competing service called Shadow is expanding to new territories and slowly getting some popularity as well. For a monthly fee it offers you unlimited play hours, which would make it a better choice if you plan to use cloud gaming as a complete replacement for gaming on your local computer.

Parsec’s web interface allows you to rent a cloud machine from Paperspace or Amazon in a pay-per-hour model.

Which service is better?

Currently, both services cover my basic needs, which are:

  • a Linux client app
  • availability in all European countries

I am not going to go into differences between offered cloud machine specs (GPU, memory etc.) here. Those are listed on both Paperspace’s and Shadow’s websites and can be compared in a pretty straightforward manner.

What interests me much more is: which one gives you more play time for the same amount of money paid per month?

Renting a gaming server with Windows is significantly more expensive than paying for movies and music streaming services. In Poland, where I live, those are approximate monthly prices I would pay for an unlimited access to:

  • big collection of streamable movies and shows, Netflix: $10–$15
  • even bigger collection of streamable music, Spotify: $5
  • cloud gaming service, Shadow: $35

First thing you may notice is that this is quite a disparity. Is it possible to lower this expense? Perhaps if we didn’t intend to use the cloud gaming service all month long? Well, I did some math on the subject and as it turns out… It all depends on how you’re going to use the service. Let’s have a look at how Paperspace compares to Shadow’s offer.

Ultimate cloud gaming services pricing showdown!

Hours by price comparison

For the sake of calculations, I am gonna use prices for Paperspace P5000 and Shadow’s UK offer. Exchange rates between currencies used here come from July 15th, 2018.

First, I took Shadow’s price as a starting point. After all, that’s the goal: to get unlimited hours for the best price possible. Right?

So let’s say I wanted to spend the same amount of money on Paperspace as I would spend on Shadow: £26.95, which in US dollars would be $35. Storage alone will cost me $7 (this value may vary depending on how much storage you want on your cloud machine). That leaves me with $28 left to spend on play hours that month.

How does that amount of money transfer to gaming time ? Well, that would be 44 hours monthly, or 1 hour and 27 minutes daily if we’re gonna play every single day using Paperspace’s server. It’s not tragic, but it doesn’t seem much compared to Shadow’s unlimited hours offer.

Test case #0 — Steam:

However, is that enough? Not if I wanted to play all my Steam games using only cloud gaming. My Steam stats say that I have spent 39 hours and 48 hours in all games played in last two weeks (14 days), which would give me 85 hours and 17 minutes spent in games monthly. That’s a much bigger need that what Paperspace would be able to satisfy for the price of Shadow’s monthly subscription.

So the verdict here is a NO for Paperspace.

But what if I didn’t want to do all of my gaming using a cloud gaming service? That’s where Paperspace’s pay-by-hour model shines. Let’s move on to another two of my use cases.

Test case #1 — Realm Royale:

Like I said in the very beginning of this text, I primarily use Linux for everything, including gaming. I don’t need to run all of my games using cloud services, since my computer does fine in most of cases. But every now and then, an interesting Windows game pops up and that’s where a reliable way to run it really comes in handy. For me, such a title is Realm Royale, a Paladins take on battle royale genre.

How much time exactly I spend on playing it? Turning to stats provided once again by Steam, that would be 26 hours and 34 minutes monthly. Not only is that enough, but I also end up with some unused value, and here comes the best part.

With Paperspace’s pre-paid model, you can use the remaining money for either more gaming during the same month or for play hours in the upcoming month! In this case, playing only Realm Royale on a cloud machine leaves me with $11 or 31% of original monthly cost available to reuse.

In this scenario, we can surely say YES to Paperspace.

Realm Royale by Hi-Rez Studios played through Parsec client.

Test case #2 — Sleeping Dogs:

Another good example from my life would be when I played Sleeping Dogs. It’s a singleplayer open world game about an undercover policeman in Hong Kong, that takes over 20 hours to complete, if you don’t count the DLCs and aren’t interested in finding all of the collectibles. Unfortunately for me, it doesn’t support Linux. Too bad, because I love a good police story!

Cloud gaming came to my rescue here. I spent about 21 hours on completing my playthrough for this title. The month I finished Sleeping Dogs I wasn’t interested in using any more of my cloud computer, so that month I used it only for 21 hours.

How much did I have left? Nearly $15 or 41% of original monthly price that I was able to save for my future gaming adventures with Parsec.

Once again, we can give thumbs up and confidently say YES to Paperspace’s pricing model.

Wrap-up

Like you could see, choosing a suitable offer between those two services largely depends on your use case. Doesn’t matter if you’re a Linux gamer or maybe own a low spec gaming rig, I wholeheartedly recommend giving cloud gaming a go. There are also other competitors in this area, such as LiquidSky or Vortex. The selection is more broad than one would expect and anyone should be able to find something that matches their needs.

The spreadsheet containing calculations described in this article is available here (it can be opened using LibreOffice). Feel free to modify it to see for yourself which service would be a better fit for you!

Apparently, I love math. Download this spreadsheet using the link above.

If you have any questions or would like to add your opinion on the subject, you can reach me on Twitter or leave a comment below.

Big thank you to the Parsec team for supporting Linux with their client app and to Parsec community for inspiring this post!

EDIT:

I just learned that Paperspace’s prices are going up by about 20%. Even though it is not exactly good news, the advantage of their flexible model is still there and savings proved by my test cases are still true.

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