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What Is Shadow? Everything You Need To Know

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What is Shadow? It’s a cloud gaming service that allows you to play games on just about any device. It was available before the likes of Xbox cloud gaming around the same time that GeForce NOW was in beta.

For the most part, it helped pioneer the modern state of cloud gaming. And the industry is better for it. If you want to learn more about Shadow and what it has to offer in comparison to other similar services, we’ve laid everything out here to answer your questions.

When is Shadow available?

Right now! You can actually sign up for the service at this very moment if you want to. In fact, Shadow has been up and running for years.

That being said, Shadow (or Shadow PC) has been out of the mainstream for a while. And if you’ve forgotten it was a service you could use to play games in the cloud, things have changed since the last time you probably thought about it. Prior to that change, Shadow was available in most states across the US. Though there were a few that you couldn’t yet access it from. Such as Arizona.

Where is Shadow available?

Altogether Shadow is now available in a wide range of different countries across the globe.

This includes the UK, Belgium, France, Germany, Switzerland, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, the US, Canada, Austria, Italy, Spain, Sweden, and Denmark. In the US a few years ago, Shadow was only available in most states. Some states, like Arizona, did not have access. But Shadow then made some changes to its plans and opened up access to states where it wasn’t previously available. This should still be the case. However, Shadow’s FAQ page currently says that in the US Shadow is available in “some areas.” You’ll want to head to this link, change the country to the United States, and check to see if you can sign up for it and confirm it’s available in your area.

Outside of the US, if your country isn’t listed here, then Shadow is not an available service for cloud gaming.

How much does Shadow cost?

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There are a couple of plans so it really all depends on which one you choose. Each one will come with a different set of features, and the associated monthly cost varies based on how powerful you want your cloud gaming experience to be.

Worth keeping in mind is that the plans have changed over the years and Shadow has become quite expensive compared to other services. But it’s also worth pointing out that this is not just for cloud gaming. It’s a full PC in the cloud. So you can run any Windows program you could on a local PC, but over the internet anywhere you have a connection and are able to log in. With that out of the way, there are two plans available. The Boost plan, and the Power plan.

Boost Plan

The Boost plan is what you want to go with if you just want something that’s capable of gaming with decent performance, but you aren’t necessarily concerned with having the best graphics or the most power. This plan is $29.99 a month regularly. Here’s what you get if you select this plan. You get a PC with the equivalent of a GeForce GTX 1080 GPU, along with 12GB of RAM, an Intel Xeon CPU with up to 3.1GHz clock speed and 8 cores, and a 512GB SSD for storage. You can also expand storage if you need more, but we cover that below if that’s what you’re looking for.

These days, this is a pretty moderate PC in terms of performance power. And that’s mostly due to the CPU and the older GPU generation. So like we said, if you want decent performance this plan will suffice. But if you want more power and better gaming graphics capabilities, you’ll need to bump up to the Power plan.

Power Plan

The Power Plan is the big dog. The plan you want if you want a more recent GPU for significantly increased performance. You also get a newer CPU, and of course, more RAM. It also costs more. The Power Plan will run you a starting cost of $49.99 a month. But you do get the bump to an RTX 3070 Ti GPU and an AMD EYPC CPU with a clock speed of up to 3.7GHz. You also go from 12GB of RAM to 28GB of RAM.

You still get the same amount of SSD storage at 512GB though. But remember, you can expand the storage for an additional fee per month along with the regular plan cost.

Expanded Storage

While each plan comes with a dedicated amount of storage, you can upgrade to more. Both the Boost Plan and the Power Plan come with 512GB of storage via an SSD. If you need more space, you can add 256GB of HDD storage at $2.99 for every 256GB you add. You can add up to 5TB of storage to your Shadow PC so if you really need a lot of room for games and other files, Shadow will allow it. But keep in mind this will cost quite a lot every single month.

An extra 5TB of space is $59.80 every single month. And if you go with the Power Plan that’s on top of the $49.99 each month. So your total ends up being $109.79 every month. That’s about the cost of your monthly internet or energy bill depending on where you live. Again, it’s a lot but you are getting a full PC in the cloud here. Not just the ability to stream games from different game clients.

What are the connection requirements?

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There’s a small set of requirements for Shadow when it comes to the internet. Mainly you should have either FTTH or FTTB high-speed connections.

The service might also work with ADSL broadband connections but there is a chance that they may not. The bigger requirement to pay attention to though, is the internet speed. Shadow recommends that you have at least 15Mbps, though your experience will likely be better if your speed is at least 25Mbps.

When it comes to internet speeds, this isn’t a very demanding prerequisite. In fact, it’s quite low and matches up with what’s more or less required by GeForce NOW and cloud gaming with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate. If you think your internet may not be fast enough, chances are it is.

The service will also work on both hardwired and Wi-Fi connections. Keep in mind that if you’re using Wi-Fi though your connection will need to be stronger to ensure minimal latency. So you may need to invest in a better router if you plan to connect via Wi-Fi exclusively.

What devices does Shadow work on?

Shadow works on a multitude of devices making it a very powerful method for gaming. Do you have a potato PC? Not a problem. Shadow will work for you because it handles everything. It works on Windows desktops and laptops, Mac desktops and laptops, Ubuntu desktops and laptops, and even on Android and iOS smartphones and tablets.

It used to work on TVs with the Shadow Ghost. However, you cannot currently purchase this product and there’s no indication it will ever be available again. So if you want to use this on your TV, you can but you’ll need either an Apple TV box, or a TV with Android TV or Google TV available.

What games does Shadow have?

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The list is only limited by your imagination. Truly. Since Shadow basically runs a full Windows PC running Windows 10 (upgradeable to Windows 11 if you have the Power Plan) on whatever device you log in with, it has access to any game that can run on a PC with a GTX 1080 GPU or an RTX 3070 Ti GPU.

You can install whatever programs you want on your Shadow rig. So that means you can install Steam and any other clients and access/install any games that are available in those clients.

The only one you may have trouble with or may want to avoid is battle.net. It is against the terms of service in games like World of Warcraft to use cloud gaming services to access the game. This means it could be the same for any other game that you can play through battle.net. In most cases though, games from other stores should be fine. As always, you may want to check each game specifically as they come up.

Is there first-party content?

No. Not really. Because Shadow is essentially just a powered-up gaming rig in the cloud, there’s no first-party content that can only be played on Shadow.

If there’s first-party content for game stores like Epic or Steam, then you will technically have first-party content that way. But there isn’t and never will be any first-party content that you will need Shadow to play. It’s a fully open Windows PC in the cloud so you have access to whatever is on a Windows local PC.

How do you set up a Shadow account?

This is a pretty simple process. First,  you’ll have to subscribe to the service and choose the plan you want. After that, make sure you have the Shadow software on whatever devices you want to play games on. If you’re playing on the PC then make sure to install the Shadow program for the correct operating system (Windows, Mac, Ubuntu).

If you’re also planning on playing on Android then you’ll want to install the Shadow app there too. This can be found in the Google Play Store. It’s a free download as well, as you’re only paying for the monthly access to Shadow and not the apps or programs. The same goes for iOS, Android TV, and tvOS.

What input methods are supported?

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This will depend on which device platform you play games on when using Shadow. If you’re on Android, then you should be able to use Bluetooth mouse and keyboard combinations. But you’ll generally be limited to only Bluetooth options unless you have extra equipment that lets you use wired setups. These do exist so it’s not impossible to get this going if you prefer wired peripherals.

You can also choose to use gamepads like the DualShock 4, DualSense, or Xbox wireless controller or any other number of gamepads that support Android. If you’re on a PC, then expect to be able to use just about anything. Gamepads, dedicated gaming mice, and keyboards, you name it. As long as your device supports a specific type of peripheral, it should work with Shadow.

Can you use programs like Discord for chat?

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Yes. Discord works with Shadow and doesn’t really have much of a noticeable latency between you and other users. You will still need a pair of headphones to use that have a mic so you can talk to others. Or at the very least hear what others are saying. This will be important for games that have multiplayer and may either require or recommend team chat for certain activities.

Because Shadow allows you to install any program you can install on a local Windows desktop, Discord will work just fine as should other chat programs.

Are there any downsides to Shadow?

There are likely a few for some individuals. A big one is the lack of availability. Right now Shadow is only available in the countries listed above. But there are still many territories where it isn’t available that other options are.

If you don’t have access to it then you can’t use it and that would be a large downside. It’s also possible that you may not have the absolute best setup for minimal latency and the best resolution.

While Shadow requires a relatively low base internet connection speed, just like GeForce NOW or Xbox Game Pass Ultimate the best configuration is going to be an ethernet connection. If you’re playing on a phone then you simply need to make sure your Wi-Fi connection is strong enough to handle the streaming without having latency issues.

Shadow is also the most expensive of any of the available cloud gaming services. And some may find that it’s not affordable for them. Cost is the biggest downside. You’re looking at $30 a month for the starter ‘Boost Plan’ and that’s double the cost of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, and more than double the cost of GeForce NOW’s Ultimate membership per month. On top of that, you only get a PC with a GTX 1080 GPU. A nearly 8-year-old graphics card. If you want something even remotely new, you have to bump up to the Power Plan which is another $20 a month.

Quite honestly, this is going to be a hard sell for lots of users. If you ONLY want a way to stream games in the cloud, this isn’t the best option. But if you want a full PC in the cloud, this is the way to go.

What are the benefits of Shadow?

For starters, you can play on just about anything. Nearly any Android device is supported instead of being limited to a handful of devices. You can also play on just about any desktop or laptop and you can play on tablets. This opens up gameplay to a ton of users and makes it possible for anyone to afford a high-end gaming experience if they can afford the monthly cost.

Because of the mobile device versatility, you can also play games on Shadow just about anywhere. If you have a strong enough connection then you should be totally fine. Though again, your best experience is likely to be with your phone connected to a strong and fast Wi-Fi network.

Shadow is also scalable. Just like with GeForce NOW, Shadow will be upgraded as needed. When new, more powerful hardware comes out, the Shadow team will deploy the new parts. Eventually making everyone’s cloud gaming rigs more powerful too. This cuts out the need of having to upgrade your PC. Which can become pretty costly depending on how high-end the parts are that you’re buying.

Naturally, some users will prefer the physical PC and enjoy upgrading their rig every few years or however often they do it. For those who want something more simple yet still powerful, Shadow provides this.

Is Shadow the right service for you?

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Shadow is the right service for many people. But, unfortunately, it isn’t available everywhere yet. So for those who can’t access it a similar option is your best bet. Anyone who also prefers to have their own physical rig so they don’t have to rely on Shadow for hardware upgrades or worry about the extra latency is better off sticking with a physical gaming PC. Or even a console.

If you want some freedom though, the freedom to choose which device you play your games on without giving up the quality of games makes Shadow a fantastic option. Especially now that it’s available in most or all of the US and a few more countries as of 2022. Any negatives about Shadow, which are going to be mostly subjective, are far outweighed by the positives. The biggest positive about Shadow is that you have your own Windows 10 gaming computer in the cloud.

There’s no Shadow-specific library of games. You can install any game or program on your Shadow rig, so if you can access it on PC, Mac, or Ubuntu, then you can access it on Shadow.

This is an improvement over GeForce NOW and cloud gaming with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate. Both of which have their own strengths and weaknesses and are just as exciting. But they’re more limited on games. Content is king. And in this particular area, Shadow has a little bit of an edge. It is however more expensive monthly than any of the other services. So that’s something you’ll need to consider along with everything else.

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