Hands-On With Luna, Amazon’s xCloud Competitor

Posted on October 22, 2020 by Brad Sams in Games, Mobile gaming with 5 Comments

A couple of weeks back, Amazon announced that they would be joining the game-streaming party with Luna. At that time, the company was accepting registrations for early access, and yesterday, I was accepted into the program.

Amazon is sending out emails with a link to access the service and from there, you can sign up for a 7-day free trial and $5.99 a month after it expires. Later in the lifecycle of Luna, the price will be raised to likely $9.99-14.99 as that would match offerings from Google and Microsoft.

But unlike Google, Amazon is going down a similar path as Microsoft with a subscription that lets you play any games in the library whereas Google’s Stadia is ‘free’ but you have to buy games separately inside the service; there is Stadia Pro which provides a higher quality gaming experience for $9.99 a month that can net you some free titles.

The primary reason you would choose Luna today is that it is available in more places than xCloud (PC, Mac, FireTV, iOS but not Android oddly) whereas xCloud is available only on Android today but other platforms are coming soon-ish. Stadia is available in the browser and on some Android devices too.

As of the time of this post, none of these streaming services work on every platform.

Getting started with Luna is simple; login with your Amazon account and accept the terms/conditions and agree to the subscription. Following that, you can launch into the Luna portal where you can select a game to play and it will open up fullscreen and off you go.

There is a controller available too but I don’t have that in my possession; for my testing, I am using an Xbox controller that is wired into my PC or connected via Bluetooth to my phone to test out the service on iOS. And I am here to tell you that it works, it’s not perfect, but it works.

On the PC, the experience is more than acceptable but there are noticeable quality issues that arise in fast-moving titles and you can see compression artifacts as well. Jumping between games is easy and relatively quick but it’s not instantaneous.

Playing Luna on the PC is a good but not great experience; that’s to be expected. Without the game running locally, there are drawbacks but the ability to play high-end games in your browser is still a marvel of the modern Internet. Controller latency, while not too bad when using it wired to my PC, will still impact any multiplayer titles and put you at a disadvantage when playing against those who are running the game locally.

The two racing games that I played Redout and Grid, were much easier to play than Metro Exodus. In the racing titles, controller response felt much closer to instantaneous whereas, with Metro Exodus, the controller lag was much more noticeable.  It didn’t make the game unplayable on the PC but it does degrade the experience.

On iOS, the experience is quite a bit different. First, you navigate to the Luna website, then you have to hit “share” and install the page as an app on your iOS device. From there, you launch the ‘app’ and can play games.

For the setup, I used an Xbox controller via Bluetooth and the experience was noticeably worse than the PC. This is likely caused by the connection being wireless instead of wired on my PC but even compared to xCloud (or Cloud Gaming as Microsoft calls it) or Stadia – both on Android – the latency was more than I experienced with those competing platforms. Admittedly, some of this could be resolved with Luna’s controller that connects directly to your router instead of the device but I don’t have one in my possession. I suspect many will try Luna without the controller as it’s only a few bucks to get started whereas the controller will set you back $50.00.

But playing Metro on the phone was to the point that I could not recommend it under any circumstance. If you watch the video above, you will see the latency issues along with frames being dropped while playing. Racing games were more enjoyable and the tennis game I played was quite good when compared to the other titles.

Luna is still in its early phases but the fact that Amazon is going to start charging me in 7 days for the service, as of right now, it’s not worth paying for the service. Luna doesn’t have many games that I find appealing and of the titles that are available, they don’t play well enough that I would consider ditching my PC or Xbox or even wanting to casually play them on the couch.

I still believe that Microsoft has the right formula for xCloud – it’s a feature of a bigger service but it is not ‘the’ service you are subscribing to. That being said, competition in the streaming space is a good thing and I hope Amazon can overcome a few of these hiccups to make Luna a premium service that rivals local gameplay but for now, it’s a pass on Luna for me.

 

 

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