It’s with a relatively sombre mood I have opted to cancel my Shadow tech account. Early indications were that the Shadow streaming cloud-based gaming service was exactly what I needed. Alas, it was not to be. My PC Specialist gaming rig, a week old today, arrived and I haven’t looked back.
The problem with shadow
I subscribed to the service live during a podcast, having had access to a demo system. Within minutes my new shadow gaming cloud PC was ready to use. That night I logged in, updated my the PC drivers, and set games to my steam library to download.
The very next day I had a problem. I encountered huge latency issues! These issues were encountered while running Windows desktop and no games, it was like running a PowerPoint presentation. I jumped to my gaming laptop and encountered the same issue.
A quick email to Shadow support and some troubleshooting, disabling secondary graphics cards etc. didn’t resolve the problems. This, bearing in mind, from a service designed to run on various platforms, I didn’t think it the fix would work. But who am I to judge.
The following day I was asked to provide details of upload and download speeds as well as ping response times etc. Using SpeedTest, I got a respectable 90mbps download speed and roughly 10mbps upload speeds, as well as ping response of around 10m/s to London. But we will come back to this later.
Shadow supplied their own speed testing application, which is understandable, and my reported download speeds dropped a little, as did upload speeds. However, where there was a notable difference was in the ping response. Shadow’s application reported response of around 32 to 35 m/s, across a number of runs. With spikes of up to 50 m/s across the course of each test.
Unperturbed by my new disappointing results I continued on and the sent details to shadow support. In a relatively short space of time, I was advised latency was indeed the issue. I queried why the Shadow speed test supplied such marked differences, hinting at the lack of a UK data centre, but was advised latency was the issue.
So, I put the issue down to potential network throttling by my ISP. I had spent the day before the test watching Amazon Prime and Twitch TV. So, to get a true reflection it was time to abstain from Amazon and Twitch for a day then retry. Unfortunately, success was not forthcoming, and latency remained at Windows and gaming level making the service completely unusable. I had decided to give up. Truth be told I forgot to cancel my account until just recently. Only remembering to do so after speaking to an acquaintance who brought up the issues they had encountered, along with news of the review by the UK’s Gadget Show TV series. It had given Shadow one of the worst reviews ever seen on the show.
Time to Shut it Down
By Mid-September the new PC Specialist rig I ordered had arrived. I had given Shadow another chance attempting to play No Man’s Sky and Fallout 4 but experienced the horrendous PowerPoint style framerates and immediately cancelled.
What did we learn?
Speaking to some friends in the gaming industry it became clear there are a number of issues that could be solved by Shadow to improve the service, making it the premier cloud-gaming service. A service I would sign up for once again.
Below are some things that Shadow may want to consider:
Growth is great but focus on getting things right with your current customer base.
Build on your current data centre locations. Someone in the North of England, Scotland, or even a congested broadband area of London, will potentially face issues with latency making the service unusable. Localised data centres, I am sure, would help alleviate these issues and keep customers happy.
Be more open about the potential issues people will face, the recommended broadband speeds are much lower than what I have access to, but the service was completely unusable for me.
It may seem like I have an axe to grind, I am sure that people are using Shadow quite happily, so let’s say that the service has great potential. But, it needs to become more focused on ensuring existing customers are retained and are happy. I understand entirely that scaling the service costs money and, as a result, there is a need for the customer base to grow, but if the service isn’t any good then you won’t retain them.
So, in short, I really hope Shadow succeeds, but I can’t pay a monthly subscription for a sub-par service. It was disappointing that I had to cancel, but I will be keeping my eye on how Shadow develops.