Thursday, September 23

Gaming Services to Check Out in 2021

We’re spoiled for choice with gaming services in 2021. It can be hard to know where to go to get our gaming fix, or arrive at a clear idea as to what differentiates the various platforms on the market. Here, we take a quick run down of some of the major players in the space, and look at what unique features they have on offer for gamers in 2021.

Steam

It’s almost impossible to imagine PC gaming without the presence of Steam. The two have become somewhat symbiotic at this point, ever since the platform’s launch back in 2003. Now, over 75% of all PC games are purchased through the Steam web-store. That store is home to over 34,000 games from major studios and indie developers alike.

What makes Steam unique is that it is simultaneously a community hub, review aggregator, web-store and cloud game launcher. This makes it the true one-stop-shop for all things PC gaming. The client can also be accessed on MacOS and Linux systems.

PokerStars Casino

Established platform PokerStars Casino hosts a variety of classic titles like online blackjack, roulette and slots games. It’s home to a bustling community of players you can interact with in their host of rooms, all with live dealers for that extra bit of immersion. It can be accessed to play both through a conventional web-browser, and in the form of an app available on both iOS and Android systems.

Apple Arcade

Apple has never been the first company that springs to mind when you think of gaming. Historically, the Cupertino company has even actively distanced itself from the medium as part of its attempt to project a mature and refined brand aesthetic. Of course, in 2021, gaming occupies a much more mainstream position than it did, in say, 1998.

Apple Arcade is seen as Apple’s first honest attempt to provide its loyal users with an in-house gaming platform. For a small subscription fee, you get access to 180 cherry-picked premium gaming apps from the app store to enjoy on your Mac, iPad, or Apple TV. While this is early days for the platform, we have seen what Apple can do when it focuses its considerable resources on investing in content, as demonstrated by the success of Apple TV+. We can expect to see big things emerge from Apple Arcade in the coming years. 

Plex Arcade

Streaming service Plex is causing excitement in the retro gaming space thanks to its fresh collaboration with legendary hardware and game developers Atari. Their recently launched Plex Arcade service brings many classic Atari titles to your Plex enabled device for a small subscription free of $2.99 a month.

Plex Arcade is compatible with any Bluetooth enabled controller, letting you plug and play wherever you are. As a final flourish, Plex Arcade also doubles up as a robust emulator, which means you can side-load the service with your own custom ROMs and play whatever classic game you wish for free.

Xbox Game Pass Ultimate

Ostensibly the successor to Xbox Live, the Xbox platform’s online gaming service and web-store, Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, aims to accomplish far more than its predecessor. It achieves this by leaning into the new, disruptive and exciting technology of cloud gaming.

Cloud gaming is a means of accessing and enjoying Triple A games without needing powerful local hardware, such as an Xbox Series X, or a gaming PC, to do so. This is because cloud gaming services stream game content to your device of choice from some server-side hardware. What this means in practice is zero loading times, and the ability to play Cyberpunk 2077 on a smartphone, or web browser. Sign me up.

Facebook Instant Games

No website or service on the internet has the same clout in terms of user-numbers as Facebook. At the time of writing, Facebook is home to nearly 3 billion individual users, or nearly 40% of the world’s population. This makes it a unique platform for social gaming.

Facebook has several gaming services tucked away in its labyrinthine design, with the most accessible and readily enjoyable being its Instant Games service. This is a library of HTML5 games and apps that can be accessed from right within Facebook messenger, letting you challenge a friend to Words with Friends or 8 Ball Pool at a moment’s notice. The in-depth social integration of Facebook means that you can also access global, as well as local, leader-boards, and post your victories to your news-feed for all to see. For simple social gaming, no other service comes close in 2021.

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