Blade Shadow: Q and A with Community Manager Luc Hancock about the ‘ gaming PC in a cloud’ subscription service
At Gamesforum London earlier this year, I had the chance to play Star Wars Battlefront on the exhibition floor.
On the face of it, that might not sound that interesting. After all, the game has been out for nearly two years and the sequel was on the market. But the reason why I was fascinated to play it is that it was running of a cloud PC on a smartphone connected to a compatible controller plug in.
That, in short, is the pitch for Blade Shadow. The idea is that the subscription service will replace physical PCs with cloud alternatives, ensuring that they’re always up to date and ready for the newest game to hit the market.
Since the start of the year, the service has been rolling out in the UK, France and across America. But how has it gone? And what does the future hold for the Shadow?
I caught up with their community manager for the UK, Luc Hancock, to find out.
Gamesforum: Before we dive into anything else, what is Shadow?
Luc Hancock: Shadow is a high end gaming PC that you can access from any device. Your smartphone, your tablet, your underpowered laptop and your crummy Macbook Pro…that becomes an ultra powerful PC that you can run any games on.
It also lets you run any other demanding software like video editing software, Photoshop or Blender.
Gamesforum: Why do you believe it is important for a service like yours to exist?
Luc Hancock: There’s a lot of reasons why this service is pretty crucial at this time. One is mobility and playing games on the go.
Right now gamers are restricted to their rigs in terms of gaming. What we do is really break the walls and allows you to play any of the most demanding PC games wherever you want over PC or wi-fi. You can play it on your smartphone when you’re on the bus, when you’re walking into school and the freedom is there.
Besides that, we also offload all the components onto a service. So there’s no upkeep. You never have to worry about upgrading your PC. We upgrade our servers on a regular basis, so there is no more obsolescence and basically no more spending money. You’re always paying for a PC that always gets fixed.
Gamesforum: There have been cloud PC services before, like Onlive from about ten years ago. Why is this service viable now but wasn’t ten years ago?
Luc Hancock: Well I think technology has evolved. And what we’ve done is that we’ve really started form zero meaning that we’ve developed the software and hardware in house for our product so it’s all done by us with custom technology.
We’re not using some default server like Google Cloud or AWS, it’s all in house and built by us. So every little detail, we have protected the streamer and that has reduced the overall latency of the product.
Other than that, we’re offering more than a gaming platform. We’re offering a full Windows 10 PC and we’re thinking a lot larger than just the gaming industry. This is going to reach a lot of businesses, designers and video editors who want to edit on the go rather than being at home.
Gamesforum: The service has been in beta for a while. How has that gone and how has it performed?
Luc Hancock: We soft launched in January and we were really able to get a temperature check on how it runs. So we were able to check whether it actually worked, whether there was low enough latency for actual gaming.
And yeah, so far it’s gone great. In total we’ve eclipsed 20,000 end users in a span of four to five months and that’s going well for us.
Gamesforum: One of the really important reasons why people have signed up is portability. I’ve spoken to manufacturers of PCs and they’ve told me about the importance of the ‘mobile device’ category, whether that’s smartphones or optimised laptops. Why has mobility become so important?
Luc Hancock: Well, if you look at the shifts in the devices we use it has now gone predominantly mobile.
People are going to be using devices on the go now, rather than sitting at home in front of a PC where they’re locked in and can’t move much.
Mobile is the future in general and a lot of industries will follow that trend and we’re in the first steps towards that. When you look at devices too, they’re becoming more powerful, they’re evolving.
And another big point is cloud computing. We believe that’s the future of overall computing in general with components loaded off devices rendering devices more powerful.
Gamesforum: Shadow’s got a subscription model, which is a different offering for people going out to replace gear. Why did you take this approach and how have you overcome the challenging of changing the way people buy their PCS?
Luc Hancock: If you look at general consumption, if you look at Uber or Netflix, there is a pretty visible trend away from products being owned. We’re aiming to be that for PC.
In terms of how we’ve dealt with this, yes there are PC lovers who build their PCs and love their hardware. Those are just people who want to do that. But we think the overall market will see hardware moving into the cloud and this is the first step in that direction.
Gamesofurm: Companies like Nintendo are heading in the mobile direction with the Switch for console gaming, while Steam has recently announced a mobile compatible app for its Steam Link service. What are your plans for staying ahead of the competition?
Luc Hancock: Well, it’s really just evolving our technology and reducing the latency so that they’re able to work wherever they like.
We started with the gaming community because there’s proof of concept there because they’re very demanding and vocal about their needs. But if we can prove to people that Shadow is good enough for gamers, then any other needs is fine for Shadow.
Our roadmap for the next 2-5 years is focusing on the core gaming community, but eventually we’re going to be targeting the big B2Bs.
Imagine if you’re a big company with 500 employees and you have to replace PC or computers every two or three years in terms of natural technology evolution.
But with Shadow, you’ll never have to sell your computers or try to get new ones because Shadow will evolve naturally. That’s really where we’re heading.
You can find out more about Blade Shadow here.Back to Blog