For the major tech companies, the next evolution in video games isn't
through new consoles, but rather through the cloud. Microsoft is using
its Xbox library and platform as a foundation to turn Xbox Game Pass
into a formidable streaming service, currently named "Cloud gaming
(Beta) with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate." Meanwhile, newcomers to video
games like Amazon and Google are entering the space, with Amazon
launching their Luna game streaming service.
With the race for a top Netflix-like game streaming service in its early stages, here is what you need to know to compare Amazon Luna and Xbox Game Pass.
- Subscription to Luna+ game channel is required to access games.
- Powered by AWS cloud technology.
- Integration with Twitch broadcasting.
- Cloud streaming is included with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate.
- Powered by Microsoft's Project xCloud technology.
What both Luna and Game Pass have in common is the fact that users do not have to purchase games separately. While subscribers do not "own" the games they play through these services, they will have free access to these catalogs as long as their subscriptions are active. Where Luna and Game Pass diverge are the breadth and depth of their game libraries and on which devices these users can play them on.
Games Library: Each Service Has Their Own Niche
- Luna+ channel subscription includes free access to 100+ games.
- Third-party game channels available through additional subscriptions.
- Includes first-party Xbox titles (i.e. Halo and Forza Motorsport).
- Game library includes free access of "most" of the 200+ titles in Xbox Game Pass.
- Rotating selection of third-party titles from other publishers.
The Xbox team boasts over 200 titles on Xbox Game Pass, and "most" of these games are available to stream. Xbox Game Pass Ultimate will also begin to incorporate games from the EA Play service as part of a deal, giving Xbox owners the ability to stream EA's selection of sports, racing, and action titles.
Amazon does not have the two decades of game publishing experience as Microsoft, but the tech giant has still struck deals with prominent game publishers and indie game developers to build their own library. Popular blockbuster games such as Control, Resident Evil 7, and Metro Exodus are amongst the offerings of the Luna+ game channel. Indie games including Overcooked 2 and Furi also diversify the library.
Unlike Xbox Game Pass, Luna offers additional game channels from other publishers. The first of these channels is from Ubisoft, who will include AAA games such as Watch Dogs Legion and Assassin's Creed Valhalla in their game channel. However, these separate channels require their own subscription plans.
Device Support: With Workarounds Luna Supports More Devices
- Windows 10 (with support for DirectX 11).
- macOS 10.13 or higher.
- Fire TV Stick (2nd gen), Fire TV Stick 4K, or Fire TV Cube (2nd gen).
- Chrome desktop web browser, version 83 or higher.
- Safari mobile web browser on iOS14 or higher.
- Android device with version 6.0 or higher.
When Microsoft ran the Project xCloud beta as a prelude to game streaming on Xbox Game Pass, the service supported both Android and iOS devices. When cloud gaming for Game Pass launched, Android phones remained the only platform that supported the service. Due to Apple App Store guidelines, Xbox Game Pass streaming is unavailable on iOS devices. Microsoft has stated that cloud streaming for Xbox Game Pass will eventually come to Xbox consoles and PC.
Amazon Luna will work around the App Store guidelines by offering its streaming services through a web app; hence, Luna will be playable on iPhone and iPad. However, Luna will not support Android on launch. Luna will also be available to use a native Luna app on PC, Mac, and Amazon's own Fire TV devices. PC and Mac users can play on their Google Chrome browser.
Internet Requirements: Both Have Good Speeds, Luna Can Be a Data Hog
- Supports 2.4 GHz connection.
- 5 GHz connection recommended.
- 10 Mbps connection speed required.
- 35 Mbps connection speed required to play in 4K.
- "Up to" 10GB data usage per hour at 1080p.
- 2.4 GHz networks may receive interference.
- 5 GHz Wi-Fi or mobile data connection.
- 10 Mbps connection speed required.
- Over 2GB data usage per hour.
Both Luna and Game pass require a 10 Mbps down connection speed. Amazon notes, however, that 4K gameplay will require a connection speed that is at least 35 Mbps. You'll need a fast internet connection to experience high resolutions.
Amazon lists that Luna's data usage goes "up to" 10GB per hour when playing games in 1080p, though there isn't any official information on data usage for 4K games as of yet.
Controller Input: Even Controller Support Is Different
- Luna controller.
- Xbox One controller.
- PlayStation DualShock 4.
- Mouse and keyboard.
- Xbox wireless controller.
- MOGA XP5-X Plus Bluetooth Controller.
- Razer Kishi.
- 8BitDo SN30 Pro.
Microsoft also touts specific third-party controllers that are designed specifically for Xbox Game Pass streaming. The MOGA XP5-X Plus Bluetooth Controller resembles a traditional Xbox controller, but it includes a clip for your Android phone and a power bank. Razer Kishi attaches controllers to the side of your phone, making your device resemble a Nintendo Switch. And the SBitDo SN30 Pro is a "retro-style" controller that also includes a mobile device clip.
Meanwhile, Amazon has designed their own Luna controller, with many of the same buttons and design features as an Xbox or Nintendo Switch Pro controller. Rather than connecting via Bluetooth, the Luna controller connects directly to Amazon's game servers via Wi-fi. The controller also has an Alexa button for voice assistant features. Players can use the controller between any supported devices without interruption.
Otherwise, Luna users can also utilize an Xbox One controller, a PlayStation DualShock 4 controller, or a mouse and keyboard. Luna controller owners can use their controller through Bluetooth or USB connection for other devices, but it will be incompatible with other game consoles.
Graphical Performance: Luna Offers Better Quality
- Games stream at 1080p.
- 4K support for "select titles" coming soon.
- 720p at 60Hz.
When Microsoft's Project xCloud was in beta, the service only supported a resolution of 720p at 60Hz. Games may have appeared blurrier than they would on television, but this provided some smooth frame rates.
On the other hand, Amazon claims that Luna can support 1080p resolutions and 60 frames-per-second from the get-go. The team behind Luna also mentions that "select titles" will have 4K support, but this will not be possible for launch.
Final Verdict: The Newcomer vs. The Establishment
When looking at technical specs on paper, Amazon Luna might look more technically impressive compared to Xbox Game Pass. And while Amazon is not necessarily a brand associated with video games, the company is more of a mainstream household name. At the same time, Microsoft has nearly two decades of experience in the video game business through the Xbox brand. As such, Xbox already has a massive built-in audience and a large foundation to work off of.
Microsoft envisions Xbox as an ecosystem across consoles, PC, and mobile devices—regardless of which device you use, Microsoft wants to give you access to the same library. And the Xbox Game Pass library is a force to be reckoned with, growing by the week and having high value for a relatively modest price. More casual players of games who aren't invested in the Xbox or even PlayStation and Nintendo consoles might have to consider Amazon Luna as their start into home gaming. However, those who already own consoles and subscribe to Xbox Game Pass are more likely to try Microsoft's game streaming feature rather than subscribing to a new service like Amazon Luna.