Amazon’s Luna game streaming service is powered by Windows and Nvidia GPUs

Amazon’s new Luna cloud gaming platform is powered by Windows servers and Nvidia GPUs. Luna supports more than 100 games thanks to this Windows support, allowing developers to quickly move their existing Windows games over to an AWS instance and provide cloud streaming access to subscribers. This backend Windows support also allows publishers like Ubisoft to host their own digital services (Uplay) on Amazon’s Luna platform.

Amazon has confirmed to The Verge that Luna will run on a standard version of Amazon’s EC2 G4 server instance running Windows, complete with Nvidia’s T4 GPUs and Intel’s Cascade Lake CPUs. Nvidia’s T4 is based on the company’s Turing architecture that also powers the previous generation RTX 2080 and RTX 2080 Ti graphics cards. A single T4 GPU (Amazon might be using multiple) provides 8.1 teraflops of performance and support for Microsoft’s DirectX raytracing technology.

What this all means is that it should provide smooth gaming performance at the 1080p resolution Luna currently supports. 4K, which Amazon says is coming soon, might be more of a challenge for Luna on this hardware, especially without dialing down graphical settings in some demanding games.

Amazon’s Luna controller.
Image: Amazon

Amazon’s main cloud streaming rivals, Microsoft and Google, are using entirely different hardware and operating systems for their own cloud gaming services. Google opted for a custom x86 processor and a custom AMD GPU capable of 10.7 teraflops of GPU performance, all powered by Linux. Microsoft is currently using Xbox One S hardware in its server blades, offering just 1.4 teraflops of GPU performance and all running on the Windows-powered custom Xbox OS. Microsoft has confirmed it will move xCloud servers over to Xbox Series X hardware in 2021. Sony also uses custom PlayStation hardware for its own PlayStation Now service.

Amazon’s use of Windows software and Nvidia hardware, and its embrace of rival stores and services, gives it a big advantage over Google’s rival Stadia service. Stadia has struggled to attract enough content and subscribers to make its model appealing, and Google’s promises of YouTube integration have failed to materialize. That’s meant there’s only around 90 games on Stadia at the moment, compared to more than 150 on Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass, more than 100 on Luna, and more than 800 on Nvidia’s GeForce Now service.

Windows will make it a lot easier for developers to simply move their existing games to Amazon’s Luna service, with full Nvidia driver support. That should be a lot less work than moving games to Stadia and its Linux servers. That’s probably part of the reason why Amazon already has more than 100 games ready for its Luna service, which has launched in an early access phase.

While Amazon clearly has an interesting cloud platform offering here, with content and Twitch integration to back it up, the company will have to try and convince consumers that a pure game streaming service is worth the money. That’s something Stadia has wrestled with vs. established game console makers like Microsoft and Sony who are able to leverage their popular console base and offer game streaming as an add-on.

Comments

Given 50c/h for their most basic G4 instance, you need to play half an hour per day to benefit using Luna instead of renting their server (ignoring the tiny detail that you also get Windows and games with Luna).

MS probably won’t put their games on Luna which seems to be the most relevant competitor in cloud battle, but I wonder what Sony’s move will be here – they might support Luna to give it better position against xCloud.

Sony isn’t going with Luna. They’ve got PS Now and that’s running on Microsoft’s Azure cloud infrastructure

A 100% Sony will eventually team up with one of the cloud giants. Sony needs a cloud partner, Google and Amazon need a gaming partner.

Sony have already partnered with Microsoft, It pays for Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo to keep any new, large players out the game. Also Amazon has a track record of screwing over retail partners to make an extra buck.

https://www.theverge.com/2019/5/20/18632374/microsoft-sony-cloud-gaming-partnership-amazon-google

I actually have thought about this and this would allow Sony and whomever they team up with to rapidly catch up to MS. The problem for Sony is they would lose their platform and have to give up a cut of profits to whomever they team up with.

Whomever holds the cloud platform would have all the power when it gets big. The cloud is just another console pretty much in that it is a way to play and distribute games.

MS would respond by buying more Studios. Whomever Sony teams up with would do the same and Sony would essentially slowly lose control and become a publisher.

Smarter for Sony would be to make their own service, even if it takes much longer, and partner with a publisher to get day one releases but even then they don’t have the pockets MS does.

MS will take losses for years on GamePass if needed and Sony doesn’t have the pockets to do the same. They won’t compete with MS on subscription gaming which would be a race to the bottom if they do and encourage a spending spree by both companies.

Sony I think will get into the cloud but in a different model than subscription gaming. Sony will most likely try to differentiate themselves as they always have by making some of the best games and charging full price for them. Essentially you can play your PS games in the cloud for a small fee but need to own them.

Sony have to step up their game with PS Now if they want to compete in the cloud. It’s not enough to just have a good library of games, their tech also needs to offer a good experience. I’ve used it for a month of so, but have no desire to return to it.

I still wonder about them making a handheld that is designed to also stream games. Splitting between ARM and x86 game development stretched them too thin in the past, but with more developers on mobile, they could capture the same third parties that will be developing for Apple and Nintendo. I just hope they go with Android this time instead of making their own OS.

Well definitely better than Stadia then, at least for developers…

Oops never mind.

Stadia has struggled to attract enough content and subscribers to make its model appealing

Just a reminder that Stadia is totally free for 1080p. Just buy the games without forking out for the hardware. Hopefully Luna will have a similar free tier.

Also, this isn’t really an either/or situation. Because we don’t have to buy any new hardware to use these services, it means it’s going to be easy to switch back and forth between Stadia and Luna. We can get the games we want from both platforms and the competition between them will mean having both Luna AND Stadia is a win-win for the player.

(I’m not counting GeForce Now because it is awkward to use in comparison and you know it)

Right, buy games on a platform that is almost guaranteed to end up in the Google graveyard.

Google just bought a bunch of game studios. I think it is safe. Almost everything in the "Google graveyard" has either just been renamed, merged into another product or replaced with another product in the same space. Google rarely just completely abandons a product category altogether. Worst case scenario, they rename Stadia as YouTube Game Streaming and we all go on playing.

Google struggles because you still have to buy good games. This including actual good games is huge.

I respectfully disagree. There are some great games as part of the Stadia Pro subscription. Right now for example: Hitman, Metro Games, SuperHot, OMD3, Strange Brigade, PUBG etc. I also really liked Little Nightmares and some of the SteamWorld games though I agree they are very indie. Elder Scrolls Online was part of Pro earlier as well that I’ve picked up – it’s awesome to be able to jump into ESO anywhere/anytime.

I still like in the Stadia subscription model that when you claim a game it never rotates out of your library. With the gamepass model it is likely games rotate out before I can get a chance to play them or come back to them from time to time to achievement hunt.

Have you used gamepass? Games stay on the the service for a while usually a year and even then there is a warning when games are being rotated out. It really isn’t much of a problem

I like the idea of cloud gaming, but if I’m home I’d rather just play on my PC and if I’m on the go I’d rather just play my Switch. There isn’t a time where I would get use out of cloud gaming. ‍♂️

Much better offering than Stadia overall. I still think Xcloud combined will Gamepass will rule them all as soon as they bring their client to PCs and potentially TVs. I expect MS will have a partnership with Samsung on this.

MS did an amazing job locking Sony into Azure. They would have went to Google otherwise which could make Stadia relevant.

Yes, I think Microsoft will expand to many more devices next year when they start to use Xbox Series X server blades, as the Lag will decrease dramatically (Today they have external HDMI capture cards connected to and slight overclocked Xbox One s) and they will be able to increase resolution (Today the max is 720p).
The new server blades will also decrease costs (For streaming older games), as they can run 4 Xbox one s games instances at the same time in one chip.

No, the 10.7 tflops of the AMD Stadia GPU and the 8.1 tflops cited for the Nvidia GPU are not at all comparable figures as the chip architectures are different (like comparing Intel and AMD CPUs from a single metric). If the architectures were the same, then yes, that would be valid, otherwise no.

It is just GCN (current xCloud) that is notably worse. Stadia has RDNA1-ish GPU iirc.
RDNA 1 is about 5% behind Turing in fps/tflop, so if you simply grab 10.7 vs 8.1 you get pretty decent estimate of actual performance delta – Stadia should be about 25% faster (assuming comparable bandwidth increase etc).
That said, it would be the performance delta if both systems ran Windows. But nobody cares about Linux and lack of optimization loses some performance. This heavily depends on game and amount of optimization beyond simple "it runs" port.

RDNA 2 could end up more efficient in fps/tflop, we shall see when it gets tested. Ampere seems to have regressed but we still need to see data of midrange cards that have direct Turing equivalent.

If you want to compare current desktop processors from AMD and Intel, simply taking clock speed is a decent estimate of single threaded performance and calculating clock*cores is a viable estimate of MT performance in apps that scale well. (a coincidence. It doesn’t work with Zen1+, doesn’t work in mobile against Ice lake and beyond, and it won’t work with Zen3 either)

Has MS said anything about expanding xCloud to also include your digital game library or will it always be restricted to GP library. I assume GP library is just for the beta period and more games outside of GP will be available for xCloud.

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