Games: the final frontier
Plex, well known as a service for streaming movies, music, and TV shows from your own computer, is now adding another thing you can stream: video games (via Protocol). Plex announced the new service, called Plex Arcade, on its blog and also launched a website for it. The service will cost $3 a month if you’re a Plex Pass subscriber, and $5 a month if you’re not.
Instead of focusing on modern console or phone games like its competitors, Plex lets you play Atari games. It’s taking the arcade name seriously, as you can play arcade classics from Atari, like Centipede, Super Breakout, and Missile Command, as well as games from the Atari 2600 and 7800. Overall, there are 27 games available on the service.
Unlike other game subscription services where you can simply sign up from your console and start playing, Plex Arcade has a few requirements. First is a Plex media server running on a Windows or macOS computer. There isn’t Linux support because Plex is using Parsec to stream the gameplay.
This means that you’ll have to sign up for a Parsec account, if you don’t already have one, and log in to it on Plex. There is a bit more freedom when it comes to what you can stream the games to, as Android devices and TVs are supported, as well as Google Chrome and Apple’s iOS and tvOS. Plex says you can play with “just about any Bluetooth-enabled controller.”
The service also supports you adding your own emulators and ROMs, which is nice, but it’s overall a bit of a tough sell. Even at the Plex Pass price of $3 a month, you’re paying a lot for games that, at this point, can basically run on a microwave. To be fair, it does let you run them on something like an iPhone or Apple TV, but the games are readily available on Android and PC.
If you’re interested in playing them for nostalgic purposes, it could be worth a try, but you may want to set aside some time for it — getting it set up was an exercise in frustration for me, and I wasn’t ever actually able to successfully play a game. (The iOS and tvOS clients got stuck at a loading spinner, and keyboard controls didn’t seem to do anything when trying to play on Chrome.)
If you want to try it out for yourself, there’s a free seven-day trial, though you will have to put in a credit card or link your PayPal. Plex says this is mostly a skunk works-type project, saying in the blog post that “[i]f there’s interest and we see some subs, it’ll grow into the glorious pheasant we know it can be. But if you guys drop the ball, it’ll die on the vine like a stomped ass goomba.” Harsh.