I have been a big supporter of cloud gaming since the days of OnLive. The ability to play games instantly without needing dedicated hardware, save for a game controller is hugely appealing.
Yes, there is a latency issue to overcome and you need a decent internet connection, but having hundreds of games available to stream without a console or gaming PC anywhere in sight is a dream many of us have had for years.
We've had casualties along the way – the aforementioned OnLive and Google's Stadia being two of the biggest – and, strictly speaking, cloud games still work best on a console or PC, but we're getting there. And, I believe that Antstream is leading the way.
It has recently launched its Antstream Arcade service for Xbox consoles, having already been available on computers and Android devices, and I'm hooked. In many ways, it is better than Microsoft's own Xbox Cloud Gaming for me. And that's not just because I'm a retro games nut.
Antstream Arcade is a portal to more than 1,400 titles from the early days of gaming – the 70s, 80s and 90s. It features emulated games originally released for the ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64, Amiga, SNES, Sega Mega Drive/Genesis, and many more home computers and consoles of yore.
That in itself appeals to me greatly, considering my career has seen me edit plenty of gaming magazines and produce/appear on TV shows about the subject – Your Commodore (YC), Your Amiga, plus Channel 4's GamesMaster and Sky's Games World being the most notable. For me, Antstream Arcade presents fond memories of taking screenshots with a camera while sitting underneath a bin bag to block out the light, or of commentating on a TV challenge where a celebrity woefully fails to win a joystick sprayed with gold paint.
But, it's also so much more than that – while being a retrospective look back at the past, it shows a bright future for cloud gaming in general, one where games load instantly and controller lag is a thing of the past.
The main reason why Antstream's service has rapidly risen to the top of my favourites is that it is superfast and super-responsive.
Let's face it, games of the 80s in particular were almost universally tough, with pixel-perfect jumps and movements needed to progress. Add latency to the mix and you'd be stuffed. Admittedly, frame rates back then were nothing to shout about, but timing was still key.
Anstream Arcade manages to present all of its games with nigh-on instant response times, making them even more of a joy to play today. You'd be hard pushed to find similar interaction on any other cloud gaming platform right now.
Of course, retro games aren't exactly data intensive and don't really need to be streamed at 4K 60fps on the best televisions around, so that helps. But just try the service for yourself and you'll see what I mean.
On top of that, many of the games on the service are enhanced through player challenges and tournaments. Some even have added extras, with the potential for new levels and the like. And every game has an auto save plus three manual save slots for you to pick up where you left off. In short, every effort has been made to make it as user friendly as possible, and that's what will inevitably attract a wider audience.
Whether they'll want to play a 40-year-old fighting game where the sticks are the main characters rather than their weapons, we'll have to see. But for me, cloud gaming has finally got a platform I can really get behind.
Antstream Arcade is available on Xbox Series X/S and Xbox One now, priced at £29.99 for a year's access, £79.99 for lifetime membership.