There’s a growing demand for on-demand entertainment. We’ve already seen the likes of NowTV and Netflix bringing films and TV shows to households in the form of subscription plans in which the consumer streams the content from the company’s servers. But it’s also becoming a popular system for video games.
Games on-demand, or as they’re sometimes known as, Cloud Gaming are video games that are stored over on a server controlled by the company. The consumer installs the client software and can access the video games from their end without needing to worry about updates and patches as they’ll be updated on the company’s side.
There are a number of these services such as, OnLive which was a service that provided games on-demand, but shut down in 2015. PlayStation Now is another that allows instant playing based on subscriptions. Xbox Game Pass allows players to gain access to the latest titles by downloading the game from the Cloud and storing it for Online and Offline use. And there’s there’s Utomik, which is the service I’m focusing my attention on today.
I first heard about Utomik back in 2016 when I was at another website and was given a pass to try it out. It’s 2018, and Thumb Culture offered me a pass, as well as Utomik getting in touch to talk to me about it and offer another pass. So It was a huge shock to see just how many titles they’ve managed to accumulate since my time in 2016.
Now, Utomik aren’t a game streaming service because they don’t run directly from the cloud. Instead what they do is get the consumer to install the client, then from a large library of over seven-hundred titles the player can choose any game and begin playing almost instantly. Before playing, the client downloads a small part of the chosen game, then while the game is running the rest of the game is downloaded in the background.
Utomik are also working on bringing more Day One games to the client, allowing players to play a new game at launch, with Newt One being the latest title announced for a launch onto Utomik
The reason it does this is to eliminate lag. While other services that run directly from their cloud offer players instant play, they’ll still be dependant on the connection because you’re essentially playing on the company computers through your screen. This can cause lag whilst the player is playing.
Due to the game being partially downloaded onto the clients computer, Utomik allows players to be devoid of any lag, meaning a more streamlined experience. There are some cases where some higher end titles require a longer startup time, these are usually the AAA titles that Utomik have managed to get onto their service, such as Batman: Arkham Asylum, and Dead Island to name a few.
Now that the technological explanation is out of the way, let’s talk about the actual service.
Utomik offers players fourteen days to try the service out for free, after that it’ll be a monthly bill of £4.49 a month for a personal plan for just yourself, or if you want to have up to four users you can nab a family plan for £8.49 with parental controls included. This is also only available on PC.
The company has done fairly well with building their library since the last time I got some time with the service back in 2016. Players can gain access to seven-hundred and thirty PC titles ranging from AAA, retro, and indie titles alike. And the partners list is also impressive, with Warner Brothers, Ubisoft, Disney, THQ Nordic, Telltale Games, and more being in their list.
The speed that the games boot up is impressive, with a visual circle that shows the download progress before the game boots up. This is usually a minute or less, depending on the size of the actual game. In-game there certainly appears to be no lag, although I did experience lag during some time with Human Fall Flat. It turned out to be the game actually struggling performance wise rather than the downloading going on in the background. Odd though, my PC can handle PUBG on medium settings but Human: Fall Flat jittered…
Of course the actual client is filled with titles. The Home section is nice to look at with titles you may enjoy, or the highlighted titles. When hovering over them they’ll open up to reveal the rating, and description snippet.
Channels is an odd name for what is essentially a, “Genres” section. This area has both a collection of genres you can filter the entire Utomik library too, but it also contains Publisher Channels so you can look through certain publisher titles. Just naming a whole area “Channels” feels a bit weird to me, and naming it something other, such as, “Browse” or, “Utombary” might even work!
My Utomik is an area where any game you’ve played and begun downloading will sit, allowing you easy access to find your recently played titles. If you’re concerned about file sizes as well, this area has a “Manage Game” section that allows you to uninstall the title and shows a progress bar of how much of the game has been downloaded.
Forums is a weird one to have in the client I think and is better suited to staying on the website. However those who don’t mind it can find themselves engaging in public discussions about any issues, or freely chatting about whatever they fancy.
the client downloads a small part of the chosen game, then while the game is running the rest of the game is downloaded in the background.
There’s also a section that basically does all the admin stuff, such as news notifications, account plan status, profile stats, Achievements unlocked, and more. Basically the entire client has everything you need, but I feel like it’s too generic to look at. I’m not sure how to word this, but something doesn’t sit right.
The browsing experience seems rather dull rather than filling you with excitement that there’s over seven-hundred titles at your fingertips. Maybe more design work would help, or perhaps some fancy headers? More rollover animations? I don’t know!
While I enjoy Utomik, and I love seeing some old games I remember losing myself in, in the past, I have a feeling that the current state of their library isn’t going to help drive consumers there yet. What I mean is that for me, despite the growing popularity in cloud gaming, I’m seeing the younger generation more drawn towards the appeal of playing the latest AAA titles, rather than sharing the older generations adoration of the past. It feels like Utomik is going to be dependant on the quality of the titles.
However saying that, it’s obvious that Utomik are working hard to get great titles to the client from both big Publishers and small Publishers, but they do seem to be getting the AAA titles that don’t sell much anymore, and as a result seem to be getting the scraps (although good scraps!) while, for example, Ubisoft focus on pushing their own client for their bigger titles to draw in revenue.
I spoke with the team to talk about features they thought worked, or didn’t work, and what could be added, and we all pretty much agreed that a wishlist feature would be welcomed, allowing the user to mark a title for future installation for easy navigation when they next jump on.
Utomik are also working on bringing more Day One games to the client, allowing players to play a new game at launch, with Newt One being the latest title announced for a launch onto Utomik and Steam. They have also struck a deal with Curve Digital and this has seen, Human: Fall Flat, Serial Cleaner, and more titles arriving.
So yes, I do think that Utomik is worthwhile as a service, but with all this in mind, I’m left wondering about the future of the company. While it appears that the ambition is to bring the largest library of indie, retro, and AAA titles to their service, it doesn’t seem like they’ll be at the frontlines when it comes to getting hold of the latest AAA releases on the client due to the growing popularity of cloud gaming services and publishers all baking their slice of cloud gaming pie.
But expect to see more Indie Developers pushing their titles to clients like Utomik, because this could really open up the indie market.
A Subscription Plan was given by Utomik to get experience on this client.