Gameplay and Streaming
Antstream is a streaming service, which means you can never be offline to play these games. This is where modern technology collides with ancient technology. I would consider my internet decent enough for online play and none of these games gave me too much trouble. There were a few spots where games had considerable frame drop and I could not tell if it was from the internet or because the original software was bugging out. Not every game on this library is going to run at a blazing fps and sometimes a game will slowdown noticeably. It’s a rare occurrence, but be ready.
The service is compatible with Xbox style gamepads and every game has a gamepad option. Even DOS. I used my SN60 8-Bitdo wired controller with no problem. I wanted to play the service portably so I downloaded the app from the Android store. The game has on-screen touch controls for on-the-go use, but every gamer knows that playing retro on a touchpad does not work nearly as well. I tried to link my Nintendo Switch Joy-cons to my phone, but Antstream does not like controllers that do not use the Xbox architecture. Simple rule of thumb: if the controller works on Steam and Xbox then they will work on this.
The Steamdeck is not a viable option for this yet. Don’t bother using the deck’s internet browser because the controls don’t work. I reached out to the developers on their Discord and they explained that Steam needs to verify that every game on this subscription is licensed legally (all 1500 of them) before they can add it to the store. You can download this on the Epic store for $40 and you get a year of the subscription.
One thing that is missing is control customization. The controls are set in stone for the keyboard and gamepad so hopefully it works for you. Controller customization is on the horizon.
Another feature that I hope they consider is making preview videos and screenshots of their games. Right now, users only get one screenshot and game box art. It would help save us some time if we knew what we were getting into.
Antstream is very grateful and inclusive of their users. They invite users to suggest games the future. Twitch streamers are encouraged to partner with them. The developers and troubleshooting team seem swamped right now. They have a questions section in their Discord where they want you to share your complaints, but the team isn’t always available to answer you. Some users on the platform have complained that there is no way to cancel the subscription on Xbox and the developer team took some time to get back to them. I tried to reach out to get an interview, but they have yet to respond.
Where does Antstream’s service fit in the competitive world of game streaming services. It is definitely a niche service, being the spiritual successor to older services like GameTap and Utomik. Nintendo has the leg up on the competition by having rights to Mario, Sonic, Donkey Kong, Kirby, and Capcom games with their NSO service. The absence of these characters might be a hard pass for anyone considering Antstream. The PS Plus Premium service on PS4 and PS5 has the best PS1 and PS2 offerings, but that will cost you at least $18 a year and portable gaming is not an option. Antstream is easier on the wallet being only $40 a year (though I expect that it will go up as it gets more features). In terms of retro gaming, other services like Utomik or Luna Retro do not have as vast of a library. Finally, there’s straight up downloading roms and emulators on your computer as the ultimate free option. You could go that route which is considered unethical and have to worry about maintaining the emulators, but I think Antstream has a more convenient service.
- You will not find a service anywhere else that offers this many Lynx, Amiga, Commodore 64, Amstrad, DOS, MSX, SNES, Arcade and Megadrive games in one package
- PS1 games show potential
- Challenges breathe new life into the community
- Antstream wants your input to grow
- Glitches, compatibility issues, and account foibles need to be ironed out
- Frame drop in more crazy games
- No Steam support yet
- Not much for Japanese RPG fans
There’s a lot to like about Antstream and I definitely want you to give it a try for only $5 a month. I want this company to thrive and not go the way of the Stadia. Here’s hoping the company continues to grow and brings over more licenses (especially 32-bit games). Antstream has some growing pains to iron out and they need to be more attentive to their Discord group, but they have the passion and love for legal game emulation and it shows in their product.