Genki Shadowcast Review
According to the creators of the Genki ShadowCast, it’s the simplest way to play console games on your computer. Whether you’re a content creator or just someone who likes to share moments from games, there’s plenty of ways to do this with the Switch. While you can do this for most games without any device using the inbuilt Switch capture button, you sometimes need a little more.
You can dish out for a professional capture device, but these aren’t cheap and might be overkill for many people. So how about something a little more, for a whole lot less.
Enter the Genki Shadowcast, a smaller capture device that doesn’t require power, multiple cables and has some straightforward software (with a twist) that you can use to get video from your Switch onto your computer or laptop. Before I go any further, Genki painfully makes a point not to refer to this as a capture device, just something you can use your play your Switch (or any HDMI device) on your computer – that just so happens to record. Something to keep in mind.
The Genki Shadowcast is a bit different to other capture devices in that it plugs into the HDMI port of the Switch dock (or any HDMI device). From there, it’s a USB-C to USB-C cable to your laptop or computer. Some other captures devices have multiple cables or have the ability to pass through the signal to your TV/monitor so you can record and play – without a lag on your computer. The Shadowcast attempts to do away with all of this by claiming to have a minimal lag (0-0.02s) and simple software that’s easy enough for anyone. If you want to take the feed from the Shadowcast to other programs like OBS or Xsplit, you can as well. Because of how the Shadowcast presents itself to the computer as a webcam, you can also feed the video and audio into chat programs like Discord, Teams, Zoom etc.
The Genki Arcade software is pretty simple; it’s a web wrapper, after all. This means it can work on many platforms and can be an extension in Chrome or Edge (the newer Chromium version). The small Genki Arcade app picks up the signal, and it’s relatively barebones – but easy enough to play, record or stream your console.
Now being a cheaper device, you can’t go into this thinking it’s an alternative for an Elgato HD60S+ (my usual device) or similar. It’s $50USD ($65AUD, give or take depending your region), and for that, you get no pass-through of signal to an external monitor, simple software and compressed visual quality and limited framerate options. The Genki Arcade has two modes, “Prefer Performance” or “Prefer Quality”. Performance while playing was acceptable, but I found that the vision would slow down and skip if anything else was taxing the CPU on my older (2019) laptop. But, on my other computer, with a jerry-rig solution in OBS it would be fine. It even recorded at 60fps just fine.
The quality mode never hits the same quality as other capture devices, unless you’re a pixel hunter you might not even notice the difference. Still, if you capture screenshots directly, you’ll see the compressed on either quality or performance mode. More options are hidden away, but it’s hidden behind the Konami code and really – you don’t need it.
Because the Genki pretends to be a webcam, compatibility is broad from what you can plug it into and plug into it. It’s not just game consoles; you could plug in your DSLR and use that as a more advanced webcam for example.
If you don’t have a Mac, you can skip this next paragraph. Although the Genki Kickstarter specifically mentions it, I couldn’t get the Genki software to work at all on my M1 Mac. I had to resort to using the Chrome extension to get it to show up (with mixed performance). On my Intel Macbook Pro, it worked fine. After scouring Genki’s Kickstarter page and own Facebook group, I’ve seen others with the same problem. So far, my support emails have not been replied to, so if you buy it and it doesn’t work for you – support isn’t great.
Genki has made great accessories for Switch owners in the past, all via the magic of Kickstarter. Unfortunately, the charm for this one wasn’t entirely there. While the idea is excellent, a simple capture device that anyone can use, the lag varies from computer to computer, using different software and depends on what else you’re doing on your computer at the same time.
The Genki Shadowcast is cheap enough to take a punt on it. If it works for you instantly, you’ll be more than happy with it. Have any problems, and you’re on your own. Genki don’t call this a capture device anywhere, so if you’re expecting an Elgato for the price, lower your expectations.
This Genki Shadowcast was backed via Kickstarter by the author and purchased with their own funds.
+ Cheaper than a dedicated capture device
+ When it just works, it's great
+ Can be used to pipe games into chat programs
- Took multiple programs and computers to find setup that worked
- No support for 1080p 60fps
- Crashed on "supported device"