My Journey

Cloud Gaming – Is it the future?

“When you talk about Nintendo and Sony, we have a ton of respect for them, but we see Amazon and Google as the main competitors going forward”

The above is a statement from Microsoft’s Phil Spencer in an interview with Protocol which you can find here

I can see why he feels this way as the industry seems to be headed in a cloud computing direction, providing games as a service.  The investment and expertise in Cloud Computing by companies like Microsoft, Google and Amazon have put them in a strong position for developing powerful platforms to deliver games as a service. Sony and Nintendo do not have the same level of development in the cloud so they appear to be at a disadvantage in this area, Spencer also says as much in the same interview.

Gaming in the cloud however, seems to be in the extremely distant future. Services like OnLive have come and gone as failures, plagued by technical issues. Google’s Stadia platform seems to be no exception, although you can make the argument that the service is still new and needs time to iron out the issues. The problems with Stadia go way beyond just technical issues.

Nintendo and Sony may not have expertise in cloud computing or developed cloud frameworks but they deeply understand their audience, an understanding which has developed over the decades of experience in operating in the Games industry. Nintendo games and consoles are also unique compared to Sony or Microsoft otherwise they would of faded long ago. I would not count them out in the future.

With the next generation of Games consoles on the horizon and digital games outselling physical games for the first time, the demand for streaming games will be bigger than ever. The PlayStation 4 and Xbox One consoles are great consoles but the user experienced is always dampened with the largescale updates to games that are sometimes required 2-3 times a week. These updates can reach up to the hundreds of gigabytes and for players who are looking to jump on  game for an hour or so, it just doesn’t happen if an update is required for online play.

This is where cloud gaming can shine; no loading discs, no hardware that is in danger of not being powerful enough for certain games, play on your smartphone, tablet or TV and no regular, large updates delaying your playtime. Cloud gaming seems to be the logical future but as much benefit it brings, there are also the same amount of issues. Internet speeds are still lagging in a lot of countries, here in the UK you will only find gigabit speeds in the biggest cities and rural areas are barley getting fiber broadband. Cloud gaming in the current world will simply not be available to everyone and the experience will be incredibly fragmented from home to home and connection to connection. There’s also the issue of the pricing structure, do we still pay for individual games? Do we pay just to stream? Would a Netflix like service be better?  Also the games themselves, with Sony and Microsoft both having their exclusives, ill we ever see The Last of Us or Halo on a streaming platform?

You simply cannot find consistency in any service whether its Googles Stadia or Nvidias Geforce Now and Tech companies are trying to alleviate this inconsistency with a combination of machine learning, server redirects, latency compensation and more but these are difficult to test in the real world.  Its a catch 22 scenario, the world internet in general is not fast enough for a consistent game streaming experience so we stick with our home consoles. But then the large updates we have to do regularly take along time to complete due to slow internet speeds so we are still waiting to actually get into the games we want to play.

The logical move is to look at the internets infrastructure around the globe and improve this first. Once the speeds and service has been significantly approved for the majority across the world, then we will be in a position to greet new cloud streaming platforms with open arms and launches like The Google Stadia’s will be a thing of the past. Until then, we have the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X coming out at the latter end of this year and a pro version of the Nintendo Switch rumoured to be in the works – we may still have to wait for load times and updates, but we still have hell of a lot in store!

Written by Usman Yasin, contribution by Sikander Yasin

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