Cloud gaming services have been in the news now for a few years, the launch of Google Stadia and the offerings from Microsoft and successes of Epic Games that preceded that announcement.
Still, is cloud gaming the future or is merely an excursion into a side-territory that is optional at best and ignore-worthy at worst? We aim to find out in this article, both for the sake of knowing where the industry is headed and what this means for us.
The Rise of Cloud Gaming
The discussion on cloud gaming is an interesting one. While many are still anticipating the rise, some claim to be watching it happen, while others say they’ve already seen it crash and burn before (such as the very first time such a thing was launched by G-Cluster all the way back in 2000 at E3) or the underwhelming breakeven mediocracy of the PlayStation Now from SONY, although we might not share that exaggerated view.
Let’s take a step back and ask ourselves why the need for cloud gaming ever arose. You already know how gaming works: of the many consoles that different people prefer based on different needs, you take one or multiple devices for videogames such as a PC or an Xbox, which run your game as one of many different possible software. The input-process-output cycle.
As such, the game exists as something physical in your possession on your device, taking up space. Even the best gaming PCs are ultimately limited in that department, as everything is, and then there’s also questions of hardware compatibility.
Cloud gaming aims to revolutionize the thing by making your games streamable over the Internet, just like Netflix or YouTube. Instead of your device shouldering the processing load all by itself, the game is run on another powerful server, with your console or device acting much like a terminal would – no graphics rendering, no input, no processing.
Potentially, this means no limits.
Practically, however, the story goes a little bit off the rails.
The Complexities Of Cloud Gaming
Here is a stark reminder of something that you’re already probably reminded of all the time, especially in a 2020, at-home situation: the Internet is not as reliable as we would want, and that is perhaps a limiting factor we’re most aware of at any given time.
The dream as described above might even suddenly collapse once you realize that now it’s not your computer that is handling the processing itself, but that the input has to be relayed over the Internet, processed elsewhere, and sent back to you as a video feed.
We’ve already seen how the 2020 lockdown affected video feeds for Netflix and YouTube which cut corners on quality on its streams in Europe and India, with outright outages in many places over the globe.
However, these are only the problems associated with cloud gaming – not some end-all death knell without any solution or saving grace in sight. In fact, a cloud gaming service could even potentially have a global gameplay network without any lag (or so minimal to not be detected), but it would require server farms with extremely high-speed Internet connections on both ends.
Is this something we see getting better? Let us look at where we currently stand and what the future currently holds in store for cloud gaming.
Is Cloud Gaming The Future?
While lockdown-related measures have undoubtedly made a mess of the best-laid plans and shown vulnerabilities in systems all over the world, the situation is not all doom and gloom, especially not on the technological level. Or at least, not for cloud gaming.
In fact, in a report on cloud gaming published by Deloitte in March 2020, cloud gaming is very significantly poised to take advantage of the 23% of the gaming population that has already gone multiplatform, navigating between mobile, PC and different consoles. The report even claims, on the basis of Deloitte’s research and analysis, that “cloud gaming could unleash years of uncertainty, disruption, IP consolidation, and transformation across the media landscape”.
Users would potentially jump at these opportunities for many reasons. Even the best custom PC builders would find their limitations lifted, the latest technology being exploited near-immediately and being accessible to larger portions of the population in spades, and even on the company end, the costs would be offset by being spread over a larger number of customers and gamers.
This would tie in with the rise of 5G, as well as the rise of mobility and increased concerns over large gatherings and the need for much more reliable avenues that you can take with you on the go. It also makes everything much faster in the gaming world (given the average lifespans of gaming consoles with are anywhere from around 3 to 6 years on average), meaning innovation would be sped up as upgrades are near-instantaneous and a single user – in fact, the masses at large – can make use of such powerful technology together.