Cloud Gaming Explained: Could It Be the Next Big Change?

Stadia

Cloud gaming has been there for a decade, but now it has the potential to change the gaming course forever. With services like Google Stadia and GeForce Now already available, it’s just a matter of time before it’s a common practice in the Industry. For decades the video game industry has been about individual copies of games purchased for compatible systems. Some major game tech companies – Microsoft(xcloud), Google(stadia), Nvidia(Geforce now) – are increasingly focused on Cloud gaming, which could spell the end of individual game sales and video consoles themselves. You might remember how consoles completely took over arcades which were popular in the ’80s. With even next-gen gaming consoles lined-up to offer game streaming support, this is certainly where the industry is headed – considering present COVID-19 situations, it’s even more convenient and safe to stream game online than get a hard copy.

Google Stadia Launch
Google Stadia launch

What is cloud gaming?

Cloud Gaming Concept Diagram
Cloud Gaming Concept Diagram

Cloud gaming refers to using cloud servers, rather than local devices to run games. You don’t need disks to run games on your console; you can stream them online just like you stream a movie on Netflix. For, Google Stadia, you can run high-end games on limited hardware; Basically, you can play games on any screen as long as you have a supported controller and high-speed internet. When you log into the Google Stadia service and pick a game to play, a super-powerful server at one of the company’s data centres starts running it. This process does add some input lag, but with the right home network conditions, it’s virtually indistinguishable from a local gaming machine. Other cloud gaming services work very similarly.

Playstation Now obviously bases its tech on PlayStation 4 architecture, and Microsoft’s xCloud uses Xbox hardware in the cloud. Other options like GeForce Now uses PC hardware, and support gamepads as well as mouse-and-keyboard configurations. To understand why cloud gaming has a much better chance now, rather than a few years ago, you have to look at the direction the industry is heading and the ways media consumption has changed in the digital era.

Nvidia Geforce Now
Nvidia Geforce Now

The rise of games as a service

Most industries are shifting to a service model. For entertainment, the same pattern emerged as advances in bandwidth and technology allowed. First, it was the music (Spotify), then it was movies/TV (Netflix), and now it’s games. The advantages for companies (and users) of service models are just too great to ignore. The Game Subscription model is certainly where the industry is headed.

For games, microtransactions (in-game purchases) are frequently adopted because they give developers a way to further monetize their work without increasing the initial cost. With a large user base, there is a much bigger opportunity to make money over the lifetime of a game, rather than just at release. Games that work under ‘GAAS’ model are often called ‘live games’ since they get updated frequently so as to be appealing to the subscribers. Some of the example of the GAAS model:

  • Game Subscriptions – Many MMOs(Massively Multiplayer online) use monthly subscription models(World of Warcraft)
  • Game Subscription Services – Subscription services like EA Access and Xbox Game Pass grant subscribers complete access to a large library of games offered digitally with no limitations. User needs to download these games to their local computer or console to play. However, users must remain subscribed to play these games.
  • Micro-Transactions – Microtransactions represent low-cost purchases that provide some form of additional content to the purchaser (League of Legends).
  • Season Passes – Games with season passes provide one or more large content updates over the course of about a year or a “season” in these terms. Players also get exclusive content when purchasing season pass (Fortnite Battle Royale, DOTA 2)

Like GAAS – Games as a service- cloud gaming is also a subscription-based service, it has a lot to offer to developers and service providers.

Advantages for Gamers

Gamer

Since leading game studios and developers are onboard with Cloud gaming, gaming content is something you don’t need to worry about – With Destiny 2, Fortnite, PUBG, Assasins Creed, Doom, Final Fantasy, Elder Scrolls Online and many more. There are several advantages for gamers, as well. In addition to not needing to buy any hardware, you don’t need to take it around with you to use it. As long as you have a good internet connection, you can play your games whenever and wherever you want. With 5G’s incredible speeds and low latency just around the corner, this may even apply when not on a Wi-Fi network — assuming you have an incredible data plan.

The other obvious advantage is that you will never need to upgrade your system. New consoles are released every few years, and the high-end PC gaming market changes even more frequently. As soon as a cloud gaming company upgrades its servers, you get more power too. Upgrading isn’t really your problem when using Cloud gaming service. By spreading the cost of upgrading hardware to thousands of gamers, the cost of gaming will also be reduced significantly.

Disadvantages

There are definitely some drawbacks to the cloud game streaming. The two biggest ones are “how does this work for people without amazing internet infrastructure” and “how similar or good the cloud gaming experience be when compared to other platforms?”

You’ll need a solid internet connection for cloud gaming, and we’re not just talking download speeds. The big problem is latency, or how long it takes for the remote server to respond to your commands. If you’re playing single-player games then you might not notice this as much, but multiplayer games are more likely to fall victim to any lag between you and the datacenter streaming your game. Other than this, Cloud gaming could use a lot of data — more than streaming your average Netflix show since you’re streaming at 60 frames per second instead of the 24 or 30 frames per second. The Cloud gaming experience will vary depending upon your internet connection and device you are streaming on. 

Google Stadia recommended bandwith for low-latency gaming
Google Stadia recommended bandwith for low-latency gaming

Reasons to become the next big change

Have you wondered about the recent spike of the mobile gaming industry or How is Fortnite the most popular game?

Answer to both the questions is accessibility. It’s higher than ever now. Fortnite is present in consoles, PC, and mobile but that’s not the reason it leads. It offers almost similar gameplay in all the platforms, even allowing users to play cross-platform – a mobile Fortnite player can play with a PC or a PS4 one. With Google Stadia, and other cloud gaming services we can take this to another level. Cloud gaming gives developers the opportunity to provide a console or PC-level experience to this new and growing audience of gamers without a gaming device; developers can provide real AAA experience rather than watered-down mobile franchise (GTA, NFS, and others). Looking at digital game sales as a whole, it makes up more than 90 percent of the entire gaming market. This means that the jump from Steam to the cloud could be pretty seamless — if you’re someone who has already given up on physical media. If Google and other Industry giants could figure out a way to solve some of the shortcomings of Cloud Gaming, I think it definitely will be the next big change.

Microsoft Xcloud
Microsoft Xcloud

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