The last few years have seen a major resurgence in cloud gaming or gaming as a service. If the term sounds familiar, it’s because cloud gaming has been around for a while now. However, there were multiple issues with latency, network strength, and cloud computing that prevented wide-scale adoption. So, how did it gather so much momentum? Statista expects the global cloud gaming market to reach $6.3 billion by 2024, a massive leap from its revenue of$1.48 billion in 2021. Before we get into the nitty-gritty, let’s go over what exactly cloud gaming is and how it works.
What Is Cloud Gaming?
Cloud gaming is a cloud service where the game itself is hosted in an industrial-grade server inside a secure data center. The end user can then stream the game over the internet through any connected terminal, irrespective of that device’s individual capabilities. Traditionally, gamers need to download a gaming title on their PC or console which in itself has to be capable of running the game itself.
However, unlike streaming services like Netflix, cloud gaming must be able to process the end user’s input and render the related results in real-time. While streaming services don’t necessarily need to respond instantly to user input, latency in cloud gaming can make the experience undesirable, especially for games that require a high reaction rate.
Cloud gaming eliminates a major obstacle to the mainstream adoption of video games – the need to buy and maintain expensive hardware. The ability to stream and interact with any video game on any supported device can potentially change how video games are made, marketed, and consumed says igitems.
How Does Cloud Gaming Work?
Cloud gaming leverages hyper-scale cloud computing in gaming to bypass the need to own and maintain dedicated gaming hardware. It moves the actual execution of the game to an off-premises data center. For an annual or monthly subscription fee, you can then stream the game to any supported device via content delivery networks (CDN).
Cloud gaming platforms can leverage global cloud networks to deliver streamlined gaming experiences to users all over the world. While it’s true you can stream video games on any device, your internet connection must have the bandwidth and stability necessary to deliver a smooth experience on larger resolutions.
Cloud gaming is a two-way street, and its success depends on both the cloud service’s infrastructure and the end user’s connectivity. The system must be able to transmit the user’s input to the game engine and respond with the updated view with enough agility to not cause any input lag, which would negatively impact the quality of experience. While this is already challenging enough for AAA titles, it’s almost impossible to consistently achieve for massive multiplayer games and esports that require fast response and precise input.
Biggest Cloud Gaming Services
Nvidia Geforce Now
With Geforce Now, you get access to the largest library of titles available for on-demand gaming. You have to manually purchase the video games on digital marketplaces and sync them with the cloud service. There are three tiers of subscription you can choose from, where the most expensive tier gives you access to ray tracing and DLSS as part of the streaming experience.
Xbox Game Pass Ultimate
The Game Pass Ultimate gives access to cloud gaming, as well as an extensive library of video game titles. However, its framerate is limited to 1080p at 60 fps irrespective of the device you are streaming the service on.
PlayStation Plus Premium
With PlayStation Plus Premium, you get access to most of Sony’s video game library. However, unlike Xbox and Geforce Now, it doesn’t support Android, iOS, or MacOS. On the bright side, you’ll be able to play their much coveted exclusive titles on your Windows PC, as long as you install their cloud gaming app.
If you have Amazon Prime, you already have access to Luna. For users still on the fence about cloud gaming, Luna is probably the easiest gaming platform to try. While it supports a wide range of devices, including Fire TV sticks, the game library is extremely limited, and you’ll have to subscribe to different channels to play the games you want. This can inadvertently drive up costs, which combined with the limited frame rate, can make it unfeasible.
Shadow goes one step further than traditional cloud gaming services by providing access to an entire PC ecosystem. If you want to do more than just game, this is the perfect cloud service. It supports most platforms, including Android, MacOS, iOS, and Linux,
Advantages and Disadvantages
Cloud gaming has been gathering momentum for a while now. However, there are still a few kinks that need to be worked out.
Advantages of Cloud Gaming
1. Remote access: Cloud gaming promises to deliver gamers from their worst nightmare; being disconnected from their gaming hardware. As long as the user has access to a strong internet connection, cloud gaming will deliver a consistent gaming experience across any device and from anywhere on the planet, effectively untethering gamers from their devices.
2. No hardware limitations: Bypassing the need to invest in expensive gaming PCs or high-end consoles lowers the participation bar for low to no-income consumers. This will make it easier to convert spectators to engaged players, allowing the video game industry to grow.
3. Personalized recommendations: Cloud migration has made it possible for cloud gaming platforms to access the latest in predictive analytics and machine learning. With the help of hyper-scale cloud providers, they can study player behavior in real-time to enhance discovery algorithms and recommendation engines.
Disadvantages of Cloud Gaming
1. Latency: The very nature of video games has ensured latency will be a thorn in the side of cloud gaming since its very inception. While video streaming services can buffer to make up for lag, video games are much more interactive and require real-time feedback. This causes de-synchronization between player action and response if latency crosses the acceptable threshold.
2. Long wait times: Most cloud gaming services have long wait times for the free subscription tiers. However, as cloud gaming continues to scale and the infrastructure evolves, it’s reasonable to expect shorter wait times going forward.
3. Incompatibility: Your favorite cloud gaming platform might not always have your favorite game available. Many video game developers have not made their IP available to cloud gaming services yet.
Trends: The Future of Cloud Gaming
While Google’s announcement of closing down their Stadia gaming service came as a surprise to many, it’s confirmation that cloud gaming is not going to supplant PC or console gaming any time soon. However, that doesn’t mean the future of cloud gaming is bleak by any means.
1. Global partnerships to improve cloud gaming services
Telecoms, internet service providers, and CDNs are actively working with cloud service providers to adequately prepare their infrastructure for a potential influx of gamers onto their platform. With the advent of 5G, it’s no longer a stretch to imagine cloud gaming will soon be able to deliver a gaming experience that can compete with existing PC or console-based solutions. For example, Nvidia is working with multiple organizations, including Taiwan Mobile, SoftBank, and LG Uplus.
2. Cloud gaming as a parallel to PC and console gaming
While cloud gaming is not going to supersede PC and console gaming soon, there’s no reason they can’t exist side by side. With cloud synchronization, gamers can use both systems alternatively and transfer their data between different devices.
3. Exclusivity in cloud gaming
In general, people are averse to change. Other than latency, people’s unwillingness to change is another obstacle cloud gaming must overcome eventually. To combat this, cloud gaming services are bringing in cloud gaming exclusive titles to entice gamers to try the experience firsthand. A good example would be Google Stadia whose range of exclusive games include Gylt, Outcasters, and Pac-Man Mega Tunnel Battle.
Cloud gaming has the potential to become a major disruptive force in the gaming industry. If it can achieve even a fraction of its promised potential, it can revolutionize how video game developers create and develop their content and how gamers consume it. With cloud computing, 5G, and machine learning set to create an interconnected future, we can soon expect cloud gaming to deliver a gaming experience on par with existing solutions.