Rapid advancements in technology have touched almost every aspect of everyday life. Easy access to the internet, alongside the ability to sync files from one device to another, has had an immense impact on the way that we work, go to school, and communicate with loved ones. In particular, the cloud has made working from home a possibility for many and has influenced the way that we live our everyday lives.
Despite the cloud’s impact, online gaming has remained relatively untouched by this technology. However, this looks set to change as major players in the industry prepare to release cloud gaming services. Let’s look at the future of gaming and learn a bit more about what the cloud means for our favourite games.
What is cloud gaming?
Two decades ago, easy access to movies and music would have been a foreign concept, and the idea that you could use either without fully downloading them was unimaginable. Even with the internet growing in leaps and bounds, the concept of streaming a movie via Netflix seemed impossible. Today, the ability to watch different TV shows and stream music from our favourite artists is commonplace.
The gaming industry is currently undergoing similar changes. Providers are becoming increasingly intrigued with the idea of players streaming games rather than downloading them to their computers, much like the Netflix concept. Players can stream games from cloud streaming services directly to a browser or an app, which results in a gaming experience that no longer depends on having the latest graphics card but rather one that relies upon a stable internet connection.
Pros and cons of cloud gaming
As it doesn’t require a specific console or graphics card, cloud gaming opens the market to people who cannot afford to pay for expensive hardware. Ideally, it will even work on older computers and mobile phones, as long as they are internet-enabled, allowing people to play the latest titles without forking out a small fortune. This would potentially make the process of playing new titles as easy as playing your favourite online casino game.
The benefits to cloud gaming (i.e. the only requirement being a stable internet connection) are also its downside. While this works for individuals with access to a reliable connection, it is significantly less helpful to those without one. Cloud gaming would be more of a hindrance if that were the case, restricting players’ ability to enjoy their preferred games.
Luckily, the solution seems relatively intuitive. Players who cannot connect to the internet while playing can continue to install and play the game in the traditional sense, whereas those with better connections can enjoy the benefits of the cloud.
Recent cloud gaming developments
The future of gaming is arriving fast, with the cloud gaming industry expected to surpass 23 million customers by the end of the year, bringing in more than CA$1.2bn. From there, it seems poised to increase exponentially, hitting CA$6.2bn by the end of 2023, which will undoubtedly lead to further advancement in technology designed to optimize the cloud gaming experience, driving even more customers to try it out.
The idea of easily streaming advanced titles to older PCs might seem out of reach, despite the growing revenue, but industry leaders are quickly moving in that direction. Facebook recently announced that its cloud gaming service now reaches 98% of the mainland US. Microsoft did the same with its cloud offerings, expanding its reach to new devices. Of course, Amazon weighed in on the subject and provided its Prime members with a free trial of its services.
With some of the biggest names in gaming distribution getting behind the idea of cloud gaming, it seems inevitable that games will soon be playable independently from the technical power provided by graphics cards or speedy consoles. However, the path to this idealized future might not be easy, with some early-stage glitches turning players away from the idea entirely.
Cloud gaming challenges
In November 2019, Google launched Stadia. This cloud gaming service was available for $10 a month and aimed to give subscribers seamless access to a library of 22 games on their televisions, Google Chrome browsers, or phones. Although the concept seemed great, the service was less than successful, with players citing the platform’s distinctly poor performance as reason enough to avoid the cloud gaming service, especially when paired with such a small library of games. Even though Stadia’s library eventually housed over 180 titles, its top games developer left the company in February.
The same difficulties are plaguing Amazon’s new cloud gaming service, Luna. Launched in December 2020 to a select group of invitees, the service runs smoothly but also suffers from a distinctly small library. The tech giant has struggled to develop enticing games to rival those from prominent organizations, with many suggesting that the company lacks the creative mastery needed to create exciting games.
On the other hand, console makers have been somewhat more successful with developments in cloud gaming. Microsoft offers a $15 per month subscription to xCloud, a service that grants users access to over 200 games on various devices. Sony is also finding success with PlayStation Now, a cloud service that gives users the ability to stream games to their computers and PlayStation consoles. Even here, however, the experience has not been a seamless one.
The future of gaming?
Despite the struggles currently facing cloud gaming, many market experts call it the ‘next big thing’ and argue that it’s normal to experience difficulties in an emerging industry. Even Nvidia, creator of some of the most powerful graphics cards on the market, is offering users a $10 per month cloud gaming subscription service called GeForce Now.
The path might not be a perfect one, but the advent of cloud gaming seems inevitable.