No other technology will revolutionize the gaming industry in the next few years like cloud gaming. The established players are already positioning themselves and new companies are entering the market. The potential is huge: the platform operators want to reach two billion people. But they still have to solve some problems.
Playing a game without a computer? That’s totally impossible without having the right hardware with you. Not everyone has a fully equipped gaming room with the newest and fastest hardware. People that are skill and game savvy, as well as those who work a lot on the go, are made for this new technology, cloud gaming.
New way of playing
This technology promises that you can play computer games over the Internet if your connection is stable, anywhere, anytime, on any device. Like video streaming, cloud games only transfer the video image of the game, and the actual computer performance comes from the cloud.
It’s most likely a development of a multi-billion dollar business like the music and film industry has already achieved through providers like Spotify and Apple Music, Netflix and Amazon Prime. Users no longer have to think about how they consume something. For computer games, this means almost unlimited power and a permanently available library of games. Smartphones and tablets no longer run graphically manageable games like “Candy Crush” and “Pokémon Go”, but big productions like “Call of Duty” or “Red Dead Redemption”. Is that going to be the end of gaming consoles?
As simple as it sounds, it was only for a small audience interesting in the past. Cloud gaming has been around for years, especially console giant Sony has invested heavily and bought pioneers like Onlive and Gaikai and bundled them into the PlayStation Now offering. However, gamers are now immersed in the cloud gaming world, providing a vain gaming experience and looking for uncomplicated games. Lower resolution, fewer frames per second and worse sound than on a console are still some issues affecting cloud games. But it will change soon with a bigger impact than many of us can imagine.
This is because of the two major companies in the United States, Microsoft and Google who launched their own cloud gaming service last year. They have been working on the platform for years, so they are confident that they’re going to expand the market on a large scale. With their new product they’re trying to make cloud gaming available for a bigger audience than before and bring it to the next level. For example, PlayStation Now is currently used by approximately 700,000 people worldwide, which is less than 1% of approximately 100 million PlayStation 4 owners. On the other hand, Microsoft targets 2 billion potential users. Behind this number, which sounds like pure marketing at first, there is a paradigm shift that can turn the market over. In fact, there are already 2 billion gamers all over the world, but the vast majority are playing casual games that don’t need a lot of hardware (such as simple browser or mobile phone titles). The targeted audience becomes much bigger if they have access to more demanding games that no longer rely on expensive hardware. If you don’t have to pay 400 dollar for a console every 5-6 years, 50-60 dollar for each game and no monthly fee for extra services but instead just 10 dollar per month for a subscription service you’re more willing to play the newest video games.
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Ready for the future?
So the question now is whether this technology is ready for the future or not. Cloud gaming is no longer in its infancy, but there is still a long way to go before services are fully socially acceptable. The biggest hurdles are ensuring stable and high quality flows at 50 Mbit / s and below in many countries. In the future, premium image and sound features should also be considered in the capabilities of computer applications. Alternatively, of course, it would be even better if most households had a good internet connection. Available platforms also need to be expanded. Apps for Stadia and PlayStation Now should be available on all mobile operating systems and Stadia in particular should be integrated into Chromebook as soon as possible. GeForce Now would be a good support for Linux and iOS.
It is also important for providers to remove the fear of users that their games will suddenly disappear. The sudden leaps in GeForce Now have severely damaged the image of the services and squandered trust.
Aside from the fact that Shadow is still in the pre-order phase, the unfinished Stadia released is still under construction. Once Google releases the free version in 2020, the market should gradually return. Then we’ll see if the competition from the tech giant will delay some services or if there will even be some that fill those positions.