Video games are a huge influence when it comes to cultural trends and insights. Harbouring the potential to redefine sex education among teenagers, such games have essentially reshaped our lives over the pandemic by providing us with much-needed comforts of escapism. As consumers increasingly demand cloud-based services, it is inevitable for the gaming industry to follow suit—ultimately paving the way for the next generation of gamers with the concept of ‘cloud gaming’.
Imagine logging into your Netflix account just to play games—that is cloud gaming for you! While traditional games run ‘on-premises’ by inserting a game cartridge or disc into a console or by downloading software onto individual systems, cloud gaming allows games to be stored directly on remote servers. The visual interface is then streamed directly onto the user’s device, similar to how content-streaming platforms like Netflix works.
“While media-streaming platforms move the physical hard drive and downloaded data to the cloud, cloud games essentially move the entire console to the clouds,” explained TechStory. All you need to play games on the cloud is a piece of hardware that supports cloud gaming with a strong internet connection. Such platforms have the capability of offering a wide range of games such as video, web and mobile games.
The on-demand gaming service was first demonstrated by G-cluster in 2000 and has been a coveted sensation ever since with a significant amount of the gaming population already having moved from disc-based games to digitally downloaded ones. A recent report further found a majority of gaming platforms with streaming infrastructure—such as Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud Platform—having at least one of their games available on the cloud.
With a market poised to generate $1.4 billion in revenue this year, cloud gaming has immense opportunities for growth. The innovation expands the flexibility of the media-streaming industry and disrupts gaming to foster an attractive market for both consumers and game developers.
For consumers, cloud gaming offers an on-demand gaming experience without the burden of downloading and installing software on their personal devices. Accessible at any time and location, the innovation eliminates the traditional limitations of hardware requirements—thereby making cloud-based games a smoother pick-up-and-play experience. It also closes the gap between billions of gamers using low-spec devices and millions of players with high-spec ones.
In terms of the industry, cloud gaming has the potential of offering a stronger level of cybersecurity than downloaded games, given the fact that they store information on remote servers and virtual storage spaces. The innovation significantly reduces bandwidth costs for companies and enables developers to make games which pull in significant numbers of microtransactions across the gaming population.
Cloud gaming’s untapped opportunities, however, come with a number of challenges and infrastructure issues that prevent developers from fully embracing it. The availability of high-speed broadband and internet access is critical if cloud gaming is to provide the premium mobile experience needed to convince consumers. “Gaming service providers must make significant investment in both data centers and server farms across various locations in order to seamlessly host and stream software to what could be a global player base,” advised Lexology. Such investments are far more than costs associated with the traditional gaming model itself.
Another concern is regarding access to personal user data. Traditional gaming can be used almost anonymously without any concern on how a user’s data may be recorded and repurposed. In terms of cloud gaming, however, companies will have much greater access to data, accessible on the tip of their fingers. “The success of cloud gaming is using this data responsibly and in compliance with data protection legislation which may be more of a challenge for small developers and publishers,” Lexology concluded.
As for the users, the fact that the service is entirely dependent on their internet connection makes up one of the major drawbacks. These services can be unreliable as a drop in connection would interrupt the stream, hampering an enjoyable gaming experience. Nobody wants to watch a lagging, 144p Black Mirror episode now, do they?
The global market for cloud gaming is expected to grow by $4.50 billion between 2021 and 2025. Despite the challenges faced by the industry, cloud gaming is now seeing more major players on the scene than ever before.
In 2019, Google released its in-house cloud gaming service, Stadia, while Microsoft released Xbox Cloud Gaming in 2020 as part of its wider Xbox games service, powered by Microsoft Azure. Amazon has also released its own cloud gaming platform recently called Luna, powered by Amazon Web Services. Even Facebook has jumped on the bandwagon—producing its own cloud gaming platform focusing on mobile games.
As we increasingly brace for a cloud-first generation, consumers would undoubtedly seek out primary sources of entertainment on such virtual platforms. “Subscription-based gaming services will soon become a commonplace as Netflix, as consumers negate the need to download or buy a game,” reported TechStory. Although the cloud gaming industry is still in its infancy, it is hailed as the future of gaming—set to redefine the creation, distribution and consumption of games for an era seeking out new experiences. And it so seems that Google Stadia has already gotten a headstart into this future.