Written by Richard Edwards
3 min read
Demystifying Cloud Gaming
Cloud gaming holds multiple meanings depending on who you talk to. Shrouded in ambiguity and carrying a certain mystique, it often looks like a new method of distribution; the premise of on-demand gaming being a simple and powerful message. Packaged and branded as the Netflix of Gaming, the opportunity to stream the latest releases to any device – no matter its specs – without suffering performance issues is a tantalising prospect.
Estimates value the market at over £150 billion per year, and by democratising online gaming, major players in the tech sphere are all reaching for a slice of the pie. This new approach promises to open up the world of AAA games to a vast new audience.
As a comparison, Nvidia GeForce Now came out to marginally better reviews due to a wider selection of games and an operating model which allows users to play previously purchased items. But it too has demonstrated that it won’t be revolutionising the industry any time soon; the consensus being that while performance is passable, it still lags behind simply playing on a local machine. Microsoft xCloud is currently in a closed beta phase, and while expectations remain high, it will also be constrained by the same technical limitations.
Cloud gaming in its current iteration is merely a distribution platform, and defining it as such inhibits the potential for both developers and end-users.
Building for the Cloud
Games must reside in the cloud if they are to be streamed from there. But this is a complex process and retaining performance for end-users has proven easier said than done – at least with the current tech stack.
Development of the underlying game has thus far not changed substantially. The ‘cloud’ element is only coming in at the end of the development cycle, serving as an alternative store-front to retail outlets and other video game digital distribution platforms such as Steam.
Creating this service has introduced new layers of software, convoluted processes and further expenses; games which were not built or designed with the cloud in mind, cannot run optimally when ported there. And while fractions of a second might not sound like a lot, even the slightest delay could destroy the immersive experience, resulting in unresponsive characters and actions.
The necessary step is to create a game that is cloud-native – built for the cloud, on the cloud – and therefore inherently optimised for this environment. By stripping out additional complexity and removing latency issues, end-users can begin to witness the promise of this next revolution.
Redefining Cloud Gaming
The streaming exercises have not been in total futility. We live in an on-demand society, and ultimately this is where the world of gaming will head once the technology catches up with our expectations.
Google Stadia and the like have made an impact in impressing on the wider gaming community what can be achieved. With the right infrastructure and cloud-based technology, new frontiers are just round the corner – our partnership with CCP Games in delivering EVE Aether Wars, gave the world an early insight into how this takes shape and the opportunities it holds.
Truly lowering the cost of entry for the end-user is entirely dependent on creating cloud-native games. Continually buying a new console or the latest graphics engine then becomes a thing of the past – as does downloading massive patches and players suffering arbitrary limitations like being unable to play with friends simply because of their console or geographic location.
And this is only the tip of the iceberg.
Once the potential is harnessed by developers, games will change in unprecedented ways. Designers and engineers alike will be able to operate outside of traditional limitations, creating new genres built on almost unlimited computing power.
The perennial game will become a reality and no longer will we see six, seven or eight sequels using the same IP. A game can be developed in perpetuity without impact on the user: maps can be expanded or added within the same universe and powerful updates can be made with marginal impact on the end-user.
However, until cloud-native development is adopted by studios as the default approach, current cloud gaming platforms are just paying lip service to the concept. Cloud-based games may well be available to more and more people, but the current offerings are simply not good enough to entice them.
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