What the Tech?!
November 13, 2020
Cloud Gaming May End the Console Wars
The idea of cloud computing has been around in business for a while now. Let someone else spend the money on purchasing, servicing, and upgrading the
hardware, then just pay a monthly fee to access and use their resources.
The same concept has arrived in gaming. On the surface, it seems an attractive proposition: You no longer need an expensive computer or console to play the latest and greatest games. Almost any device that’s capable of streaming content from the internet should work, although you may still need a game controller, or a keyboard and mouse. In theory, you would never have to upgrade your gaming hardware ever again. That by itself lowers the cost of gaming considerably for your average consumer.
Performance is advertised as being able to deliver up to 4K resolution at 60 frames per second, although with those settings you can expect to quickly eat up bandwidth. Don’t even think about cloud gaming if you have data caps to your internet connection as it could easily blow through three gigabytes per hour. Latency (that delay between you pressing a button or giving a command and it being carried out by the game server) is also an ever-present problem since an extra step is being introduced. That may only make the difference of a few milliseconds—but just ask someone who plays an online shooter, that extra delay matters. On the other hand, if your gaming experience has been spoiled by hackers in the past, you may appreciate the fact that since the game is no longer running on a local computer, it’s VERY difficult for anyone to cheat or exploit.
Access to these services almost always means a monthly subscription charge, which may also include a library of games at no extra cost (Xbox Game Pass or Amazon Luna spring to mind), or you may have to also purchase access to individual games, similar to the way you purchase games at the moment.
All the big players want a piece of this action, with cloud gaming services springing up from Microsoft (xCloud tied to Xbox Game Pass), Sony (PlayStation Now), Google (Stadia), Nvidia (GeForce NOW), and Amazon (Luna). It’s too early to tell how successful these competing services will be, each with their own titles and payment options, but clearly all of them see the future of gaming heading in this direction.
However, it may not be time to throw out that old PC or console just yet. Google Stadia came under a lot of fire for only supporting 22 games on its service at launch. That has improved considerably, but if playing particular titles is important to you then you may want to check out what’s supported first. Questions also remain about the performance, and if you are ever without internet, or if the service goes down, then you have no way of gaming full stop.
If, on the other hand, you’re considering spending several hundred dollars on a new gaming system that may have to be upgraded or replaced in a few years on top of the price of games, then you may be OK with not always getting perfect performance if the trade-off is a small monthly fee.
Stewart Jack is an instructor in the CIT Developer program at NMC.