Is Cloud Gaming an Experiment, A Current Fad or the Future?Oct 31, 2021 | 0 Votes
There have been talks about the potential of an online service called Cloud Gaming. However, questions arise about the viability of this method of playing video or computer games at today's current time and state of technology. Cloud gaming, however, presents a number of practical solutions for game players providing that it would be able to deliver effectively and efficiently said solutions. This is now where the issue is focused and raised. Cloud gaming is currently operating, but whether it would prosper, end up as a temporal fad, or, much worse, a failed experiment is something that the current game industry needs to determine for the service to achieve the potential impact that it seeks to impart.
To have an idea on whether Cloud Gaming would be a useful and practical endeavor, we will need to once again establish the concept of what Cloud Gaming is and what it can bring to the table. Cloud Gaming was first presented way back at the E3 exhibition in 2000 by a company called G-cluster for those who are not yet familiar with the concept. The intent was to host server-based gaming via Wi-Fi to handheld devices. The concept was good, but the current state of data and telecommunications technology was far from capable of implementing it on a scale of mass distribution.
Cloud Gaming works somewhat differently from a regular game console or PC gaming because the game being played is not with the gamer or client but on a server connected to the Internet cloud. With gaming, you either DL (download) the game you bought/acquired to your device then install it. You can also purchase a physical copy on DVD or USB stick, then again, install it. It's in your machine, and as long as there is an offline or solo mode, you can play it without connecting to the Internet. Cloud gaming is much more like Web Gaming. The game is on the Web page or site on a server, and your browser connects to it via the Internet, which you can play remotely with your PC or Mobile device.
With Cloud Gaming, the game is on a server you connect to play since you don't have the game on your machine. The service uses streaming technology to throw the data back and forth between the Client (Gamer) and Server. With a hand controller or PC keyboard, the gamer can control their character on the game as their input is sent directly to the server. The input results have to be efficiently sent back so it would look like playing a regular game stored on your device. The idea of the service is to deliver gaming in a much more convenient and quicker way and avoid the unnecessary hassles that current gamers go through today.
Based on this idea, the gaming industry began to look into the possibilities of making it successfully happen. OnLive was started in 2010, and the service used a micro-console to make their server games available. Once again, the limitations of Internet speed and distribution technology have proved to be a downfall. Regardless, in 2015, OnLive was acquired by Sony Computer Entertainment, and the technology was used for Sony's own cloud service PlayStation Now. Likewise, another company Gaikai featured Cloud Gaming as a form of online advertising for games that started operating in 2012. Gamers could play demos of games streamed from Gaikai's server, but just like OnLive, the company was acquired by Sony.
As of now, Cloud Gaming has a lot of problems in terms of its operation and performance. Regardless the industry refused to give up on it. Leading GPU maker Nvidia came out with GRID in 2013, which was later renamed GeForce Now. This was primarily for their Shield Android TV device, but they later branched out to service PC users.
To this, other companies followed suit. Shadow, a service established by French company Blade in 2017, delivers excellent quality Cloud Gaming. However, by the hand of currently limited Internet and bandwidth technology, Shadow is geographically limited based on proximity to one of its data centers. The farther you are, the worst the service gets. Still, the big companies are joining the bandwagon. EA, in 2018 has started working on their Project Atlas. In 2019, Google officially came out with its Cloud Gaming service, Stadia. Likewise, Microsoft is coming out with their Project xCloud, which utilizes the company's Azure technology. Microsoft, Nvidia, and Google are currently in talks with Apple on releasing their services via the IOS mobile platform.
At this point, we may ask if Cloud Gaming is a fad. From the perspective of the big gaming industry companies, it currently looks so as everyone wants to jump on the bandwagon. But for the gamers who are currently going to use it, Cloud Gaming has several limitations worth thinking about before one makes a move. The service (aside from a trial offering) is not free. There is a subscription, and it's going to cost. Compared to the cost of acquiring a dedicated gaming PC with the most powerful GPU card, memory, processors, and whatnot, the cost for a Cloud Gaming service looks minimal. However, there are issues. Cloud Gaming has 4 blatant problems as of now. The first is Latency or, in gaming parlance, Lag. Lag becomes noticeable depending on the distance of the user to the providing data center. The farther away, the bigger the instances of lag. Although this is currently being mitigated by Cloud Gaming services to make it minimal, the reaction time from receiving the user inputs to executing on the game running on the cloud server and then streaming back the results to the user is still the main issue be addressed. Single-player games can compensate for this, but multi-player online eSports would be hugely affected by the latency issues rendering this form of gameplay impractical.
Another problem is Video Compression. A necessity in streaming games to deliver good quality video output. Data is compressed to send more via the available bandwidth to be decompressed on the user's side. Ways to do this better and in a more efficient manner will continually be needed to deliver the quality of gaming within the online streaming speed limitations today. So, if the bandwidth or speed of the connection is not good enough, the game's graphic quality being streamed may be affected to the point that it may even make your head and eyes hurt.
On the service side, there is also the matter of server hardware selection. Currently available servers in commercial use utilize hardware architecture and processors optimized for multi-tasking server applications and not for gaming. This creates problems like processing speed since server processors are clocked differently compared to gaming-specific PCs. Also, most servers do not use GPU cards optimized for gaming. For those who do, current servers would need to use one GPU per gamer to deliver the graphics required for the player. Current servers have to be modified (some in a huge way) so that the server would be able to operate akin to that of a gaming PC.
Finally, there are certain requirements that have to be met on the client or gamer's side. For Cloud Gaming to work as efficiently as possible, the user must meet certain needs. Internet speed is a must. The ideal would be around 50 MegaBits/Sec, which can be achieved using high-speed cable and Fiber Optic services. Minimum speed requirements would be at 10-30 MegaBits/Sec. Wireless, satellite connections, and cell sites, though used, can barely get the job done. Speed and connectivity are critical for remote server gaming to be of practical use.
Compared to regular PC gaming, though, Cloud Gaming stands out in that the player simply selects the game on the cloud server and is able to get on with it quickly. No more downloads. Also, some cloud services offer the option of being able to play the same game on another device like a console, tablet, or phone. With the PC, one usually has to purchase the same game again for the specific alternate device's platform.
For PC Gamers, the game download and install process has the propensity to turn from smooth sailing to a total nightmare. One must always be ready to spend a lot of time troubleshooting whenever problems of this sort occur. On the bright side, many PC gamers end up as techies on account of necessity. Cloud Gaming definitely has an advantage over this, but with the other issues that plague it, PC gaming will still win. If a Cloud Game service shuts down, you automatically lose the games you bought from them. With PC, you have the option of back-ups and storage media. Your game is with you.
Now that we have a good idea of what Cloud Gaming is all about and looking at the practical side of the current gaming market, we can safely say that as for gamers today, No, Cloud Gaming is definitely not a fad! As an experiment, it as well might be. Should you decide to go ahead and try Cloud Gaming, one has always to be ready for the risk of failure. Not so much on the client-side, as you can always cancel the subscription and go back to your old gaming ways. But for the industry companies, the risk is there, and failure means a lot of money lost. However, success may be just a little way off, so continuing the risk and experiment may pay big time in the end. Regardless of the current state of Cloud Gaming today, the future may hold a much more positive environment for the service. Cloud gaming is still in its infancy, and its success will depend on the state of electronic data transfer efficiency. We still don't really have that, so it's just too early to tell. Cloud Gaming may not be able to replace the conventional gaming practices today as people want to have options with regards to what they do, but it can still offer a good and viable alternative.