Is Cloud Gaming the Future of Gaming?Jul 21, 2019 | 1 Votes
Gaming has become a favorite hobby and activity to a lot of people worldwide. Gamers now number in the billions ranging from the youngest to the oldest in almost all races and creed. Gamers are either classified into the hardcore players who will spend a lot of time playing on their dedicated PC's and consoles and the everyday casual to addicted gamers who have the time to spend with their mobile devices and smartphones.
In playing games in almost all instances, the player has to download the game itself or part of it called a client and have it present or stored and running on the device he or she is playing from. If it's a mobile device, the game is usually downloaded from the Google Play Store or the iTunes App Store depending on the operating system being used for the game. For a PC, it can be downloaded from a specific website like Steam with versions that depend on the operating system or directly installed if available on disc. The same thing goes for the game console stations. As you purchase the game, the game or a client of it has to be installed on your device and that goes for the free2play titles as well.
This is the usual way video and computer games are played or accessed nowadays. However, there is another way to play games and that is by using Cloud Gaming. When we mention Cloud, it usually means the Internet Cloud. This is usually a commercial server where users can store their important data in or run application software directly from. The server in the Cloud takes care of the processing and storing of information. This effectively turns the computing device that you are using into a terminal that merely interfaces with the server computer sending your keyboard input and displaying the results back to you and in cases storing them to your storage device.
This concept is actually an old one. It used to be called Time Sharing which became popular in the '60s and '70s before the dawn of PCs. A remote dumb terminal (with screen and keyboard) would be connected to a Mainframe or Mini Computer via installation wiring or a telephone line. The user (say a university researcher) will have to rent time on the mainframe service, type his program from his location (say university computer lab) and run it on the mainframe located on the service company's premises (the analogy would be the Cloud server). He gets the results on his terminal but the work is done on the mainframe many miles away. Then, when the Homebrew hackers invented the micros, everything went whack.
Using this err... above as an analogy, that is how Cloud gaming works. Your computer, mobile device or console turns into a dumb terminal that will show you your gameplay which you are running on the Cloud Server (no more need for a mainframe). The game remains 100% on the server and your keyboard or controller input is connected directly to it. You rent or purchase the time sharing of the game but you don't have a copy on your device. It remains there. You connect to the server via the internet (of course) and the performance of the game on your end will depend on the speed of your internet connection and the stability and availability of it. Also just to mention, back in the days of the wired mainframes, there where people playing Chess on their dumb terminals running it on expensive mainframe time usually...when no one was looking.
The concept was good and to some degree practical although people have been used to running and playing their games from their own machines. Despite this, developments in Cloud server technology and gaming where continuously undertaken. At the Electronic Entertainment Expo of 2000, the G-Cluster Global Corp. of Finland first demonstrated Cloud gaming by streaming PC games via Wi-Fi to mobile devices. The concept was cool but the performance was sort of clunky at best.
In 2010, OnLive a Cloud-based service in Mountain View, California provided Cloud Gaming where their subscribers were able to rent or demo computer games without installing them on their devices. The service was however plagued with problems like latency which resulted in it being acquired by Sony Interactive Entertainment Inc. in 2015. Sony then converted the technology along with another acquired Cloud Gaming service (in Aliso Viejo, California) Gaikai into what is known today as PlayStation Now.
Currently, PlayStation Now is the most popular Cloud gaming service. However it requires expensive hardware, the subscription service is expensive and it has a notable lag of around 5 frames which renders it unacceptable to most hardcore gamers. Sony is not the only one with a streaming Cloud-based gaming service. Nvidia is gaining headway with GeForce Now where subscribers can access games from Nvidia servers. Though the service is not that expensive the hardware requirements are. Microsoft will start testing on its XCloud service for it's Xbox so we will see strong competition from the console as well. Others include Steam, Amazon and even Facebook which allows game streaming to its platform. These big players are likely to continue work and developments on their servers and provide Cloud game services in one form or another as well as those coming from similar services like Parsec which allows a game to be run on a PC remotely and streamed through the internet.
Recently, Google has joined the fray by officially announcing its soon to launch Stadia Cloud Gaming service. Stadia will provide a library of games that can be played by connecting to its Google servers. The service will eliminate the dependence of the game on the hardware being used as devices from PCs to smartphones will be able to run the games by simply connecting to the service. Stadia will provide a controller that directly connects to the game. The service, however, will run exclusively on the Google platform and use the Chrome browser to display its output.
Despite the big guns in computer gaming all aimed at Cloud Gaming, a lot of hurdles will have to be overcome. From the get-go, the biggest problem has always been the Lag and the internet speed. Not everyone has good internet and until the internet situation really improves on a global scale, not everyone will get to have the benefit of Cloud gaming. Also, internet speed and bandwidth determines the quality of the graphics the services can provide. Another concern is the cost. Most of the current services need considerably expensive hardware. This is not only on the client or customer side but the cost of running the Cloud servers and licensing the games to put into them are quite high as well. Game companies will not see it as a viable alternative to sell their games if they will not profit from it. Cloud gaming may be a good direction to take but these companies are still very much in the business of making money. This will go for future game developments as well, if Cloud turns out very viable they will likely develop their games for it.
For my final thoughts, as of now, we can only really speculate on the future of Cloud Gaming. There will always be continual development to perfect it, provided it would be a profitable investment. Also, people are used to playing games the usual way, with a copy of it on their device. However, if the said services become affordable and practical enough for the common gamer, it just might catch on. Regardless, it would be a good alternative to the current method of playing games but there will always be gamers who will want their own library of games available at hand for them to play offline anytime they want. Even yours truly has a collection of old games on CDs and DVDs to go back to ones in a while for posterity sake. With that, even if Cloud Gaming won't be the entire future of gaming, it certainly would be part of it.