Cloud gaming and its future
Around 2016, a few companies started to pop up that offer “cloud gaming,” a service that promising to turn your cheap laptop into a high powered gaming rig through the power of “the cloud”.
A lot has changed in the few years, and cloud gaming is now a fully realized service, with many different options from which to choose.
Most recently, Google and Microsoft have also announced that they are also entering the world of "cloud gaming".
So, what is a cloud gaming service and is there any scope and future of cloud gaming?
Let’s explore it -
Cloud gaming is the type of online gaming that helps direct and on-demand video streaming of games on computers, and mobile devices. It helps the users to play any game at any place.
Cloud gaming is like a streaming video service, but interactive. The idea is that we’ll no longer need gaming PCs or consoles with powerful graphics hardware. All the heavy lifting will be done in the cloud. The cloud-gaming server runs a game and streams a video of the gameplay to you. Your keyboard, mouse, and controller input actions are sent over the network to the cloud gaming server. The remote server does all the heavy work, while your computer just receives streaming video and audio, and sends input commands.
The original offering was cloud gaming service over Wifi to handheld devices. Video game developer Crytek began research on a cloud gaming system in 2005 for Crysis but halted development in 2007 to wait until the infrastructure and cable Internet providers were up for the task.
The services have leveraged real-time video streaming technologies that have a long history of development. Cloud gaming refers to the technologies that offload parts of game software from traditional game consoles or personal computers (PCs) to powerful and elastic cloud infrastructures.
Cloud gaming makes perfect sense to:
- Gamers, who otherwise have to constantly upgrade their consoles or PCs, which is certainly no fun and costly.
- Cloud service providers, who can sell the already-deployed and idling cloud resources to support the cutting-edge games that extremely resource hungry.
- Game developers, who no longer need to spend months to port their games to different platforms. As such, cloud gaming has attracted significant attention from both academia and industry.
Future of Cloud gaming
A fundamental question that came to people, inside and outside the gaming circle, was: Will the three dominating console manufacturers, Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony, be willing to give up their margin of selling the game consoles? The answer was initially unclear, and many suspected that these console manufacturers would be more than happy to kill cloud gaming in order to remain profitable.
Offering high-quality cloud gaming experience with the remote cloud through the public Internet, however, is no easy task. Current cloud gaming services have leveraged real-time video streaming technologies that have a long history of development. They share certain common characteristics, including high bandwidth demand and real-time constraints. Yet the demands of gaming are often higher than live or on-demand video streaming. Certain cloud gaming services dictate a network bandwidth of about 5 Mb/s for a smooth gaming experience.
These commercial cloud gaming services are either integrated with which underlying networks or provided as OTT services.
So, at this moment, it’s still unclear which integration approach and charging model will work the best in the future. More importantly, these commercial cloud gaming platforms are mostly black box based. The unmodified games run inside cloud gaming servers, and the rendered audio and video are captured, compressed, and streamed from these cloud gaming servers. This black box approach has been widely adopted so far. However, it leaves limited room for optimization.
NVIDIA is currently working on Project Shield, an Android-powered handheld game console with the ability to stream PC games from your PC - assuming the PC has a powerful enough NVIDIA graphics card. This would allow you to have a single gaming PC and use its hardware to play games wirelessly on a handheld game console and your TV.
So, just as tablets haven’t killed the PC, cloud gaming won’t kill local gaming any time soon - but it may offer an alternative in certain situations.
Stock photo from Visual Generation