Updated: Mar 27
Cloud Gaming, or Cloud-Based Gaming, has become an extremely polarizing topic for the gaming community in recent times, with some critics saying that the very concept is bound for failure and others still backing it to become the next major innovation in the gaming industry. Before we get into that debate, however, we should try to understand what cloud gaming is. How does it work? Is it affordable? Does the switch from traditional gaming to cloud gaming make sense? Read on for the answers to these pressing questions and many others.
What is Cloud Gaming?
To define it in the simplest manner possible, cloud gaming or cloud-based gaming is a type of online gaming that runs video games on remote servers and streams them directly to the user’s device. This is heavily reliant on the user’s network connection and location from the servers. Cloud gaming is not dependent on the hardware of the user’s device, and this is the main selling point of this fairly new concept. The consumer does not need to buy a console or a gaming PC if they subscribe to such services. Any cloud game can run on a device with simple and basic specifications for everyday work or leisure.
What are the Caveats?
The concept is pretty easy to grasp, but more importantly, it makes one question the purpose of physical consoles and gaming computers. That being said, cloud gaming does have several problems, and the success of this industry is dependent on how well these critical issues can be resolved. The first drawback is the speed of the consumer’s Internet connection. Even though various cloud gaming services list their internet speed requirements as low as 10 megabytes per second (MBPS), this has often proved to not be the case. Various reviews by independent and verified creators have shown that in order to have a smooth input and lag-free experience a connection upwards of 50 MBPS is required. On top of that most cloud gaming services (with shadow.tech being a notable exception) only offer game streaming at 1080p at a smooth 60 frames per second. 1080p is a good resolution for the casual gamer, but if one wants to experience games at a higher resolution, the only two solutions as of now are buying a shadow.tech subscription, or purchasing one of the newest consoles released by Microsoft.
Another major issue is the location of the data centers. Most cloud gaming services lack a worldwide presence and are only located in a handful of countries which is significantly limiting their reach. The proximity of the centers determines the ping or response rate of the gamer's actions, and if the ping is not up to the mark, one will not be able to play the game.
The last and most important issue is the choice of games itself. Various services offer a selection of games in a closed ecosystem, meaning that if one were to shift from one gaming service to the other, there is a high chance that they will neither be able to carry over from their existing library and the game’s progress will also be lost. Services like Google Stadia have their own stores which offer over 400 games; however, these games are expensive in comparison to the very same game on platforms like PlayStation, Microsoft and Steam. So, the limited library of games topped with the closed ecosystem makes it very difficult to properly reap the benefits of this concept.
The cloud gaming service called shadow.tech has found an interesting way to solve this last problem. It simply offers a virtual computer rig that enables the user to independently purchase their games from platforms like Steam, Uplay, and Epic Games with their own license. They are not bound to their service and the user holds the digital license of their games independently. Irrespective of this development, it is reasonable to conclude that Cloud-Based Gaming has a long way to go before it can potentially replace consoles and dominate the gaming industry.
What’s Next for Cloud Gaming?
While cloud gaming has had a rocky start in the gaming industry with regards to the above-stated problems, the services are slowly getting better. A majority of services like Google Stadia, GeForce Now, and Project xCloud offer monthly subscriptions at pretty reasonable and competitive prices which challenge consoles and gaming computers. Cloud Gaming can really dominate the market share if it has a more worldwide reach and the services offer their own exclusive games. Google Stadia tried their hand at developing their own first-party games; however, due to their inability to foster game development in their extremely organized structure, and the negative impact of the pandemic, they had to lay off a majority of the first-party developers. They were on the right path but external factors hindered their growth.
In conclusion, cloud gaming is still a fairly new concept that requires some more tinkering and experimentation to iron out persisting issues. In an increasingly digital world, cloud gaming can become a big thing and may even make the idea of gaming consoles and computers obsolete; only time will tell.