New Delhi: The world of video gaming is set to take a big new step this year. Known as cloud gaming, the technology has been doing the rounds for a few years now. However, with companies like Google and Microsoft stepping into the game, things seem poised for a boom.
Cloud gaming allows gamers to play games without requiring powerful hardware since they can use the power of the cloud to stream games directly onto their devices. Google announced its (cloud-based gaming platform) Stadia platform recently, while Microsoft’s platform is currently called xCloud.
“Stadia offers instant access to play,” said Phil Harrison, a vice-president at Google, at the Game Developers Conference (GDC) earlier this year. While the company has since revealed more details about the platform, it’s still at least a few months from coming to the public.
Same goes for Microsoft’s platform, which had so far been rumoured only, but was confirmed at the E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo 2019?) this week. “We are scaling the program up globally. We have deployed project xCloud blades into data centers in 13 regions around the world. We’ve also started our alpha testing,” said Mark Skwarski, senior product marketing manager at Xbox, to reporters.
Cloud gaming takes away an important hurdle in gaming—that of hardware requirements. So far, gamers have required consoles, high-end computers or at the very least a good phone, to play the best games. These things can cost a pretty penny, and also need to be upgraded regularly. With cloud gaming, this problem can be alleviated, making gaming more accessible for gamers everywhere.
“By making it more accessible, cloud gaming will attract more people to the industry,” said Ankur Diwakar, a professional gamer who has represented India at international gaming events. He believes the move could entice more gamers into the fold, especially in a country like India.
According to Diwakar, gamers in India no longer face as many internet bandwidth problems as they used to earlier. Hence, the ping times—the time taken for data to reach from a game’s servers to your device—have reduced significantly. As a result, multiplayer gaming is easier now, and it’s also easier to make a career out of gaming.
That said, Diwakar believes that the impact of cloud gaming would depend on the quality of graphics companies are able to stream using the cloud. “When we first played Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas all those years ago, it used to come in four CDs, that’s a large game,” he pointed out, explaining that the size of the game will also be a factor.
Google though, has showed examples of how users can just press a Play Now button while watching someone’s game clip on YouTube, and jump directly into the game. The company has even tested Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, one of the most graphically-advanced games today, on the Stadia platform.
According to Sat Mayekar, a professional gamer, the link between video and games allows a revenue sharing opportunity. This could incentivise more people to make their own game videos and earn from them. Mayekar also think that subscription-based services announced through platforms like Stadia will make games cheaper to buy.
Microsoft’s xCloud service had been announced back in October 2018, and is expected to be ready for public trials soon. Being a more console-centric company, it would be interesting to see what xCloud can do with Microsoft’s powerful Xbox hardware combined with the power of its Azure cloud service.
Device makers, on the other hand, are excited. “It’s only a matter of time before cloud-based gaming and streaming services become mainstream, globally and in India,” said David Li, general manager, BlackShark India, adding the company is embracing the move. BlackShark is a Xiaomi-backed company that recently launched its first gaming phone in India.
In the end, cloud gaming seems to be a natural progression for video gaming. What once used to be done through game cartridges, eventually evolved to CDs. This was followed by games being directly downloaded from online stores, meaning the next step could just be to stream them from anywhere.
■ Expected to launch in November at $9.99 per month with 31 games
■ It will work on Internet browsers on any PC, phones, tablets, and TVs connected to Chromecast
■ Google is offering a Wi-Fi enabled controller to control games on Stadia
Microsoft Project xCloud
■ Will let gamers stream over 3000 Xbox games on Android devices, PCs, and consoles
■ Its public preview will be available in October
■ Users can play games using Xbox wireless controller or touchscreen