Gaming-as-a-service has come a long way in the last decade. Among a series of milestones, streaming company Gaikai brought “World of Warcraft” to the iPad in 2010, and Sony Interactive acquired Gaikai in 2012, and Playstation Now was developed and launched in 2014, allowing users to cast their games to home consoles and TVs.
Now everyone wants in on the cloud gaming business. In November 2019, Google started taking pre-orders for Stadia, and Microsoft’s xCloud is scheduled to roll out in 2020 with 50 games that work on Windows 10 PCs and devices with Android operating systems.
Cloud gaming has been a boon for the industry, helping Activision grow its market intake from $10 billion to over $60 billion since 2012 and Electronic Arts go from $4 billion in 2012 to $33 billion, according to DFC research. The market as a whole is expected to reach $250 billion by 2023, largely driven by mobile games and popularity in emerging markets.
In the grand scheme, it’s still early days for cloud gaming, but fans are eager to embrace innovations, as the life of a game can be significantly extended when it is treated as a service – whether it’s through eSports, refreshed content through free updates or premium DLC and season passes. What needs to happen for gaming as a service to become truly ubiquitous? For starters, there are some technological barriers to overcome related to the cloud.
Centralized cloud computing could use an upgrade
Simply put, cloud-based games aren’t as simple to stream like Spotify or Netflix are. That’s because while players are sending complex inputs to the game, information is simultaneously coming back in the form of actions performed in the game. Even a delay as short as a fraction of a second can cause players to lose ground or misfire, according to Quartz. And even with high-speed internet, this type of latency is an issue.
Then there’s the issue of bandwidth. For Google Stadia, for example, the bandwidth requirements are steep: 10Mbps for 1080p video, 35Mbps for 4K. Exceeding these broadband limits can cost gamers a pretty penny. But even when broadband isn’t an issue, in the ideal operating environment, there are still technical challenges. The Washington Post’s Gene Park, reviewed the console on a computer, a 4K television, and a Google Pixel smartphone and reported “horrendous latency” and “buggy, quick” cuts while playing games on anything other than the Pixel. Park’s internet speeds were higher than Stadia’s recommended 35 Mbps for each of these tests.
The promise of edge computing
Edge computing will alleviate latency, by simplifying the distribution of application processes as close to the end-user as possible -- centralized cloud computing, which these systems run on now, simply isn’t able to do that. The two-way data stream will flow much faster, truly in real-time, which will make for a seamless gaming experience for multi-player games, and experiences as a whole will be more immersive and richer.
Beyond gaming, offloading the computing experience onto the edge will also improve the quality of eSports, AR and VR experiences.
AT&T is working with companies like Microsoft, IBM, HPE on 5G and associated cloud and edge computing solutions to bringing together the infrastructure, device manufacturers and startups to make it all happen.
Meaning, soon enough, you’ll be able to play “Red Dead Redemption II” without a hitch!
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