Cloud-based gaming: An inevitable future?
As of August 2016 we find ourselves at a time where the demographics of internet users are quickly being dominated by those that do not remember a time before the internet existed. This age of rapid technological advancement results in a large number of internet users not being old enough to remember a time before music streaming services such as Spotify (launched in 2008), and also peer-to-peer services such as Napster (2002) and Limewire (2000). This eradication of the need to leave your house and purchase a hard copy of music or software or a PC platform video game has quickly increased in pace and now we find ourselves being able to play the latest console games as soon as they are released, right from the comfort of our own sofa thanks to cloud-based gaming.
However, the gaming industry appears to be a few years behind its counterparts, with it only now being the norm to gamers that having a large amount of storage space or a high speed internet connection is now more important than living near to a video game store. We find ourselves in a world where there is seemingly no alternative to streaming. The shift from peer-to-peer in the mid noughties to the dominance of streaming services in the music industry is only now being reflected in the gaming industry.
What is cloud-based gaming all about?
These are both new technologies that promise to make any gaming previous to 2010 feel positively ancient but what are the advantages they give to the gamer?
No dependence on gaming consoles: Do you have a controller? Do you have a TV? Do you have an internet connection? Then it is becoming increasingly possible for you to play a video game that you would have otherwise had to play on an expensive gaming console.
Instant playing: If you want to play a game, be it an old one you have not played for a few years or a brand new one, there should be no wait. Gone are the days of searching for a game case/disc in the back of a cupboard, gone are the days of waiting impatiently as your new game downloads slowly.
Hardware update: For the moment is hard to see the cloud-based systems matching the console-based systems for the constant requirement to update hardware. The almost annual update of gaming hardware from Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo may be a thing of the past for gamers.
Pirating-proof: As with all new technological advancements, everything is secure up until that moment where it suddenly is not. The secure servers on which cloud-based gaming hosts their games is up until now still secure. It is only a matter of time until pirated games are hosted on less-than-legal sources but for now this is a small victory to developers.
As someone who has recently purchased an Nvidia shield and signed up to its GeForce Now cloud-based streaming service, the thought of having endless amounts of video games on that tiny rectangular box in my living room still comes across as alien. The quality of the Shield is comparable if not superior to that of a gaming console. It is quick, well thought out and good value for money. When you consider the first 3 months of the GeForce Now subscription are free and that there are a fair few big-name titles available to stream on the service the attractiveness of this new technology is evident. The convenience of being able to sit on your couch and play a new game without having to leave your house or wait while it downloads is something I simply cannot see gamers turning their back on.
Cloud-based gaming eliminates the need for gamers to leave their couch - image credit Ian Burt
So is it the future?
Is cloud-based gaming the future, is it too good to be true or is it simply a fad? This comes down to a few variables such as how fast is your internet? Is it reliable? Cloud gaming can be faultless at times but if multiple people decide to stream live TV in your house, lagging can render a game unplayable. Another question needing to be asked is if services such as GeForce Now are worth paying for? The issue here is that cloud-based gaming still comes across as new and therefore slightly undeveloped. GeForce might have a good variety of genres and games but there is still not anything too appealing on the games list. Titles such as Dirt and Saints Row are a good start but there is nothing too eye-grabbing on the service as of July 2016.
Will joining a large subscription based service such as Geforce ever be worthwhile to the popular game developers? I hope so, but with the messiness surrounding music streaming at the moment it is a difficult future to predict. At a time when the most popular artists in the world (Beyoncé, Adele and Taylor Swift) are trying to be independent or claim a loyalty to a certain service it highlights one of gaming’s biggest issues. Exclusivity. A word that might place cloud-based services such as GeForce now in the history books. The dominant companies will be either developing their own titles or ensuring brand exclusivity wherever possible to stop GeForce taking money from them.
Over to you!
What do you think? Will cloud-based video gaming inevitably take over and dominate how we game? Will downloading games to a local HDD be a thing of the past? Will gaming discs become a relic that our future children look at in wonder? Let me know in the comments section below or on the Forum!