One of the aspects of this year’s E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) that caught the attention of most of the people covering the event was that no new gaming consoles or major hardware were on display. While many gamers were disappointed at this, perhaps this is a sign of the times. After all, many industry experts have noted that the future of gaming is probably in cloud computing and, in a world of cloud-based gaming, hardware on the client side is irrelevant.
Particularly in Japan, Sony’s purchase of Gaikai, a pioneer of cloud gaming infrastructure and technology, makes it likely that Sony will soon be able to offer high-quality streaming games to PlayStation owners. Perhaps the PlayStation 4 will no longer require actual game discs and will stream all of its games? One of the great things about device virtualization is that it is easy to envision a future where gamers can receive their games on any device, from tablet PCs and smartphones to many modern TV devices. In fact, cloud computing may be used to prolong the lives of current consoles considerably since client-side processing is not nearly as demanding with cloud gaming due to the fact that cloud gaming is a basic Hardware as a Service (HaaS) operation. We can already see this happening in Japan and other countries with a high average connection speed, although we are still a few years away from gamers being able to stream blockbuster games with high system requirements at ideal speeds and quality.
Cloud Gaming Allows Gaming Companies to Offer Better Backwards Compatibility
One of the most promising uses of cloud computing and streaming for gaming companies is bringing backwards compatibility to their newer systems and consoles. Many factors, such as the fact that many older games are freely available due to software piracy or that releasing them again on physical media is prohibitively expensive, make backwards compatibility impractical for many gaming companies. However, not allowing gamers to access these older games means not tapping into an available market and having this wealth of older games lying around is a considerable waste of potential. Fortunately, the fact that these older games do not have heavy system requirements makes them ideal for streaming. By placing them on the cloud and establishing a payment model per transaction, Sony, Nintendo, and other gaming companies could conceivably make their whole back catalog available for streaming.
Cloud Gaming Solves Many of the Industry’s Most Important Problems
Since its beginnings, the gaming industry has been at the mercy of retailers and distributors. After all, no matter how good your game is, if it does not hit the store shelves it will probably not make any money. It is very common for developers to have to make numerous concessions, in everything from pricing to content. However, cloud gaming enables a new model that places less power in the hands of the middleman and gives more freedom to developers. Not having to manufacture physical media will also allow greater profits while giving companies the freedom to reduce the price of their games substantially. However, the most obvious and attractive feature of cloud gaming is how it solves the problems of software piracy and the pre-owned market.
Companies spend millions of dollars every year implementing expensive DRM which ultimately prove ineffective while also alienating loyal customers. Within a couple of weeks, almost all games are pirated and available for free on peer-to-peer file sharing networks, despite the efforts of gaming companies. However, with a streaming gaming model, the actual games’ code will not be available to be pirated at all and thanks to the fact that the actual games are not on the clients’ side, it effectively neuters the second-hand market.
Cloud Gaming’s Availability
Unfortunately, due to bandwidth caps and low connection speeds and availability in many countries, effective high-end cloud gaming is probably a few years away from being a worldwide phenomenon. However, there is no doubt that countries such as Japan or South Korea, where the infrastructure already exists, are ready to adopt this technology now. And, as seen at E3 and in recent news, it seems that the major gaming companies are betting on the cloud as the future of PC gaming.
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About the Guest Author:
Nida Rasheed is a freelance writer and owner of an outsourcing company, Nida often finds herself wanting to write about the subjects that are closest to her heart. She lives in Islamabad, Pakistan and can be found on Twitter @nidarasheed.