Cloud Gaming and the Future of Video Games

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Published: 04th October 2012
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The early days of video-gaming, of Pong and Pac-Man, are long gone. Video-game companies now offer games with impeccable graphics and wide-ranging storylines and playing options. Consoles are now able to recognise the movements of the player and use them in the game. Games are moving ever further away from linear playing styles and give players a great deal of choice about how they want to play the game. One of the more recent developments in the gaming world is the advent of cloud gaming. A great deal of recent technology news has focused on cloud gaming and what it might mean for the video-game industry. But what actually is cloud gaming? And what are the potential advantages and disadvantages of this new method of playing video games?

Cloud gaming is a form of online gaming that utilises cloud hosting in order to work. You may already play a number of multiplayer games online through your computer’s internet connection or through Xbox Live or the PlayStation Network. However, this still involves owning a physical copy of the game and a console to play it on. The difference with cloud gaming is that the game itself and the processing power needed to play it is all hosted in ‘the cloud’. In order to use cloud gaming, all you need is an internet connection and cloud gaming service. The games are directly streamed onto your computer, tablet or console and the powerful servers used by the cloud gaming provider will carry out all the rendering and processing necessary. Your button presses are sent to the cloud, which processes the information and sends back the game’s response. It is essentially very similar to the video-on-demand services on offer, such as 4oD or iPlayer, but for games. You do not have to own a physical copy of the game in order to play on it.

Cloud gaming does have a number of important advantages. It is instant, you do not have to go out and buy a physical copy of the game nor do you have to spend time downloading it. The game is already there and instantly playable through your internet connection. It also reduces the need for computers with high processing and graphical capabilities. Your computer does not need to have the highest specs in order to play the latest games; the cloud servers will do that for you. This can also potentially reduce the cost of gaming, you will not need to splash out on expensive equipment and the cost of cloud gaming packages is negligible when compared with the cost of actually buying the games. Another advantage of cloud gaming is that it brings some elements of platform independence, through using this service you can play a PC or a specific console game on an android or iOS tablet.

There are, however, some disadvantages to cloud gaming. The problem of ‘ownership’ is one of them. Many potential users of cloud gaming services dislike the idea of not actually owning a copy of a game they have paid. If the company goes out of business or the servers go down, you are left with no game, even though you paid for it. The services on offer at the moment are still fairly new technology so there may also be a number of ‘teething problems’ – technical issues and the like – that users may have to put up with. Another disadvantage is that if cloud gaming really took off the second hand game market would completely disappear. Finally, the fact that gaming from the cloud is such a new development means that the services may not yet be available to everyone in all areas of the country. It is possible too that multiplayer games may be lacking in other players to compete against.

Is gaming in the cloud part of the future for video-games? It definitely has the potential to become widely used and popular as it offers a great deal of advantages over current gaming methods. However, as of right now, the United Kingdom does not have the internet structure to be able to fully utilise it. The average speed of broadband is around 8Mbit/s for cities and 3Mbit/s for rural areas. Many people still do not have good enough broadband to meet the recommended speed of 5Mbit/s for cloud gaming. As a result a number of people who have tried these services have complained of lags – something that can ruin a gaming experience. It is unlikely that cloud gaming will completely overrule buying physical copies in the near future. Many people still prefer to buy a copy of their favourite films rather than rely on the internet to provide it virtually. It will not be until broadband speeds throughout the UK are improved that using cloud hosting for gaming will really take off.

© Izzy Evans 2012

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