Advancements in wired and wireless broadband internet technologies and further developments in consumer electronics have made cloud gaming feasible. Also known as on-demand gaming or game streaming, cloud gaming is a method of playing video games using remote servers in data centers. Video games are essentially streamed from the cloud and to compatible end-user devices such as personal computers and smartphones.
The concept is based on cloud computing and thick client computing. Cloud gaming services operate in a manner similar to remote desktops and video on-demand or video streaming services. Gamers do not need to have gaming-dedicated hardware because they are using the hardware resources of service providers. Examples of these services include Xbox Cloud Gaming, PlayStation Now, Google Stadia, and Amazon Luna.
Pros: Advantages of Cloud Gaming
Similar to other services related to cloud computing, the primary advantage of cloud gaming is that it allows users to play video games without purchasing expensive computer hardware components such as graphics cards or dedicated game consoles. Computing system resources such as storage and processors are available on-demand.
Below are the specific advantages or benefits:
1. Inexpensive Than Traditional Gaming
Gaming using personal computers or game consoles can be expensive. A mid-range gaming PC costs around USD 1000.00 while high-end ones can cost USD 2000.00 or more. Game consoles such as Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 retail for around USD 499.99.
A portable gaming PC such as the OneXPlayer is priced at USD 1199.00 while the Steam Deck retails for USD 399.00. Dedicated handheld game consoles are relatively cheaper. The OLED model of the Nintendo Switch retails for USD 349.00 while the Nintendo Switch Lite has a price tag of around USD 199.00.
Of course, expenses related to video gaming do not end with the hardware. Gamers need to purchase game titles. Games for the Xbox and PlayStation cost between USD 49.00 to USD 69.00 while games for the Nintendo Switch cost between USD 29.00 to USD 59.99. These price points are true for PC game titles.
The cost of cloud gaming is often limited to a subscription fee. Google Stadia has a monthly fee of USD 9.99 that gives a subscriber access to over 200 game titles in its library. There is also no need for these subscribers to buy a dedicated device or hardware. These services are accessible across different platforms.
2. Accessible Across Different Platforms
To reiterate, most on-demand gaming services are accessible across different platforms or more specifically, operating systems and devices. This also means that the games in their respective libraries are also playable on devices typically owned by a subscriber.
PlayStation Now is playable in both PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5, as well as Microsoft Windows and macOS. Google Stadia and Amazon Luna have a better cross-platform advantage because they are accessible in Windows, macOS, and ChromeOS desktop operating systems, as well as in Android, and iOS and iPadOS.
3. Playable Anytime and Anywhere
Convenience is another advantage of cloud gaming. A subscriber to a particular service can play his or her video games at home, while on the road, or in another place as long as he or she brings with him or her a compatible device connected to a high-speed and consistent internet.
Remember that there are services that are accessible across different platforms. A subscriber can play from his or her personal computer at home and then continue playing while on his or her way to work or during long-distance travel. It is interesting to note that there are buses, trains, and commercial aircraft with onboard Wi-Fi.
Unlike traditional gaming which restricts video gaming to a particular place, there is no need for a subscriber to bring with him or her personal computer or game console. All he or she needs is a compatible device such as his or her smartphone or tablet computer. This is akin to subscribing to video streaming services.
Cons: Disadvantages of Cloud Gaming
Despite the arrival of Google and Amazon in the specific market, it is important to highlight the fact that cloud gaming remains in its early stages. It has not surpassed traditional video gaming in terms of market size and the availability of game titles. The concept also has its fair share of disadvantages, issues, and limitations.
Below are the specific disadvantages or drawbacks
1. Required High-Speed Internet Connection
A key disadvantage of cloud gaming is that it is dependent on a consistent and high-speed internet connection. Accessing and streaming video games via the cloud will require an internet connection speed of at least 10mbps to 25mbps with minimal network latency.
A wired broadband internet connection would not have a problem achieving this speed requirement. However, compared with traditional video gaming, this also means that the service is only accessible if there is an internet connection. It will not simply work during service downtimes or service outages in a particular area.
Developments in wireless network technologies such as sub-6 GHz 5G and mmWave 5G can deliver connection speeds up to 25mbps. But wireless broadband is not as reliable as wired internet. In addition, because streaming video games consume a large amount of bandwidth, it can be a problem for internet services with bandwidth caps.
The battery life of consumer electronic devices such as smartphones and laptops can also be an issue. Aside from power usage from streaming video games, connection to high-speed cellular networks such as 5G networks consume a lot of power. This is especially true for connections based on mmWave 5G connectivity.
2. More On Network Latency and Quality
The problem with services based on cloud computing and thick client computing is that they depend on high-quality internet connection. Quality does not only mean fast. There should be minimal to zero network lags and network latency for uninterrupted usage.
In video gaming, inputs from gamers are critical. This is true for competitive gaming, as well as for action-packed game titles. Lags would mean lower response time which can affect the overall gaming experience. Remember that in streaming video games, inputs from a gamer would have to travel through an internet connection.
3. Other Notable Issues and Limitations
There are currently four major providers of game streaming services. These are Microsoft with its Xbox Cloud Gaming, Sony with its PlayStation Now, Google with its Google Stadia, and Amazon with its Amazon Now. Note that Google also streams Android-based games for Android devices.
Microsoft and Sony dominate the market because of their existing dominance in the traditional gaming market but Google and Amazon are promising. Hence, for individuals who are planning to subscribe, they may have a hard time deciding which provider to choose because each has its unique selling proposition.
The main issue and limitation of cloud gaming is the availability of games. Both Xbox Cloud Gaming and PlayStation Now have larger libraries compared with Google Stadia and Amazon Luna. However, they are still incomparable to the libraries of traditional game consoles and Windows PC in terms of quantity and quality.