This was the console that I played my first video game on.
We may share the same childhood if you find this Nintendo Entertainment System nostalgic.
The first game we played was probably Super Mario Bros.
The video game got better overtime – I played more advance games on Sega Genesis, Super Nintendo, Sega Saturn, Playstation, and now Nintendo Switch.
Since then, the gaming industry has gotten bigger and bigger. Just as you think that there’s no more room for innovation, it surprises you with new ways to play. In fact, I think gaming is at an inflection point and a cambrian leap is coming.
Previously, I’ve covered the eSports scene but that’s not the cambrian leap than I am talking about. Cloud gaming is the next big thing.
What is cloud gaming?
Cloud seems to be the sexy thing nowadays – almost everything wants to be on the cloud.
Well, gaming is going on the cloud too. No, playing games on an airplane doesn’t count.
Gaming has always been about consoles, especially advance games. You probably have a friend who would go to Sim Lim Square in the past, to buy the best parts to fix up a computer that would allow him to experience gaming at a climax level. He would ramble on about this graphics card and that super fast CPU like as if you care.
This is also the reason Sony and Microsoft pushed out better hardware in their Playstations and Xboxes periodically – to push the gaming experience to a new level.
Consoles are expensive because of the high-end hardware and some gamers may be priced out. So Sony and Microsoft tend to sell their consoles at a loss and make money from the games and subscription instead.
Cloud gaming removes this problem. Given that internet speed and bandwidth has expanded considerably over the years, high definition graphics and low latency delivery can be achieved. Netflix is a beneficiary of this development. You can enjoy HD movies at home via streaming, without the need to even download the content. Hence, cloud gaming is leveraging on this infrastructure improvement.
Of course, video streaming is less demanding than cloud gaming. You need only about 7.0-12.0 Mbps for super HD videos from Netflix. Comparatively, cloud gaming requires about 35 Mbps for 4K resolution and 5.1 surround sound. By today’s standards, most modern cities have no problem surpassing this internet speed – we are talking about 1,000 Mbps for home wifi and 5G at 20,000 Mbps.
This means that the servers can do all the heavy lifting of computing and deliver the content to the device you use for gaming. Servers can house the top end graphics cards and processors while end users only need a mediocre device with 5G connection.
That’s the power of cloud gaming – it is pretty much device agnostic, leveraging on high internet speed to deliver voluminous top end content to your device. You have no more excuse of not having money to buy a top device to play advance games.
You just play.
Who are the top cloud gaming companies?
There are a handful of companies already offering cloud gaming subscription services. This is not new at all and it is competitive.
The console makers like Playstation and Xbox will definitely want to keep up and have launched Playstation Now and xCloud respectively.
Playstation Now charges US$59.99 for 12 months, offering more than 700 PS4, PS3 and PS2 games on PS4 or Windows PC, with new games added every month. You can play these games on PC without a Playstation console. Here are some games available on Playstation Now:
xCloud was just launched on 15 Sep 2020 and offers over 100 games. The beauty of this is that you can play even on your Android mobile phone or tablet, which is the dominant mobile OS in the world. But that would cost you US$14.99 per month. Else, you can pay lower fee at US$9.99 to play the games on PC or on Xbox instead of Android devices. 3 XCloud game examples:
Playing Xbox games on your mobile device with a controller looks cool eh? No?
Another tech giant that we should pay attention to is no other than, Google. It launched Stadia on 19 Nov 2019 which you can subscribed at US$9.99 per month. You can play the games on laptops, desktops, phones and tablets (iOS and Android compatible).
It is also not surprising that Nvidia join in the party with its GeForce Now. The company is a leading graphics card and a well sought after brand among gamers. It is important that they keep their relevance in the gaming world as it shifts to the cloud.
Other private companies that have notable cloud gaming platforms would be Shadow and Vortex. I suspect that they may be eventually acquired by big tech given that we are in a winner-takes-most digital world.
Who could possibly win?
I think Microsoft looks the most promising. This is because it has both the experience in gaming (Xbox) and cloud (Azure). In contrast, Sony is strong in gaming (Playstation) but lacks on cloud expertise while Google is more experienced in cloud (Google Cloud) but is totally new to gaming.
In fact, The Verge put out a very discouraging article; Google Stadia is a lonely place.
During the past six months, I’ve primarily used Stadia as a way to play Destiny 2 when I’m not on my main gaming PC. Bungie’s online-only multiplayer shooter is bundled free with Stadia Pro, and it was one of the bigger launch titles for Google. Destiny 2 has around 1 million daily players across PC, Xbox, and PS4, but only around 10,000 are playing on Google’s streaming service.
Microsoft has many other business segments and gaming is just a fraction of their revenue. It is not a pure play cloud gaming stock but it seems to have the best potential to win in my opinion.