Opinion

What are Cloud Gaming Services? Are They the Future?

Everyone keeps looking out for the next big thing in gaming technology, and an interesting candidate has been on the horizon for some time now – streaming services, also known as cloud gaming. The idea seems simple enough, but there has been a considerable barrier to its proper implementation so far, and even though there have been several attempts to develop a successful product following this model – such as OnLive – we’re yet to see something become truly established and popular. There are already some solutions that work though, mostly on the console side, so hopefully we’re not that far away.

R.I.P. Onlive…

Basic Idea

Normally, you would download a game, install it on your computer or console, and play it locally. With cloud gaming, on the other hand, your game instead runs on a computer in the cloud, and you simply connect to it and stream the game, much like you do with Netflix. On the other hand, your input is streamed back to the server, allowing you to actually control what’s going on. It sounds simple, and it really is – the main issue is having a connection fast enough to support it comfortably.

Internet connection is crucial.

Licensing

A common question that pops up when this type of technology is discussed is about the licenses of games that gamers have access to. There are already some concerns on this front with the way Steam works, and it looks like most people are skeptical about the idea of having yet another layer of separation from their ownership, and while that’s true, companies trying to enter this market have tried some interesting solutions to the problem. We’ve seen some creative pricing models with a monthly subscription model which gives the player access to different tiers of games, and it looks like this just might work in the long term.

Does cloud gaming mean the end of physical ownership?

When Will This Tech Be Available To The Masses?

The big question is when this will be available for all of us. There is a lot of focus on cloud technology right now – a quick look at Burn World can reveal some interesting facts about the current state of this tech at the moment – and it’s pretty much guaranteed that people are going to pay even more attention to it in the future. And as our Internet connections (hopefully) keep getting better, it’s only a matter of time before someone releases a proper, widely available cloud gaming service that takes the market by storm and dominates it.

A little patience goes a long way…

Early Pioneers And The Future Of Cloud Gaming

While it may seem like this tech is a ways off, there are some pioneers making early waves. PlayStation Now, Nvidia Shield, EA Access, Microsoft’s cloud gaming division, and the recently announced Shadow are all taking the first steps to lay the ground work for a successful cloud gaming model. With E3 on the horizon, time will tell if cloud gaming goes mainstream sooner than later, as either the PlayStation 5 or the latest Xbox iteration may make it a new prominent feature.

My money is on this tech becoming the norm at some point in the near future but it depends heavily on internet and broadband reliability. If countries like the United States don’t invest billions of dollars in improving access and quality of internet these services will continue to be a pipe dream.

What do you think? Is Cloud Gaming in our near future or is it a pipe dream? What about the issue of losing ownership over our games? Let me know in the comments section below. This is a hot button issue and I look forward to a robust debate. 

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