As we head towards the end of the year, and technology makers and game developers try to get their hands on the last of our 2020 budget, gamers will truly be spoiled for choice when it comes to how they play their favorite games. While there is a huge amount of hype and anticipation around the two new consoles coming from gaming giants Sony and Microsoft respectively, there is another sphere of gaming that is often overlooked, but that could change the entire face of gaming as we know it. We’re talking about cloud computing and, in particular, game streaming services.
In this article, we will explore what cloud gaming is, how everyday gamers can benefit from cloud-based gaming, as well as what kinds of offerings will be available to the cloud-gamer.
What is Cloud Computing?
Cloud computing can be defined as the delivery of any on-demand computing service over the internet (also called the cloud). In layman’s terms, cloud computing lets a machine with a small amount of computing power perform functions that normally only an expensive, top-end machine could do. The services that are currently available through cloud computing include data storage, networking, databases, servers, and software.
How Can Cloud Computing Benefit Gamers?
When it comes to gaming, one of the biggest expenses of the hobby is the hardware to run games. Whether you are a console gamer who just needs to click buy on the new PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X page on Amazon, or a PC player who is building their own rig, hardware is the biggest drain on a gaming budget. This is because the latest games often require gamers to update their hardware to keep up with technology.
Games made for the current generation of consoles, i.e. the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One X, will not run at all on older units. Similarly, the hardware needed to run new PC games is far more powerful and expensive than the hardware needed to run games that were made even two years ago. With cloud computing, however, you only need a machine that is capable of launching the platform you wish to play on to play pretty much any game you want to.
The best news about these types of technology is that the platforms are easy to implement and use, so you don’t need expert help from network engineers from companies such as Integrated Computer Services to get you up and running and playing a brand new, triple-A game.
So, what are the main options for gamers looking to enter the realm of cloud-based gaming?
It’s almost a year after the launch of the Google Stadia platform, which was supposed to herald a new era of gaming, and the reviews are in: Google Stadia just couldn’t cut it in its launch form. With a fairly hefty price tag for the only controller that could be used with the platform at launch and a limited number of games to choose from, the service was underwhelming, to say the least. The good news is that the base service is now free for everyone with a Gmail account, although with some limitations, and everyone who signs up for the service receives two free months of Stadia Pro to test out the higher tier package. Additionally, Google Stadia now supports a range of controllers so gamers looking to test the service don’t need to fork out for an expensive, first-party controller to launch the platform. One major downside to the service is that it currently only works over Wi-Fi, so gamers without access to high-speed internet can all but kiss their gaming dreams goodbye.
The other main player in the cloud-gaming circle is GeForce Now. Made by hardware experts Nvidia, the GeForce Now platform markets itself as the service that can transform any desktop PC, laptop, Mac, SHIELD TV, or Android device into a gamer’s dream machine. Unlike Google Stadia, GeForce Now can be used on wired networks. On the downside, free users only have access to their games for one hour at a time and paid users will always have priority over free users, meaning that if the servers are congested, free players have to queue to play their games.
While cloud gaming has the potential to change the gaming landscape, the technology hasn’t quite caught up to its potential yet. Once high-speed Wi-Fi internet is accessible everywhere, and more platforms have been created to encourage innovation, cloud gaming could well take over the gaming world. For now, though, traditional hardware-based gaming isn’t going anywhere.