The silver lining behind cloud gaming

In our columns section we ask various local gamers for their opinions on certain topics. These articles are meant to create lively debate, and the opinions expressed therein do not necessarily reflect those of MyGaming. Are you a decent writer with a cool idea for a column? Let us know in the comments section. 

Cloud gaming in general has received a pretty lackluster response. This is especially true in South Africa, where the entire concept seemed rather preposterous in our broadband environment. With this I’d have to agree, the general consensus from gamers was a rather mature, “lol, the internet is crap.”

For those of you possibly unfamiliar with the concept (the response has been that lackluster), cloud gaming involves playing your games on a remote server, across the internet. Essentially. the actual rendering and processing of the game is handled server-side, which means your shoddy laptop that you use to play Solitaire could run Mass Effect 2 on full graphics. The bottleneck here isn’t the capabilities of your computer, but rather of your internet connection. The problem there was that a reasonable investment in computer hardware can guarantee a flawless gaming experience, but that guarantee could not be made for your internet connection, regardless of how much you paid for it.

Beware the Bogeyman

Things are changing, however, with uncapped, high-speed broadband becoming a reality to commercial users across the world (South Africa still playing catch-up there). Yet the internet continues to be an unsafe place to venture after dark; beefy latency thugs with poor backgrounds roam uninhibited, looking to club your privileged, cardigan-wearing data packets at any opportunity. Latency is the cloud-gaming bogeyman, a bogeyman which drastically limits cloud gaming’s hopes for success.

The only real criticism I’d level at cloud gaming is simply that it’s ahead of its time. The concept is essentially quite brilliant, and the future of the digital world in its entirety seems inexorably drawn to “the cloud”. One day all our data will be stored and accessed outside of our homes and offices, and those of us still making use of personal physical storage will be likened to 2012 conspiracy theorists; stuffing our mattresses with gold nuggets, babbling about the time 30 years ago when we had to cancel our debit card after the Playstation Network was hacked.


 
When our grandkids look at this photo, they’ll see it in black and white.

A Silver Lining

Despite the glaring disadvantage of being limited by internet capabilities, cloud gaming seems to be nothing but advantages.

Firstly, it removes the need for expensive hardware. AAA titles can be pretty taxing on a PC gamer’s wallet, and even for console gamers the initial investment in a console, coupled with purchasing subsequent iterations of that console is no small price to pay. This would be quite a blow to companies like Nvidia and ATI, who generate an enormous amount of revenue from expensive video cards.

Secondly, it means the end of console fanbois. There will be no more distinction between different consoles, as cloud gaming can be accessed from any computer, or a single, inexpensive device designed for the purpose to connect to your television. Developers would appreciate this as well, as they would no longer have to design games for multiple platforms.

The third major advantage for cloud gaming is mobility. With cloud gaming, you could access your games, and your save games, from any computer or device.

You wouldn’t need to be sitting in front of your beastly quad-core SLI setup, or have the game installed on different computers. The low hardware requirements also mean that you can play games on a lesser device such as an iPad (a device lesser than most, but that’s a rant for another column).
 

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! Nope, it’s a R6000 netbook with no USB port.

Even Darwin Plays Videogames

The fact is, the internet is only getting better as time goes on, and in the not-too-distant future it will be widespread and stable enough to make cloud-gaming a reality. Many would argue that it already is quite feasible, and the internet yields plenty of positive feedback on services such as OnLive.

It seems Onlive is also already getting some investor interest, having raised 56.6 million dollars as of April this year, with a recent big investment coming from HTC. If I was an investor, it would certainly be something I would be taking an interest in. Cloud gaming will explode, it’s only a matter of when.

The effects of this are far-reaching. Aside from the impact on video card production mentioned earlier, it would also essentially spell the end of consoles. It’s survival of the fittest in this industry, and it wouldn’t be the first time gaming saw a major shift in the status quo.

In western countries, home consoles heralded the slow death of the video game arcade. While certainly some arcade culture does still exist, for many that particular carriage turned into a pumpkin a long, long time ago. Technology is subject to constant evolution, with video gaming being one of the most dynamic and rapidly-progressing industries. For many years, this evolution manifested as an improvement on the current standard.

However, eventually these improvements manifest themselves as changes in the medium itself. Just as the evolution of home consoles muscled out the video arcades, so to may cloud gaming consume the home console market.

The stage is set for cloud gaming to become an industry standard. Maybe not now, maybe not in five or even ten years; but the storm is coming. And when it rains, it pours.

Do you think cloud gaming is a dead end? Do you keep all your money in a mattress and all your data on a hard drive? Let us know in the forums, or share your comments below!

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The silver lining behind cloud gaming