What will gaming look like when it goes into the cloud?

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One of the biggest hurdles in cloud gaming is the reluctance of ‘gamers’ to adopt the system, but developers and tech giants aren’t slowing down their move to the cloud. So, what is cloud gaming? How can we expect the landscape to look in a few years? And most importantly, what are the limitations?

Gaming for everyone

At its’ core, cloud gaming is the idea that everybody should have access to games no matter their geographical location or the hardware they possess. Most AAA games aim to push the boundaries of technology delivering more detailed graphics, larger and more immersive worlds, smarter AI, and seamlessly connected multiplayer experiences. That vision has a cost of entry, the price: owning the latest, high-powered hardware.

High-spec PCs can run games faster, more smoothly, with greater graphical detail. Not every release is well optimized and many games struggle to run on even mid-range PCs. There are even many instances of console releases being poorly optimized or under-delivering due to the constraints of the system.

Cloud gaming offers an opportunity to break down this barrier, delivering high-quality gaming experiences to lower-spec devices. The only thing cloud gaming requires is a screen and an internet connection… in theory.

For cloud gaming to work, games need to have near-zero latency to provide the gamer with as smooth gameplay as possible. This means high-quality audio/video streaming with as little interruption as possible and no drops in performance. Any cloud gaming infrastructure also needs to be able to run multiple instances of games without losing any performance.

Any service currently offering a cloud gaming experience is likely running their system similar to a remote desktop or video streaming service. The games are executed and run remotely on a service provider’s dedicated hardware. The game is then streamed as video to the player’s device – this could be through an app or via a web browser. So where are the limitations?

What makes a cloud so powerful?

Modern games are meant to run on GPUs, they’re designed, built, and optimized for the latest series of cards, aiming to extract every last bit of power from the card to push for better graphics at a higher frame rate.

Here’s where the problems begin to arise. A video-on-demand service, while being very resource hungry, pales in comparison to the computing power needed to run games. Cloud gaming infrastructure as well as needing the raw power behind it also needs to be closer to the user. Even tech giant Meta admits that their ‘Data Centers alone cannot provide the level of ultra-low latency we require for cloud gaming’. Their solution is to rely on edge computing, putting the cloud gaming infrastructure closer to the users, and deploying in larger population centers.

Meanwhile, the most popular GPU Manufacturer, Nvidia, who provides their own cloud gaming service limit not only the length of your gaming session, but the access to their higher-end servers depending on the subscription model you subscribe to. Those paying more get access to servers using the latest 30-series Nvidia cards, allowing for higher quality gaming and making the most of lighting features like RTX.

What does the future look like?

You can’t mention cloud gaming without looking at the effort being made by companies like Microsoft who continue to push their cloud offering bundled together with other popular services like Game

Pass. For large publishers, the selling point of the cloud is the ability to play “next-gen games” without cumbersome installs and on a multitude of devices.

It’s also hard to talk about cloud gaming without mentioning the impact the metaverse will have on its rollout and development. As businesses align their web3 offering and begin to explore the metaverse, many of the problems facing cloud gaming will be replicated in the metaverse. Raw computing power, edge applications, and network infrastructure will all need serious modernization and upgrading to meet the demands of the metaverse, just as they will with cloud gaming.

Many developers will also see cloud gaming as a way to introduce people to the concept of the metaverse. Using systems in place as a sort of tech demo for what could be achieved.

Expect to see serious investment in broadband infrastructure as well as collaboration with mobile network operators to help solve the issues of latency.

As developers and users get to grips with cloud gaming, expect to see more publishers adopting cloud gaming as the way forward for their main titles. Added benefits such as reduced downtime and developer overhead will see companies leading the charge for a cloud-first approach to gaming.

For the users, surging costs in hardware and the relative scarcity of stock will also be a factor in drawing gamers into cloud adoption. Currently, many of the major benefits of cloud gaming are being overlooked due to latency issues. As these are fixed with improved networking expect to see fans pick up cloud gaming as natively as they would load their games consoles or PC.

By James Ponter, Regional Head of Professional Services, Cloudreach