The Vegas casino - online and offline - is observing as Internet giants including Amazon, Microsoft and Facebook begin to offer more games via the cloud platform. For video gamers, this means that they can enjoy their favorite games at any time and from any location without the need for a computer or console device.
Online casino venues have been delivering their games on cloud for many years but now video gamers will also be able to enjoy both new video game releases and old favorites on any internet-connected device.
Small But Growing
Cloud gaming is promising to reshape the gaming industry. There’s still plenty to do but many of the advances offered by the nascent technology are already here.
Microsoft is now offering cloud gaming on almost all of its internet-connected devices. In May of this year, Amazon’s Prime members received a free trial version of the Amazon cloud platform. Facebook’s cloud gaming platform, which was released in the fall of 2020, can already be accessed by users in almost all areas of the mainland United States.
The cloud gaming industry is small but growing. By the end of 2021, Newzoo, the gaming analytics firm, estimates that it will have 23 million paying customers and surpass $1 billion in revenue. As the technology improves, revenue is projected to grow to more than $5 billion. Rupantar Guha, a gaming analyst at the analytics company GlobalData, says that, “After years of development, now is a crucial time for cloud gaming to gain mainstream prominence.”
Cloud gaming technology essentially separates a device from the technical power required to play a game. Using remote data centers, suppliers can stream a game directly to the gaming device by harnessing the company’s processing power. With games no longer tied to specific device or platform, every game will become available for gaming on any mobile or PC device. The power of a console is no longer needed as high-quality games become available, with all of their graphics-intensive display, even via old and weak devices.
Sound perfect, right? People would spend less money on pricy game consoles and powerful computers because they would be able to play all of the games on any device. But cloud gaming is still in an experimental phase. It requires a strong local connection to the Internet which isn’t available in many locales and glitches often occur that freeze a game in the middle of the gameplay.
Legally, there’s also the question of monopolies since tech giants like Google and Amazon would be able to take away much of the market share currently enjoyed by manufacturers and take ver the global games market.
Joost van Dreunen, who studies the business of video games at New York University Stern School of Business where he is a professor said “Big Tech has a sense of arrogance that they can take over an industry segment and disrupt it entirely. So far in gaming, they all suck at that.”
Google launched the Cloud gaming market in November 2019 with its Stadia subscription service that gave subscribers access to 22 games that could be played on a phone for $10/month via a Google Chrome web browser. There was also an option to purchase games individually.
Now the service offers almost 200 titles and has overcome many of its early problems with connectivity. Jack Buser, Stadia’s Director of Games told the New York Times that “There hadn’t been a new major entrant in the gaming space in 20 years. It does give us an advantage to do something different in this industry and push it forward in a way that consoles can’t.”
Google originally envisioned that it would design its own exclusive games for Stadia but in February of this year they announced that they would not be continuing on that path.
Amazon has its own cloud service, Luna, which is a $6/month subscription service that supports 85 games. Users can stream the games to computers, phones and to the Amazon Fire TV. Amazon has also tried to design games to be available exclusively on Luna and has opened a game studio in Montreal.
Van Dreunen believes that both Google and Amazon have been unsuccessful in this sector because the tech giants have a more corporate style that doesn’t fit well with the art of game design. “They may have an interesting technological solution, but it totally lacks personality,” he said. Amazon did announced that it is expecting to release a new game this summer -- New World – and observers are waiting to see whether it will be able to successfully incorporate the art of design into its business model.
Is cloud gaming compatible with gaming consoles? Sony has introduced the PlayStation Now service which, for a monthly subscription fee, streams cloud games to its consoles and to other computing devices.
Microsoft has released the xCloud, an Xbox Cloud gaming subscription service that has a games library of more than 200 games that can be played on its consoles or other devices. Facebook is also involved although its games load within the Facebook app and website and are not subscription based.
Facebook also used cloud technology to test Rival Peak, an interactive reality television game that invited viewers to vote on how the characters should act. Its decision to eschew subscriptions is based on Facebook’s belief that the correct business model for its platform involves simply keeping users on the FB platform for as long as possible.
Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella noted that today, a company that is involved in gaming in any way must be ready to support cloud gaming. But Apple has made it more difficult for companies to reach consumers by barring many cloud games from the Apple App Store.
Apple claims that cloud gaming services like Stadia and xCloud violate App Store guidelines. In denying service, Apple has made it effectively impossible to operate non-Apple games on the iPhone.
Apple runs its own cloud gaming subscription service, Apple Arcade, which operates on iOS devices and AppleTV. The service has 150 games of its own including both original games and games that are found on other platforms.
The major difference between Apple Arcade and the other cloud services is that Apple Arcade isn’t a streaming service – the games must be downloaded into a device in order to access them and play them.
One way or another, it appears that cloud gaming, glitches and all, is here to stay.