Cloud Gaming: Making the Joystick Airborne
I should just come out with it. The last video game system I purchased was a Nintendo 64, back in the early 2000s. No, I am not a bells-and-whistles type of gamer, by any stretch of the imagination.
But yes, I do have an opinion on this sizable, influential community. Video games are a means by which a great many of us escape the reality of our sometimes disappointing lives. And according to several updates in tech news, the cloud will revolutionize just how quickly gamers can tap into that escape: the celebration of the console, the liberation of the joystick.
Last year, CNN broke news that OnLive, a major gaming organization, would release a collection of video games — more than 20 titles strong — via an “online subscription service” – read: via cloud computing. What is more, the Tokyo Game Show this fall featured a keynote address that espoused “cloud gaming” as the future of the community.
Even that ubiquitous power-mogul Richard Branson is breaking into the act; he plans to release Virgin Gaming in an attempt to lionize a slice of the increasingly tasty cloud-game pie.
So what is “cloud gaming,” exactly? How precisely will Mario maneuver his plucky way through this new thicket of technology? Yoshi Wada, who delivered the TGS keynote, claims that the cloud will “[change] all the rules and laws that drive current industry business models.” As the cloud applies elsewhere, businesses will no longer charge access to games by the title. Instead, players will be free to experience every game their hearts desire — for a monthly fee.
The advantages of this “Gaming-as-a-Service” concept extend not only to the business honchos and tech-folk behind it, but also to the gaming community at large. Cloud gaming would redefine the idea of playing in “real time.”
Whereas the traditional model of purchasing a game in order to play it was followed an orchestration of gamers to meet and interact in unison, the cloud wipes away such wait time: once subscribed, a gamer immediately enters a live, populated realm, where virtual play takes place on a dime that keeps on spinning.
With no limit as to how long gamers can play, or how many titles they experience either, cloud gaming could potentially instigate a new movement in the community, where game aficionados find themselves more enveloped in their favorite titles than ever.
Yet the downside also merits mentioning. The old maxim that “cheaters never prosper” has rarely been true in the gaming community. Indeed, many gamers experience their virtual worlds exclusively with cheats, or previously worked-out tutorials for the entire game, in tow.
The speed and access of “gaming-as-a-service” could potentially facilitate how easily even the most labyrinthine of video games are solved. The subsequent “cheat codes” would also be distributed more widely. Instead of bravely fumbling their way through a title, more players would simply follow another’s directions for an easy win. Cloud gaming should be on guard against a lazier gaming community.
Before cloud gaming even becomes a reality, however, the industry has a tough pill to swallow: gamers love their hardware. They adore their consoles, snuggle with their joysticks. These apparatuses make their virtual worlds concrete. The cloud would render Halo, Minecraft, Assassins: Creed II, and other major titles into just that: abstract, cloud-like wisps of a game.
Convincing hardcore gamers otherwise will prove to be a video game in itself. Unfortunately for “cloud gaming” believers and businessmen, the cheat code has yet to be written.
By Jeff Norman