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Cloud TV, Gaming and Entertainment: Making The Joystick Airborne

Cloud TV, Gaming and Entertainment: Making The Joystick Airborne

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

Jeff Norman

Jeff Norman is a freelance writer currently based in New York City. He's moved into writing about cloud computing from substantial work in culture and the arts. He earned his undergraduate degree in English at Stanford and has studied at Oxford and Cambridge.

One Response to Cloud TV, Gaming and Entertainment: Making The Joystick Airborne

  1. Cloud gaming sounds like a nice pipe dream and maybe there are games out there that are suited to it, but even now in 2013 where Microsoft can’t even get VOIP to work reliably in Lync, I can’t see full HD gaming working in real-time for a long time to come. Let’s face it, a user sees something on screen, reacts to it, makes some input into the game and then that has to be transmitted to a server, get processed and then a full images of the result need to be rendered, transmitted back to the device and displayed on screen. All this needs to happen fast enough to so it feels like there is no delay from the user’s point of view. Aside from the serious hardware required on the server side depending on how many players are accessing the game (but that’s the cloud, so it’s not the user’s problem – it’s magic) this model requires a fast, responsive, reliable internet. That internet does not yet exist IMHO.
    Internet infrastructure and reliability is one hurdle. Internet expenses and bandwidth/quota caps are another. With a game installed on my system I can play 5760×1200 resolution at > 30 fps and have it be completely responsive. It’s very difficult to imagine that such an experience could be replicated, especially in responsive real-time using a cloud based gaming service. I still cannot stream a movie reliably or even browse a lot of web sites in real time, let alone play HD games. And even if it could work, now my monthly internet quota is consumed by something that otherwise would use minimal or no internet quota at all.
    Also as mentioned in the article, the consumers are the ones that need to be convinced, not the technology providers. I can believe in my product all I want, but if the customer doesn’t like it then they won’t buy it. Existing hard-core gamers already get upset enough just because a new game uses DRM meaning that an internet connection is required to play. Gamers don’t like that. Yet, unless I am mistaken, cloud based gaming requires an internet connection to play!
    I think what will happen is that a new “dumb” (for lack of a better word) audience will develop (the kind of people that get addicted to games in Facebook now) who are going to be the audience for the new, slow, unreliable cloud based games. Young children will also play the games since they are growing up in an internet based world and they are used to just going with the flow. These users will play cloud based games ignorantly (none the wiser that a locally installed solution would avoid drop outs, slow downs and other problems that no doubt will be common place) and as the technology gains pace (and maybe the internet gets faster and more reliable) the momentum will build. Whether the real hard-core gaming community eventually yields to cloud based gaming is yet to be seen, since it means compromising standards built up over decades for no substantial gain other than being able to browse/play more titles. I’m sure most gamers will choose one perfectly performing, fast, responsive always available game over 10 shoddy performing, sometimes available, lower resolution games that consume their monthly internet quota.

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