With cloud gaming taking over the world, gaming enthusiasts are increasingly giving up their gaming consoles and saying yes to games that can be played on-the-go. You might wonder: Gaming is all about owning gaming consoles and playing them on big screens, so why put it on cloud? Well, unlike traditional gaming, cloud gaming enables you to have an immersive gaming experience on any device. Moreover, it takes away the burden of download time on expensive consoles. It also bridges the gap between people who play games on low spec specification devices and high spec specification devices.
Gaming companies planning to offer, or already offering, cloud gaming cannot possibly be thinking of the future if they aren’t considering the impact of 5G on cloud gaming. Opportunities for cloud gaming industry players, with the fastened roll out of 5G, are enormous. An IHIS Markit report forecasted the cloud gaming services and content market to increase from $387 million (in 2018) to $2.5 billion in the year 2023, with 5G being a driving force of the growth . 5G cloud gaming is surely taking the world by storm. As 5G is becoming more and more ready for roll outs and gaming more cloud-dependent, a few key trends are emerging and shaping how we adapt to cloud gaming. Tech players and communication service providers (CSPs) are targeting to create new services, new markets, new revenue streams and opportunities that’ll help them make a mark in the gaming industry.
Cloud gaming vs traditional console gaming
Also known as gaming on demand and gaming-as-a-service, cloud gaming means online gaming which runs video games on remote servers. With cloud gaming, you can stream video directly to your devices and play games remotely from a cloud. So, essentially, cloud gaming differs from traditional console gaming as it enables gamers to play games that are hosted in the cloud instead of having to download them on a PC or owning a gaming console. Basically, all the graphics and videos are processed on the console that’s stored on the cloud. Why is cloud gaming appealing to players? Here’s why:
- Allows gamers to play games anywhere they have good connectivity
- Gamers don’t have to invest in physical copies of the games they want to play
- Gamers don’t need to purchase gaming consoles for playing games and instead can use their devices like smartphones
When playing games on demand, you send commands from your smartphone keyboard to the gaming platform. The server then receives those commands, runs them and streams back the results to you. It is evident that this would take a lot of back-and-forth over the cloud. Hence, the network you’re using has to be quick and responsive, or else, your cloud gaming experience would be ruined. Mobile devices originally aren’t designed to process huge amounts of data, neither do they have high processing power. This is where 5G technology comes in. The advent of 5G has brought with it the consistent connectivity and quick responsiveness which is needed to deliver a seamless gaming experience.
The boom in cloud gaming
Though cloud gaming has been around for over a decade but hasn’t really gained the popularity it deserved. For example, OnLive (a US-based cloud gaming service) was launched in 2009 but didn’t receive great reception from its players. However, it was largely because of the dissatisfactory graphics and video quality and time lag that resulted in a poor cloud gaming experience. So, just 2 years into its launch, OnLive sold the majority of its assets and technology to Sony.
A report published by Mordor Intelligence found the global gaming market valued at US$ 1.15 billion in the year 2020 and forecasted it to reach US$2.70 billion by the year 2026, while growing at a 15.3% CAGR . Today, we are seeing so many players in the gaming industry positioning themselves as niche gaming-as-a-service providers. They are focusing on addressing a niche segment of the market, in terms of target customers and titles. With time, big tech companies are also entering the playground with their on demand cloud gaming services. Google already has launched Stadia in 2019 and is capable of streaming games with up to 4K resolution at 60 fps (frames per second).
In April 2021, Microsoft rolled out Xbox Cloud Gaming, which was previously known as xCloud, to serve cloud gamers. Presently, the service will be rolled out only to iPhones, iPads and Personal Computers and will be invite-only in the beginning. It is sort of ‘Netflix for games’ and was rolled out to about 22 countries. All players need is a Bluetooth or USB controller. Moreover, even Walmart is planning to launch its cloud gaming platform.
Is 5G the reason behind the boom in cloud gaming?
Cloud gaming is a dream come true for millions of gamers out there. It always was an industry that was meant to boom. It couldn’t do so majorly because of the lack of the right technologies needed to support it. According to a Bell Labs paper “Cloud gaming and 5G”, they found that while cloud gaming can be performed on 4G LTE network, it wasn’t ever designed keeping technologies, like Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, in mind.Thanks to advances in 5G technology, cloud computing can take advantage of better connectivity and less latency. Cloud gaming will also benefit from edge computing, in terms of latency and QOE.
Moreover, an Opensignal report that tested various mobile games to understand the impact of different network conditions on gameplay. What the report found was that the designers try hard to eliminate poor network issues by using several techniques like allowing AI to take over from players to keep the game flowing. The report also noted that the improved 5G network of latencies combined with higher speeds are likely to massively increase the multiplayer gaming experience .
5G cloud gaming will enable mobile gaming lovers to use location-based features as well. While multiplayer arenas have always enjoyed low latency and high speeds, there’s a big scope for 5G connectivity that’ll benefit the emerging cloud gaming industry as well as other key areas of the gaming industries, such as mobile games, online games and video games. The market is expected to grow fast as 5G technology is being rolled out, enhancing the performance of its network as well as the availability of high-speed connections.
SEE ALSO: Gaming Technology Trends in 2021
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 RootMetrics by IHS Markit (2020) “Mobile cloud gaming: the real-world cloud gaming experience in Los Angeles” [Online] Available from: https://rootmetrics.com/en-US/content/us-LA-gaming-report-2020 [Accessed April 2021]
 Mordor Intelligence (2020) “CLOUD GAMING MARKET – GROWTH, TRENDS, COVID-19 IMPACT, AND FORECASTS (2021 – 2026)” [Online] Available from: https://mordorintelligence.com/industry-reports/cloud-gaming-market [Accessed April 2021]
 Nokia “Nokia Cloud gaming and 5G – Realizing the opportunity” [Online] Available from: https://onestore.nokia.com/asset/207843?did=d000000002t9&utm_campaign=futurithmic&utm_source=futurithmic&utm_medium=syndication&utm_content=referral_from_futurithmic_dot_com_to_nokia [Accessed April 2021]
 Opensignal (2020) “THE STATE OF MOBILE GAMES EXPERIENCE IN THE 5G ERA” [Online] Available from: https://www.opensignal.com/reports/2020/02/global-state-of-mobile-games-experience [Accessed April 2021]