The term “cloud” is being thrown around the internet and gaming scene quite often these days. Simply put, cloud gaming is a game that’s being streamed directly to your computer from a server. A cloud-based service can be used for many different things. Services like email, Google word, Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube. Some major gaming platforms like Steam, XBL, and PSN use cloud integration.
The major difference between cloud gaming and other forms of cloud-based services and/or content is that the processing power required for gaming is more taxing than most other computer operations. This means that, despite Google documents processing power in the cloud, it’s still just doing word processing or streaming audio and video in the case of Netflix, whereas cloud-based gaming relies on dynamic generation of audio and video in response to player-constructed inputs. (i.e. mouse and keyboard).
The advantages to using cloud-gaming are numerous. The necessity for big, expensive, hardware such as computers and consoles would be a thing of the past. The server supplying the game would handle all the processing. Theoretically, you could play on laptops, tablets, TVs or even smartphones. This could be offered as a subscription service (i.e., Netflix) rather than having to buy games individually.
Now here’s the real issue. Is cloud-based gaming a viable option for the future, or is it just a pipedream? With the demand for streaming audio, video and online gaming growing exponentially there are already concerns whether the bandwidth required is available. Even with the huge leaps forward that have been made in internet speeds in the past 10 years, cloud-based services have come to represent a formidable portion of internet traffic. How much data can we shove down this pipe and not experience latency? Current cellphone plans are based on data usage. Cell phone companies already rely on ISPs to help with their capacity issues. This could severely hamper or even make it impossible for cloud gaming to be successful.
As it stands now, cloud gaming only applies to single-player games. But recent games have been steadily incorporating multiplayer options. To the point that single player often takes a back seat to multiplayer with popular franchises like Call of Duty and Counter Strike. This could lead to some serious problems for companies like Gaikai, OTOY, and OnLive. Being able to support multiplayer games is a must for gaming companies. With the bandwidth concerns they are already facing, a viable solution will need to be found to be able support anything more than single player.
Cloud-gaming could be the wave of the future. It could change when, where and how we game…if the internet speed, bandwidth issues and server capacity/processing power catch up enough to support it. That’s a few too many could’s, should’s and if’s for me though. Guess I’m stuck with my bulky Xbox for now. But so are all my friends.