For a long time, video games have been dismissed as nothing more than a distraction, something meant for children to help them pass the time. While it may have been true once, that hasn’t been the case for a while now. Video games are now a huge industry, enjoyed by people of all ages, and it’s time to start taking this form of entertainment more seriously.
It may be difficult to believe, but the video games market is already worth more than the music and movie markets combined. According to a recent report published by GlobalData, the value of the video games market was estimated at more than $130 billion in 2018 and is predicted to reach $300 billion by 2025. This massive growth of the gaming industry will mostly be driven by new technologies, such as 5G, the cloud, and virtual reality.
Cloud gaming could become the next global phenomenon
Cloud gaming in particular is set to play an important role in the upcoming rise of the gaming industry. “Cloud gaming is evolving into a global phenomenon,” says Ed Thomas, GlobalData’s principal analyst for technology. “Major games companies are racing to become the Netflix of games, driven by rapidly increasing viewership on existing streaming channels. However, latency and bandwidth limitations will serve as a brake on the development of mobile gaming services. The maturing of cloud technologies and development of 5G will reduce these network issues, creating an increasingly competitive market in which several leaders have already emerged.”
Following the example set by music and movies, most notably success stories like Spotify and Netflix, video games are now starting to move into the cloud as well. Over the past couple of years, a number of major companies have announced plans to launch their own game streaming platforms, including Google, Microsoft, and Nvidia. With so many important players invested in the concept, it’s becoming increasingly likely that cloud technology will have a transformative impact on the future of gaming.
5G will enable cloud gaming to fulfill its potential
The idea of cloud gaming has been around for a while. However, technical limitations have prevented earlier game streaming platforms like Gaikai and OnLive from catching on. Cloud gaming requires not only a high-speed internet connection, but also low latency (the time that passes between a user issuing a command and a computer executing it). That’s where 5G comes in. 5G satisfies both of these criteria, allowing users to stream high-end video games on any device they own, whether it’s a laptop, a smartphone, a tablet, or a TV.
5G-enabled cloud gaming will not only benefit end users, but also game developers, who won’t be restricted by hardware limitations anymore. “For their entire careers, developers have had to work within those constraints,” says Cat Schmitz, a Verizon 5G Ecosystems Open Innovation team member. “They’ve always had to optimize, to decide what’s really important and then take out the rest. On a 5G network, they don’t have to do that.”
Nvidia GeForce NOW unites various digital game stores for the ultimate gaming library
GeForce NOW is Nvidia’s game streaming platform that allows PC, Mac, and Nvidia Shield users to play the latest triple-A games even if they don’t have the most powerful hardware at home. The service currently supports more than 400 different games available on the Steam, Uplay, and Battle.net digital stores, including popular favourites like Fortnite and PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS.
While Nvidia doesn’t sell the games directly, users can sign into their digital store of choice through the GeForce NOW app, pick one of the supported games, and add it to their GeForce NOW library. The game will then be installed to their cloud gaming rig and is available to play in a matter of seconds. These cloud gaming rigs are hosted on data centres located in North America and Europe and powered by Nvidia Tesla graphics cards, basically allowing users to turn almost any computer into a powerful gaming rig.
The quality of the stream will depend on your internet connection. A 15 Mbps connection will allow you to stream games in 720p at 60 frames per second (fps), while 25Mpbs will raise the quality to 1080p. There’s also an Ultra Streaming mode that allows you to increase the framerate to 120 in certain games. Most importantly, GeForce NOW requires a 5GHz wireless router or ethernet connection to work. There are also some modest hardware requirements. PC users will need a 64-bit version of Windows 7 or newer, a Dual-core x86 CPU with 2.0GHz or better, 4GB of RAM, and a GPU running DirectX 9 or better. Mac users, on the other hand, need to be running macOS 10.10 or better. In the future, Nvidia also plans to include 4K rendering and 90hz refresh rates to allow VR/AR content streaming, as well as support for 5G. Currently in beta, GeForce NOW is free to use for the time being, with no official launch date or pricing structure announced yet.
Play 4K games on any device with Google Stadia
During a Game Developers Conference keynote in San Francisco in 2019, Google officially unveiled Stadia, a new cloud gaming platform that allows users to stream video games to any device with an internet connection, including smartphones, tablets, Chromebooks, and TVs. Stadia will stream games in 4K at 60 fps and will support surround sound and HDR. Somewhere along the line, Google also plans to add support for 8K resolution and framerate of up to 120, as well as cross-platform play. However, offline downloads won’t be allowed.
Users will be able to play games through a variety of existing controllers or buy a specialised Stadia controller, which will have some additional features built in, such as smart device detection, a share button, and a dedicated Google Assistant button. Google also revealed two key consumer-facing features during the conference. State Share allows users to save an exact point in a game and share it with their friends so they can continue playing from there, while Crowd Play allows them to join a livestream and play online games with the streamer.
Google has already confirmed a number of existing and upcoming games for Stadia and announced partnerships with Unreal and Unity for the development of new games. The company has also announced the formation of its own studio called Stadia Games and Entertainment, which will be tasked with developing exclusives for the platform. Stadia is scheduled for launch in November 2019. Standard subscription, called Stadia Pro, will cost $10 per month and offers 4K gaming with 60 frames per second, HDR, and 5.1 surround sound, as well as free games and discounts. There will also be a free version called Stadia Base, available in 2020, which will allow users to play any supported game they own in 1080p resolution. According to Google, users will need at least a 30 Mbps connection to play games in 4K, with suggestions that 5G may be the best way to reach said speeds.
Start playing on your PC and continue playing on your smartphone with Project xCloud
Not to be left behind, Microsoft has also announced its own game streProject xCloud. With public beta testing scheduled to start sometime in the fall of 2019, Project xCloud will allow users to stream a wide variety of games to a device of their choice, whether it’s a PC, an Xbox, or even a smartphone. The games will be streamed from Microsoft’s own servers using customised hardware that consists of component parts of multiple Xbox One consoles. The servers will be powered by Azure Cloud architecture, which has data centres in 140 countries around the world. This should enable Microsoft to perform a wide-scale rollout of the service once it’s ready.
Technical details about Project xCloud are very scarce at this time. Microsoft claims that it aming service called can already stream 3,500 titles from the company’s extensive library of existing Xbox One and PC games, with another 1,900 titles coming in the future. Project xCloud will use a cloud saving system that will allow users to pause a game on one device and continue playing on another from the same spot. There will be multiple control options, including existing Xbox One controller and touch controls. No details about the pricing have been shared yet. “We’re developing Project xCloud not as a replacement for game consoles, but as a way to provide the same choice and versatility that lovers of music and video enjoy today,” says Kareem Choudhry, the CVP of Gaming Cloud at Microsoft.
Bethesda’s Orion tech can improve cloud gaming performance
Bethesda Softworks, the company behind the popular Fallout and Elder Scrolls series, recently announced its own cloud gaming project called Orion. However, the Orion platform won’t be another game streaming service to compete with the likes of Stadia or xCloud. Instead, it was designed to improve cloud gaming performance by assigning some of the processing tasks to the game engine.
According to Bethesda, Orion tech can reduce the time it takes to encode a frame of video by 30 per cent and cut the required computing work by 20 percent. Furthermore, it can reduce the bandwidth requirements by as much as 40 per cent, allowing even those with slower internet speeds to experience cloud gaming. “This can be put into any game engine, it can be used with any streaming platform to provide a better experience for any consumer playing that game on that platform and to deliver it at a lower cost for whoever’s serving the data,” says James Altman, Bethesda’s director of publishing.
Will cloud gaming change the way we play video games?
Video games have come a long way since their humble beginnings, becoming a massive industry that’s already surpassed music and movies in terms of revenue. But that may be just the tip of the iceberg, with the gaming industry predicted to reach even loftier heights over the coming years thanks to the emergence of cloud gaming.
Just like music and movies before them, video games are also starting to move into the cloud, with a number of major companies recently announcing their own cloud gaming projects. Cloud gaming is expected to have a major impact on how, when, and where we play video games. However, cloud gaming requires both a high-speed internet connection and low latency to work properly, which is where 5G comes in. It will allow even those who don’t have powerful gaming rigs at home to experience the latest triple-A titles on any device they might own, moving seamlessly between laptops, smartphones, tablets, and TVs without sacrificing quality.