One of the many use-cases of high internet speeds including those that the upcoming 5G wave in India will provide is cloud gaming. The term refers to a new way of enjoying games that, unlike regular gaming, doesn’t rely on powerful hardware that high-end phones, handhelds, desktops or consoles often possess.
Instead, cloud gaming relies solely on a strong and fast internet connection. In today’s edition of Tech InDepth, we will look at how exactly this tech works and what powers cloud gaming.
What is Cloud Gaming?
Cloud Gaming refers to a game that runs on a data server, which players remotely access via their systems. While the input for the games is collected by the user and the output is displayed to them, it is the game’s processing that is not done locally and requires an internet connection to send data to the cloud, process it, and show an output back on the player’s display, all in real-time.
To understand this, imagine you’re gaming on a PC or a console and while your mouse, keyboard or controller and monitor are still at your desk, the CPU or the body of the console are situated elsewhere. Instead of wires, it is the internet connectivity that connects your monitor and peripherals to your CPU/console and back to your monitor.
While games are practically ‘streamed’ through the cloud, it is your inputs and actions that reflect in the game in real-time. You may have heard of many cloud gaming services Unsurprisingly, this requires a very fast and stable internet connection.
Benefits of cloud gaming
The primary benefit of cloud gaming is the lack of specific hardware to run games. This is great for casual gamers who may not want to spend thousands of rupees on high-end computers, irrespective of whether they get an assembled one or make a build themselves.
This factor alone was what got a lot of people into cloud gaming during the early COVID years, when GPUs were hard to come by and hence, building a gaming PC had become a costly affair. Moreover, newer consoles like the Sony PS5 were also low on stock pretty much everywhere across the world.
Support on multiple devices is another plus point. With all your game data and progress stored in remote data centers, you can game from anywhere in the world as long as your system has a fast internet connection. Many cloud gaming services like Google Stadia and Steam Link also let you take your game from one platform like your PC, to another like your smartphone.
Disadvantages of cloud gaming
Cloud gaming has its limitations. It doesn’t support all games, and even on the games that you can enjoy via cloud gaming, the experience will usually be inferior to that of running the same game locally on a PC or console. These limitations can be the max framerate, highest resolution settings, etc.
Another aspect is latency. Anything connected across the web is bound to have some form of latency in theory, even on very fast connections. Local, wired connections on the other hand, are much faster in transmitting and receiving data. This is why a lot of professional gamers out there choose wired peripherals like mice, keyboards and headphones as opposed to wireless solutions that run on Bluetooth or 2.4GHz WiFi.
Even the fastest internet connections are bound by latency, which is why limitations like that of resolution are set in place. Most cloud gaming platforms are also a subscription based service, meaning you have to keep paying to keep playing. Lastly, the service is also limited by internet connectivity. If you live in an area where fast internet is either hard to come by or too expensive, you may not want to get into cloud gaming at all.
Future of cloud gaming
Google recently announced that its somewhat popular cloud gaming service Google Stadia would be shut down in January 2023, due to not picking up the numbers Google desired. However, other services like Nvidia’s GeForce Now, Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass and Sony’s own PlayStation Plus Premium continue to go strong.
Cloud gaming is expected to pick up pace in the years to come. A report by Grand View Research in fact suggests that the cloud gaming market, which accounted for $691.6 million in 2021 is anticipated to grow at 45.8% CAGR (compound annual growth rate) between 2022 and 2030, soon expected to be a billion dollar industry.
If you want to try your hand at cloud gaming, you can try out Sony’s PlayStation Plus Premium, Nvidia GeForce Now, Xbox Cloud Gaming, or even Steam Link.