You may or may not have heard of “cloud gaming.” It only recently became popular (as well as functional) within the past few years. The idea behind cloud gaming is that a player doesn’t have to use their own hardware to play a game; rather, the service provider does all the computations on a server that they own… this component is “the cloud” part of cloud gaming. This service circumvents both the need to store a game locally, as well as the need to meet a game’s hardware requirements. The cloud handles the technical end and streams the game to the user, but it is also capable of accepting control input (otherwise, you would just be watching a game like a video). Consequently, the Internet is essential, and your connection quality will affect your experience.
Probably the most recognizable cloud gaming service is OnLive, which set out to stream gameplay to users back in 2010. OnLive experienced some difficulties at one point, and almost shut down for good. I remember hearing about their failure, and figured that cloud gaming died that day. Boy, was I wrong. To my surprise, OnLive has risen from the ashes and continues to offer their services today. Cloud gaming continued to expand and intrigue the world. For a more detailed (and fun!) look into the history leading up to cloud gaming, check out this great infographic!
Many other companies, such as Nvidia, Sony, and Square-Enix, have thrown their hats into the ring. Why is there so much interest in cloud gaming services? Let’s compare it to a similar product that is thriving right now: on-demand video services. No doubt you or someone you know uses Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Video, or something similar. The products provide movies and TV shows to users in a very convenient manner. Tablet, phone, or computer; these products don’t care what you use, they can stream video to you all the same assuming you have the internet connection to support them. Honestly, even my Blu-ray player has an app for Netflix and Amazon Video. I don’t even need to turn on my Xbox 360 or hook up my computer to the TV to access Netflix. It’s incredible how convenient it is. Not to mention, they have a collection that would consume my entire lifetime if I wanted to watch it all.
Back to cloud gaming: imagine being able to stream games as easily as it is to stream videos and you can start to see the appeal. Developers get another store to sell their games, and people can play them without worrying about the technical specifications of their own machine. Everyone wins a little in the cloud gaming scheme.
Currently, there are many approaches to the implementation of cloud gaming. Right now, users pay per game, rather than paying a subscription fee every month to access the entire library. Cloud gaming services use a variety of devices including existing consoles and internet browsers. OnLive actually has its own console you can buy to use with your TV, and the OUYA has OnLive access. The company has even launched an app for Android tablets and iPads. Some games have new touch controls, but players can use the OnLive controller as well. It doesn’t seem all that crazy to expect to play games with high tech requirements on simpler devices such as Android phones and iPhones in the future. For example, you could be waiting for the bus, playing iPhone games, and conquering a demanding game—such as Crysis 3—one day in the very near future. This technology certainly opens some doors, I would say.
As a final note, I’d like to touch on the Playstation 4. This upcoming console will take advantage of cloud technology with some of its features. One example is being able to stream one of your friend’s games, and you can even take over at their behest! Being able to demo a game before you purchase it on Playstation’s virtual store is another feature that will utilize the cloud. It seems that cloud gaming is evolving into a popular technology that will become an asset in the gaming industry.