When cloud gaming first came on to the scene, it was heralded with a lot of hype and promised to revolutionize how games were played in addition to bringing millions of new gamers to the market.
It’s been nearly ten years since the major cloud gaming start-ups were launched – OnLive and Nvidia to name but two of the first cloud gaming start-ups. First impressions have been mixed. And while it is clear that cloud gaming has yet to live up to the hype of the early 2010s, does that mean it can’t continue to grow and perhaps take hold of the industry as promised but only a decade later?
One thing is certain: cloud gaming has expanded the possibilities for developers to share or show off their products. By using cloud technology as opposed to an existing gaming console or platform, more game developers are able to put out more products. This has contributed to game developers being ranked as one of the top entertainment jobs of 2021.
Cloud Gaming in a Nutshell
Sometimes referred to as “gaming on-demand”, cloud gaming is essentially a platform that allows users to stream and play video games without the need for specific hardware or a particular gaming console. It works in much the same way as streaming video content from providers such as Netflix or Disney +. The notable difference is that the content you stream is playable video games as opposed to simple video content you would consume passively.
On the heels of much hype and hoopla, the first cloud gaming service, OnLive, rolled out to consumers in 2010. A year later, Gaikai launched their own cloud gaming service. The following year, they sold their service to Sony for $380 million. Naturally, developers and ambitious start-ups were eager to enter the new cloud gaming market which promised high and quick returns on investments.
The reception from consumers, however, was not quite as enthusiastic. In order to stream and play video games from the cloud, a very high and reliable internet connection was required as well as a powerful computer with a lot of RAM and a fast processor.
At the time, this significantly reduced the number of potential customers. Moreover, even the lucky few who had the required specs to test out these new cloud gaming providers complained of lag time and glitches that rendered the games unplayable or, at best, significantly less enjoyable than playing them on traditional gaming devices.
The less than enthusiastic response from users did little to detract companies from trying their hand in the market. Giants such as Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, and Google have each made an attempt to capitalize on cloud gaming to varying degrees of success – or in the case of Google, outright failure.
Promises and Projections
In 2020, the global market for cloud gaming was estimated to be worth over $600 million. It’s worth noting that 2020 also saw more and more people staying home due to lockdowns, quarantines, and other Covid-19 related causes. This should account for some of the uptick in online entertainment. Nevertheless, industry experts are optimistic that this trend will only increase. Some projections predict the global market for cloud gaming to surpass $5 billion over the next 5 years.
Industry experts cite the increased availability of 5G networks, the increased performance of both laptops and desktop computers as factors that will help open up cloud gaming to more and more consumers.
If those claims sound familiar, they should. By 2010, 4G networks had started to spread across Europe and North America, and with them the promise of a new era od online gaming. The results didn’t live up to the promises. But that was then. And it doesn’t necessarily mean that the second promise of a bright future for cloud gaming can’t come to pass.
With several industry giants such as Deutsche Telekom, Verizon, and Amazon set to launch their own cloud gaming services, competition is as fierce as the expectations are high. For those who remember the similar cloud gaming hype and subsequent disappointment of ten years ago, it’s hard not to have our enthusiasm tempered with doubt and perhaps a bit of cynicism.
On the other hand, technological progress is all but inevitable. And it’s easy to see how the promises of cloud gaming – video games as accessible to play as video content is accessible to watch – can get gamers of all levels excited.
Cloud gaming promises to be the future (again). However, if the past is any indication, we may need to wait until 5G networks and high-performance computers are commonplace before cloud gaming services can offer a gaming experience that can compete with traditional gaming consoles. And that future is still a few years away.