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Cloud Gaming | Is it a viable replacement for PC and Console gaming?

cloud gaming

For the past decade, companies have been utilizing their resources for conducting research on a particular field, i.e, cloud gaming. This technology is derived from cloud computing, which involves availability of files and other resources from a server instead of the client’s own system. Similarly, cloud gaming allow users to stream games without actually having to store the game files in their own system. Notable examples include PlayStation Now, and the upcoming Stadia and xCloud. Let us dive deep into the details of this technology.

How does it work?

Image Credit: Allen Chi

Cloud Gaming, in simple terms, is a “gaming on demand” service, similar to video-on-demand. Here’s how it works. The company providing such service owns and maintains a server computer or a group of server computers. These servers store the game files for all the games that are part of that particular service. A user subscribes to the cloud gaming service either for free, or by paying a monthly/yearly subscription fee. Through their device, the user logs in to the service via an application client or a web browser. 

The user then selects and runs the game which they want to stream. But unlike traditional gaming experience, the user’s device won’t do the actual processing. The game files will be executed in the servers belonging to the company providing the service. Since the server would render the game’s assets, the user does not need a high-end PC or a console to play the game. Whenever the user presses a button, the data is transferred directly to the servers; the server in return acts upon it and provides the desired action in the game. Cloud gaming is very similar to video-on-demand, except, you would be actually playing the game instead of merely watching a gameplay video. But since it’s the server which would perform all rendering and execution tasks, you do not need to worry about your system’s specifications.

Can it beat PC and Console gaming?

It sounds amazing, right? Being able to play the latest AAA titles on a low-end device is something every gamer would want. Cloud gaming is already here and will be available for consumer use soon. But does that mean we no longer need to buy high-end hardware anymore? Well, here’s the thing. Using cloud gaming services requires a continuous and stable internet connection with sufficient speed. Given that it’s 2019, one can say that having a 50 Mbps internet connection is not that big of a deal. But not everyone has access to it, especially people belonging to third-world nations, including India. And assuming that you are lucky enough to have such internet speed, consistency is also a factor. 

Disconnection and ping loss is also an issue, something which stands as a big obstacle to cloud gaming. Even if you get disconnected from the internet for a mili-second, your game would stop since it is rendered from a server. Having a slow or inconsistent internet connection would give you poor gameplay performance, which might make you think twice before making a choice between high-end device or cloud gaming subscription. Another major factor is data usage. Using a cloud gaming service and streaming video games would require tremendous amount of internet data. Anyone whose internet connection has a data cap will end up using their quota in a matter of days, thereby creating huge problems for them.

It is way too early to come to a definitive conclusion.

Cloud gaming is a relatively new technology and has not yet reached it’s full potential. While this technology may look promising, it’s disadvantages stand as major barriers. Therefore, one might consider sticking to high-end gaming hardware for now. However, with time and new breakthroughs in cloud and internet technology, cloud gaming will surely serve as a convenient medium of gaming. Who knows, a few years down the lane, it might actually provide a competition to PC and console gaming.

Cover image credit: The Verge
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