Last week, Google announced Stadia to the world. In essence, streaming gaming is coming.
Streaming gaming is nothing new and has been working on for a few years. The biggest hurdles were broadband speeds and processing cost. It was inevitable we would overcome either of those. It was more a question of when.
Nvidia has been working on this for years and launch their GameStream service back in 2013.
It was not by accident that Reed Hastings (CEO of Netflix) said: “we compete with Fortnite more than HBO“. If I look at my boys, he is 100% right. They would trade in a Netflix subscription for a Fortnite battle pass any day.
There are some doubts voiced about lag, but I doubt it is bad enough for most users to care. Hard-gamers? Yes, they will keep playing on PCs for now. For everyone else it is fine.
I say that because most people game on their TVs. Most TVs have an input lag of 50ms or more. The image processing takes a couple of frames or more analyze before outputting it onto the screen. You can put your TV in ‘game mode’ which reduces that to 35ms to 33ms, but nobody does that.
A casual test by pinging Google’s DNS server at 18.104.22.168 reveals a round-trip time of 13ms. According to John Carmack, most games have 100ms+ of total control lag anyway.
The biggest technology hurdle must have been the CPU / GPU budget. Google and Microsoft think that the performance increases and prices have come far enough to reduce the CPU / GPU budget to make this a viable business model.
There are a lot of upsides to streaming.
Platforms will no longer matter. You can play a game on any platform which is fast enough to process streaming video. Today this means any device. It could be your Chromecast or Amazon Firestick. This is a major game changer.
This will also simplify AR/VR gear and untether them. A wifi connection is enough. Google kicked this off with a wifi game controller, but that is just the start. An Oculus Go can become a video streaming device which simplifies the design while offering much more powerful immersive experience than they can ever offer on a standalone device.
Game streaming allows for other business models like game subscriptions which are interesting. Just imagine a free Prime gaming service with ports of old games and premium channels to get the latest EA or Bethesda games.
Games could be free on one device and paid for one another.
It can also change gaming mechanics where simple actions can be managed on let’s say on a mobile device and full-on gaming with a headset.
It will make spectating a lot more interesting too. No longer are you watching over the shoulder with another gamer like today, but you can be a real spectator inside the arena. Perhaps even choosing your viewpoint.
You can seamlessly move from gaming to spectating to gaming. You can spectate on your mobile device and decide to jump on with your TV.
The longer I think about this, the more I see ideas where this is just a stepping stone to create a more immersive long-lasting gaming experience. I am also particularly excited about the idea that games live on forever without major porting efforts to new platforms (and paying again for the same game).
Subscription services fit better the new game experiences which are popular today. Fortnite and others provide new game content and new experiences while asking for a battle pass to unlock some of the new options immediately. Instead of one-off major release, game studios can continuously work on expanding and changing the experience.
The gaming industry is bigger than the music and movie industry combined for years now. It was inevitable that we would end up here. It was technology holding us back. Google thinks it is time now. Microsoft agrees.
It is still early days and the future will show us where we will end up, but I for one am excited.