Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Gaming in the edge of cloud

As i just wrap up a couple of weeks immersed in the world of cloud gaming, I thought I would share some of what I have learned and a few opinions on the subject while it is still fresh in my mind.
First, a short confession - I have been a gamer since my first Atari Pong and Activision consoles - I don't play enough to my taste, since I haven't been able to reach my lifelong ambition of being paid to play video games.
An opinion has formed and has imposed itself as an evidence through my various meetings at the Game Developers Conference last week:
Gaming is like video streaming a few years ago: we used to look at a fraction of mobile users as "bandwidth hogs" as 5-10% of them used 70-80% of data capacity as video streaming appeared. Within a few years, as LTE was implemented at scale and higher capacity became available, we found out that we were all bandwidth hogs, we were all willing to stream video, if the networks were fast and reliable and if the costs were reasonable.
I feel that gaming will go through a similar aha moment once we make every game available on any device, at reasonable price, without having to buy or build expensive PCs or consoles. We are all gamers, we just don't know it yet.
As I turn my attention to this market, I find that much of my gaming experience still has a lot of frictions:
  • Buying a console game requires going to a store or a long download (if I have enough storage left)
  • Buying a PC game requires the same, with the added effort of ensuring that I have enough graphic capacity, computing to run it well. If you're hardcore, you start chasing latency by buying specialized keyboards and mouse for fast twitch response.
  • Once I put the disk on my system, I usually have to wait to download updates, patches, installation...
  • Once I start playing, my community is usually linked to my console or service, the Venn diagram of my physical and digital friends has overlaps that are artificial
  • I would like to think i would get better results if i had better connectivity, as lag affects my performance, particularly in First Player Shooters.
  • I still cant play my favourite games (well) on my phone or tablet.
All in all, gaming is already great, but there are many things we could do as an industry to make it better. As I look at the market and the games that are the most popular, there are a number of clear trends:
  • Game studios are starting to enforce real multiplatform play, thanks to Fortnite
  • There is interest in extending the life cycle of a game from one shot, to downloadable content, to subscription
  • To satisfy players, and keep them engaged, MMO (Massive Multiplayer Online) is key
  • Freemium can work (thanks Fortnite, Apex...)
  • Cloud streaming works OK for single player but struggles for MMO, particularly looking forward to 1080p, 2k, 4k, VR / AR...
  • Gaming is still a large screen first experience
Online Gaming requires cloud. Cloud Gaming requires excellent connectivity. Gaming streaming requires a better cloud and better telco. Edge computing might be able to help there.