Is the future for gamers in the cloud?

It is probably the dream of every thoroughbred gamers: Out of the hardware spiral, which more or less “forces” him to upgrade the graphics card, processor and other components every few years, to enjoy the full graphics richness of games. The way out of this expensive hamster wheel could be cloud gaming. Basically, the technology has been around for years and basically works like other software as a service offerings such as Gmail, shop systems like Shopify, and basically all applications that run in the cloud.

Powerful gaming hardware in the data center

From a technical point of view, cloud gaming is relatively simple: instead of having the graphics, physics and other elements of the game world computed on the home PC or console, these tasks take on powerful hardware in the data center. The servers then send a video stream to the user’s machine, for the output of which a relatively old graphics card and weak hardware suffice. The input and output is done as usual via mouse and keyboard or the gamepad and overall the gaming experience is no different from a classic setup.

The delay, until a keystroke arrives at the game in the data center and then processed and presented to the player, it should be so low that only professional online gamers notice this, assures us graphics card specialist and industry mammoth NVIDIA.

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The company has been offering a comparatively weakly-equipped, small console called Shield, which is Cloud Gaming-enabled, for several years now. The corresponding service is called GeForce Now and comes with a well-stocked library of games, the use of which costs about 10 euros a month. These are usually a few years old or less hardware hungry games that can be indefinitely long and often paddle. A little like Netflix for gaming. As with the video streaming provider, GeForce Now does not require a content download. A short buff is enough and you can start.

Abomodell instead of hardware spiral

NVIDIA is currently in beta with its service to extend the offer launched years ago to systems other than its own console. Although the games library will not be available, the company is integrating well-known gaming platforms for PCs such as Steam. The user simply connects his account here and the games are then calculated in the cloud instead of at home. NVIDIA has obviously recognized where the future is heading. As one of the world’s largest manufacturers of graphics chips, the Americans, like its biggest competitor AMD, benefited from the increased sales of its graphics hardware thanks to cryptomining last year.

Shield
NVIDIA’s SHIELD console brings its own gaming platform, as well as Android TV with multimedia apps (Photo: NVIDIA)

However, this boom is over and gaming is shifting towards mobile and consoles. So Cloud Gaming could be the evolutionary next step in offering the hardware simply as a service from the cloud. Especially since the subscription model and “sharing, instead of owning” has been socially acceptable for years, see Adobe Creative Cloud, Amazon Prime, Netflix or even in “real life” bike and car sharing. So why buy new hardware all the time?

Windows 10 on the smartphone

That’s what the French startup Blade thought, but with a different approach than NVIDIA. Although the provider also offers computing power in its own data center, it provides a virgin Windows 10 environment instead of a game catalog. With this, the user can do what he wants for around € 30 a month. It is accessed via an app that runs on virtually any device, unlike NVIDIA, whether PC, Mac, Linux or smartphone. This PC in the cloud is called Blade Shadow, which is equipped with powerful hardware.

Blade
Blade provides a small box on request, for example for game streaming to the TV (Image: Blade)

What makes the jaw accelerate particularly fast towards the center of the earth, is the game streaming on the smartphone. If you can play a current title like Far Cry 5 with full details fluently on a medium-sized mobile phone with gamepad, you get an idea of ​​what the future might look like. It’s like a Trabbi suddenly driving like a Ferrari. Since Blade simply provides the user with a Windows 10 system, everything else is possible besides gaming, which works with the normal PC. Thanks to the power of Blade’s hardware in the data center, rendering video or 3D models makes sense, the faster the higher the computing power.

5G FTW!

However, cloud gaming has a small catch, albeit one that will dissipate in the next few years: the data connection. It does not have to be fast, but reasonably fast. Blade proposes about 16 Mbps for liquid gaming, which is possible in metropolitan areas and even with a stable LTE connection. When the mobile masts send their data in the 5G standard in the near future through the republic, Blades service becomes then really interesting. Because then elaborate, mobile gaming is theoretically possible everywhere. The use cases extend even further, because then basically enough a 50 Euro more expensive craft calculator, such as the Raspberry Pi or dusting himself, an old laptop, the jerk-free Daddeln brings on a large screen with 4K resolution in the middle of the pampas ,

5G could then be exactly the technology that could finally make Cloud Gaming sociable, which incidentally also applies to mobile virtual and augmented reality applications, which in turn could benefit from cloud gaming. “Salon-ready” because there were cloud gaming services ready ten years ago that worked the same way as NVIDIA and Blade. OnLive and Gaikai were the best known. Both services were ahead of their time, as even wired data connections were not yet reliable and delay-free enough to arouse real interest among gamers. Today’s and future data connections solve just this problem.

Everything goes to the cloud

Incidentally, both services were swallowed by Sony, which incorporated Gaikai completely and OnLive’s patents, to ultimately offer their own cloud gaming service PlayStation Now for the current console and now also for PC. It is also conceivable that the Japanese for the next generation of consoles combine the hardware at home with that from the data center to conjure even nicer pixels on the home PC.

Cloud gaming or gaming-as-a-service (GaaS) is definitely a technology that is slowly but surely gaining momentum and is likely to become the rule rather than the exotic exception in the future. The companies mentioned above should continue to drive the development, companies such as LiquidSky and Vortex. Gaming will probably behave the same way as with all IT services and software as well: everything goes to the cloud, it’s just a matter of time and the will to adapt.

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