Covid-19 has forced us to stay at home. We’ve had to find ways to spend our time and to make our houses feel different, like a gym, a movie theater, or a lush garden. The subscriptions of Netflix have boomed, so have video games sales. Now, with cloud gaming, the numbers are expected to rise.
The NPD gathers data, analyzes customer behaviour, and it conducts industry surveys. In 2020, it released a report about the gaming industry and people’s trends in the United States.
According to the NPD, “U.S. consumer spending on video games is projected to reach $13.4 billion in the combined November and December 2020 holiday period, an increase of 24 percent when compared to a year ago.
What is cloud gaming?
You can stream games across the Internet and directly from the cloud. Forget the discs, shady downloads, and bespoke hardwares. In the future, even consoles will be obsolete. With cloud gaming, players can access their favorite games from any device, with a quick click. There will be catalogs with tons of titles and subscription fees.
It’s like Netflix, but for gamers.
The tech companies leading the way
Think about all the big names in the tech industry. They are all jumping on the cloud gaming wagon, ready to break ground in this innovative field. Businesses like Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Sony, and Amazon are building platforms for players.
What are these giants working on?
Through the app or the browsers, users can access cloud-streamed games. They can play instantly, without cumbersome downloads. Instead of creating something new or a different offer, Facebook is increasing its options for free-to-play games.Players don’t need any special console or controller.
They can find their favorite games through the News Feed or the Gaming tab. To play comfortably from home, you can use your mouse and keyboard. People can also pick the game through cloud playable ads to try it out instantly. One interesting feature is the cross-progression system tied to the login. It ensures players who change devices won’t lose their progression.
Google’s very own cloud gaming platform has been holding the breath of every player. It launched in November 2020, in 14 countries, including the U.S. and Canada. It is powered by Google’s data centers with a 4K resolution. Players don’t need a console or a gaming PC. People can also use it on their TV, with the $99.99 Stadia Premiere option.
On the other hand, Stadia Pro is the $9.99 monthly subscription, without any downloads or updates. You can play on desktops, laptops, compatible phones, and TVs. Or you can download the app. To see if this platform is for you, you can join the one-month free trial.
Marc Whitten is the Vice President, Amazon Entertainment Devices and Services. In a press release dated September 24th, 2020, the company introduced Luna to the world.
“We created Luna to make it easy to play great games on the devices customers already own and love,” said Whitten, “it’s Day One for Luna—we are excited to work with gamers, streamers, and publishers like Ubisoft and Remedy Entertainment to build a great gaming experience for everyone.”
This cloud gaming service allows players to try it out with the Early Access option for $5.99, which allows players to stream games on two different devices at the same time.
More players in the field
The Chinese company Tencent focuses on gaming. Early last year, it teamed up with Huawei to develop a cloud gaming platform. In 2019, it had teamed with the American Nvidia to launch the START service.
The famous gaming giant Xbox launched the Project xCloud, which premiered as a public cloud gaming technology. But it was only the first step for Xbox. Its competitor, Playstation, launched the service called Now with a wide selection of games.
As Consumer Reports writes, there are many more services and platforms available for players. The final choice depends on price as much as it depends on the supported hardware. The one, important detail that all have in common is: having a high-quality Internet connection.
The challenges of cloud gaming
Nothing is perfect, not even cloud gaming. Facebook is the first to acknowledge that the road is long and the evolution of these services is just at the beginning stages. BBC launched a challenge and the media network asked a question:
Are game streaming services bad for the planet?
“Emissions would be 30 percent higher per year from 2030 in the high-streaming scenario compared to a low-streaming one,” the BBC reported. And cloud gaming would use 17 percent more energy than streaming. All of this because they run the software from a remote data centre.
Overselling is another challenge for the tech giants. As they build momentum, players build expectations. It happened with Google Stadia, when users reported lagging and syncing issues. The platform is supposed to be able to handle a 4K resolution, but many players reported a drop in video quality, sometimes down to 720p.
Finally, connectivity. Players need a top-notch connection, which is not always affordable. If the connection fails, no more playing and no saved game. This is an issue for players who might live in rural areas or who might choose between paying for the Internet or for a cloud gaming platform.
Why does it matter?
Cloud gaming is at its early stages and tech giants are looking for solutions and options. As people turn away from traditional TV or from heavy consoles, they look at services like Amazon Luna. The pandemic is helping, as the NPD study reports.
“Time spent gaming is up during the pandemic, with 35 percent of gamers reporting that their current play time during COVID-19 is higher than their play time from earlier in the year.”
Cloud gaming might just be the answer.