Cartoon owl holding up a controller. Pixelated red background. Text: Shrouded in cloud gaming.

When I want to pass time, I play games. My purchases, aside from fulfilling basic needs (rent, food, electricity and the like), are almost exlusively gaming related. I follow gaming news, history and trends, but also the market. I think of game design throughout the day, every day.

Heck, even most of the stuff I talk with Vayandil is related to games.

That is to say – I’m some kind of a gamer.

And as a gamer, I don’t even want to touch cloud gaming. So why are big companies pushing that stuff lately?

Quite a few big companies have jumped on the cloud gaming train: Google, Microsoft and Nvidia, with rumors about Amazon and Facebook planning to hop into the game as well.

Phil Spencer of the Xbox brand has announced that Nintendo is not their main competitor. That’s nothing strange. Nintendo has been on a separate playing field for a long time.

What’s more important in what Spencer said, is that he doesn’t see Sony as a rival.

The original Xbox was CREATED to combat PlayStation specifically. Sony, with their original PlayStation, was seen as a direct threat to Microsoft’s efforts to push PC gaming with DirectX and PC itself as an entertainment platform.

Xbox and PlayStation have been rivals for a long time. But now, Spencer names Amazon and Google as their rivals from here on… because those companies are investing on the cloud market… like Microsoft.

Honestly, I’ve been seeing some signs of Microsoft’s “exit plan” from Xbox as a traditional console gaming for quite some time. In several E3s they have touted their games being available on “both Xbox and Windows”.

My assumption (and hope) was that Microsoft’s exit plan was to switch back to PC gaming and just get rid of Xbox. Instead, it seems like Microsoft wants to transition into a service company (this has already happened with Office products).

As someone who works in the software business, I can see (and have seen during the years) the lucrativeness in selling your products as services. The money trickles down in a steady stream. It’s better for the company (at the expense of having the customer pay more).

But that’s when it comes to traditional software. Do games work well as services?

Music, movies and TV shows have already mostly transitioned into streaming service models. I imagine these big companies are looking at games and thinking that’s the next logical step.

To me, it doesn’t look like they understand what gamers want.

Then again, maybe they don’t need to. Perhaps they are not targeting “gamers” per say, but something else. Some other group that doesn’t understand gaming and buy these services for their children? Haphazard people who subscribe to services and then forget they’re doing that?

Is there really a market for that?

Time will show, but for now… Google Stadia is crashing, big companies are pulling their games out of GeForce Now and Samsung just recently announced that their streaming service PlayGalaxy Link PC-to-mobile will shut down as of March 27.

“Hey, Gheralf”

WHAT?!! Who said that?

“It’s me, the reader.”

Jeez, you scared me! Don’t suddenly burst to talk like that. I thought I was alone here.

“Sorry.”

It’s alright, dear reader. What is it?

“What’s so wrong about cloud gaming anyway? You never answered that. TV services are doing mostly fine.”

A fine observation, glorious reader! (All our readers are glorious!)

It mostly boils down to a few major things:

Aggressive pricing

Maybe in the future we could see a service where you pay a flat fee and you can play any game you want. But for now you both have to pay for the service AND the game (Even Nvidia’s GeForce Now. Although it allows you to use games that you already own, you do need to buy them first somewhere).

No physical means no ownership

Honestly, I’d like to say that I’m all into digitalization. I don’t like how there’s millions of unneeded fabrics, toys, devices (not to mention the packaging!) being created every day, and then thrown into garbage. And yet, no physical means no ownership, and no backups.

We’re already seeing this as games that only exist as services (MMOs and mobile games) are being killed off – leaving no way to play those games ever again. And we’re seeing this with gaming services like Steam: if you get banned from Steam, you permanently lose all games you’ve ever bought. At least with GoG you can download and store those games onto a harddrive or memory stick once you’ve bought them.

This begs the question, what exactly are you paying for? A service is more like a rental. With physical games, you know what you’re getting and you (should be) aware that if you treat game cartridge poorly, the game will likely no longer work.

Input lag

This is really my primary concern, and the actual deal breaker. Input lag has already been getting worse with HD TVs (you have to turn on “game mode” to migitate the effect) and wireless controllers. Add your internet connectionto the mix and you’re looking at an annoyance turn into a total catastrophe.

There’s a YouTube video where Blizzard’s employees talk about how they have to combat network lag in Overwatch, by trying to anticipate what the players do. Because if you just try checking whether the bullets hit their marks or not, it’s already too late thanks to network lag. Google claimed that this wouldn’t be a problem with Stadia, but reports from people paint a different image.

I don’t have a problem playing games that don’t have great graphics. Gameplay is king, after all. A certain degree of input lag or unresponsiveness is what makes anything unplayable.

I might not be a fan of cloud gaming, but what about you? Do you have experience with cloud gaming? Are you looking forward to it? Speak your mind!

Gheralf H. Swiftwar

Gheralf H. Swiftwar

Crazy owlmister. Speaks about games for free, but only codes for teh monies.

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