Cloud gaming has arrived. It’s not the end of traditional computers and consoles, but we want to take a minute to explore the pros and cons of cloud gaming compared to traditional gaming on local machines.
No More Hardware
Cloud gaming is run in a data center. It offloads the processing of games from a local machine onto remote servers. Controller inputs are sent to the data center, and a video playback of the game is streamed back. Just about anything will play a video, so with cloud gaming, there is no need to purchase a new console or powerful computer. The cost of entry is significantly reduced. Furthermore, players no longer need to fear hardware failure, which can require costly PC part replacement or sending in the console for repairs.
On the other hand, cloud gaming forfeits ownership over to the service provider. When a cloud gaming service shuts down, owners or subscribers will lose access to their purchases unless the service somehow provides an alternative access to their games, such as supplemental downloads.
Cloud gaming requires a constant Internet connection. Cloud gaming companies are always working to reduce the connection speed required to play, but people with an unstable Internet connection will find cloud gaming unreliable. For players who game heavily, data caps are also a concern. Many Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have a cap on the amount of data subscribers may download. Increasing the data limit can cost a monthly fee that may be financially burdensome.
Game developers are limited by the power of the platforms they develop for. For PC, developers need to allow their games to scale across a wide range of hardware specs. Consoles, meanwhile, are no longer uniform either, receiving incremental upgrades like the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X. Most cloud gaming services, however, have the latest hardware powering their servers and are uniform. Games developed exclusively for cloud services will have the opportunity to be the most technologically advanced we’ve ever seen.
No Install Times, No File Size
Red Dead Redemption 2 has an install size of almost 100 GB, and that’s just for the disc version. The digital version requires another 50 GB. With AAA games becoming bigger and bigger, players are required to juggle their game installs to make room for a single game, never mind wanting to have multiple games accessible at the same time. Game patches will also be handled by the data center, so games will be ready to play whenever you are.
Cloud gaming is portable. Existing and upcoming services alike support playing on mobile devices. We tend to carry our smart devices with us, so cloud games are ready to play wherever there is a reliable network connection. And with the advent of 5G cellphone networks, we’ll be able to play cloud games most anywhere.
The beauty of the cloud is that you can’t spill coffee on it; nor can a power surge fry your hard drive. Cloud saves aren’t new; they come standard with Steam and with subscription plans for Playstation, Xbox, and Switch; and they’re part of the package deal with cloud gaming services too.
Online multiplayer games, traditionally, need to send packets between your gaming machine, your opponents’, and the game server. But multiplayer games with a cloud service can unite the client and host onto the same data center, reducing latency between players.
Cloud gaming has its foibles and isn’t for everyone, but it offers some unique advantages that should open up gaming to a new audience, and offer more opportunities to long-time gamers.