Monday , January 18 2021

The long-awaited dream for cloud-based games is closer than ever to come true

"We play all our games together on the Xbox," he said. "In Mainfraft, we will both build a house together, find monsters, and explore."

The first time Burdette triggered the game, Burdette had to wait for Minecraft to download and install on her Xbox before launching it. But while his daughter is old enough to play more adult games, this wait may be a thing of the past.

Verizon's big companies from Microsoft are exploring how to replace game downloads with internet-based gaming services, hoping to make video games what Netflix and Spotify have done with television and music. Instead of running directly from a device, high-quality future games can be streamed from a data center, with most imaging calculations and rendering done by powerful multi-kilometer servers before being redirected to players, personal computers, and consoles.

Unlike passive forms of media such as movies and music, playing games over the internet requires a very responsive technology that can interpret the player's actions from a distance, process them within milliseconds, and transmit the results back to the player and its opponents.

The challenge has kept gamers and gaming companies for years. But with the advances in computing power, the adoption of high-speed broadband and fresh investment by technology giants, what has once been the high-tech and cultural goal of the gaming industry now seems closer than ever over the past decade.

"Gaming streaming services will be the main driver of a quick transition from the sale of games to boxes to digital consumption," said Yosuke Matsuda, president of the Square Enix Games Company, in a New Year letter to the public. "Streaming also lends itself to new subscription-based business models, so we believe the decision to engage in these future trends will be key to future growth."

As more and more Americans turn to mobile and online entertainment, managers across the media landscape recognize that they are competing for the same, rapidly decreasing resource: consumer attention. Even Netflix this month admitted he was looking at the Fortnite hit as an even bigger rival in some ways than HBO.

In the Consumer War, cloud games represent tens of billions of extra profit for game publishers alone, analysts say. Beyond the simple convenience of playing games outside of a central server, what makes the idea so attractive is the ability to turn even the weakest laptop into a fully functional gaming platform.

It could make it easier for people to play video games on whatever device they have, wherever they are, according to Morgan Stanley analyst Brian Nowak. "As a major case, this new technology has the potential to expand the base for addressable players by reducing barriers to entry to AAA games," Novak writes in a study this month.

Recent cloud game experiments include Google's Project Stream, which completed a beta test this month that allowed testers to play online Assassin's Creed: Odyssey online; The Microsoft xCloud project, which promises to enable streaming of games through mobile data connections; and Verizon Gaming, the leak of which appeared earlier this month. On Monday, reports show that Apple can plan its own cloud game service, and Amazon's e-commerce giant is doing the same. (Amazon Chief Executive Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

The problem with cloud-based games reflects how quickly the landscape of video games has shifted in recent years. The popularity of mobile games has some publishers like Epic Games, a maker of Fortnite, who are moving to build their own gaming marketplace, bypassing traditional intermediaries in app stores like Google. But in Project Stream, Google may hint at a possible strategy to turn Epic in return: eliminating full downloading of apps.

The latest major cloud-based cloud-based cloud service was known as OnLive, launched in 2010 with five nationwide information centers scattered across the country. The service showed a promise, but many gamers have found that their own experience drastically differs from that of professional reviewers. In particular, players said OnLive is darkened by an input delay or a significant delay between user actions and screen results.

"Latentness between you, controlling the game and its response, was really bad for OnLive," says Ethan Hawkes, a gamer who lives in Irvine, California. But time is now different, says Hawks, who tested Google Project Stream. "The technology has finally overtaken.

Other players say that while technology has gone a long way, it's still not a problem.

Another Project Stream test, Chris Cantrell, said Google has done a good job demonstrating how its servers can faithfully reproduce the graphics of a game such as "Assassin's Creed." But this game does not come with fast, competitive multiplayer players, a key element of today's gaming culture and an intense hurdle that technology companies still have to deal with, as many households are now delivering multiple services at the same time.

"[‘Assassin’s Creed’ is] slower game and so you do not have to be so accurate. But in this connection you can not play "Call of Duty," Cantrell said.

Meanwhile, the growing consolidation of media and technology companies raises other questions about the future of streaming games. For example, Verizon's emerging gaming service is likely to compete with similar platforms run by Amazon, Google, and Microsoft. Some gamers, like Burdette, fear that Verizon can preferentially treat its gaming service in its own broadband network at the expense of its competitors.

"They will definitely give priority to their own services if they prove to be worthwhile," Bardet said. – Throttling will be an absolute problem.

Verizon did not respond immediately to a request for comment on how the company could treat its cloud game service on its network.

Burdette expects that with enough internet bandwatch, it's only a matter of time before the streaming of the game really comes out. Gamers are hungry for a way to play premium titles without having to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on specialized equipment like a console or a game computer, he said.

Until then, he will continue playing local games with his daughter – a "stubborn" Minecraft fan. "

This article was written by Brian Fung, a reporter at The Washington Post.

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