Playing in the Clouds

Cloud gaming is getting a lot of attention. While many companies have been quietly pursuing this concept for years now, like OTOY Inc., recent announcements from tech giants and the potential for 5G delivering cloud gaming, the sector has gained a sharper focus. This is a quick snapshot of recent developments and likely next steps in the still-nascent world of cloud gaming.

Cloud gaming and big tech

  • In March 2019, Google announced its cloud gaming platform, Stadia. It will launch later this year and will run on Google’s custom GPUs powered by AMD with around 10.7 teraflops of processing power. Individual gamers will benefit from an effective processor speed of around 2.7Ghz and 16 GB of RAM, roughly equivalent to a gaming PC.
  • With plans to launch Project xCloud, Microsoft is getting serious about adapting its strength and capability from the console arena to the cloud domain.
  • Other competitors include Snapchat, which is expected to launch a gaming platform in 2019. Parent Snap Inc acquired PlayCanvas, creator of an HTML5 game engine that will serve as the core of the new venture. The company also acquired Prettygreat, an Australian studio, which fits into its initial strategy to build games in-house to showcase the platform.
  • Long-time console gaming leader, Sony, announced a partnership with Microsoft in May 2019. This came as a surprise for many, as both companies spent almost 15 years competing in the gaming console market. However, with little cloud capability, Sony is choosing a pragmatic approach by working with one of the cloud powerhouses despite the potential conflict of interest.
  • Tencent, with a huge userbase and investment in cloud infrastructure, will be a key player in China and likely other south Asian countries. Tencent Cloud unveiled its cloud gaming platform, ChinaJoy. However, replicating the same success outside China will be an uphill task. The south Asian and sub-continent market will be an initial testing ground for the company’s global expansion ambitions.
  • NVIDIA’s GeForce Now, cloud gaming platform currently in beta testing mode, will be available in North America and Europe in Mac, Windows and SHIELD TV controller. NVIDIA has partnered with Softbank and LG U+ to expand its regional coverage to Japan and Korea. It will also be made available on Android.

Cloud Gaming Startups

Source: Shadow cloud gaming

  • Blade, a French company, introduced its Shadow cloud gaming service which provides virtual access to cloud gaming PCs that currently provide eight-thread Intel Xeon CPUs, Nvidia Quadro P5000 GPU/GTX 1080 graphics cards, 12GB of RAM, and a 256GB solid-state drive.
  • Parsec developed offers virtual gaming PCs. Unlike Blade’s Shadow, Parsec provides AWS and Paperspace support for virtual gaming machines. The company recently teamed up with Samsung to develop a game streaming app (PlayGalaxy Link app) for Samsung Galaxy Note 10 series users.
  • LiquidSky is developing virtual gaming PCs (currently in closed beta) to bring high-end PC games like Fallout 4, Call of Duty, Witcher 3, Rocket League to Android smartphones users. The company’s data centers are located in San Jose, Dallas, Washington D.C., Frankfurt-Germany, London and Hong Kong.
  • RemoteMyApp launched a public beta for a cloud gaming service Vortex Cloud Gaming. The company’s cloud streaming app has been downloaded more than 10 million times.

With 5G Operators looking for a new revenue stream

  • The success of cloud gaming platforms will depend on their ability to build partnerships with key internet service providers and data compression technologies. Thus, operators will play key roles to build edge computing abilities for a latency-free experience. With the arrival of 5G and an increase in the penetration of fiber to the home (FTTH) broadband, cloud gaming will become a key source of data revenue for operators in the next five years and beyond.

Source: Hatch

  • Understanding the opportunity, NTT DoCoMo has invested in Finland-based cloud gaming company Hatch Entertainment Ltd.
  • Sprint has also teamed up with Hatch Entertainment to offer mobile cloud gaming services on Sprint’s 5G network in the U.S. The Sprint-Hatch deal will offer unlimited on-demand access to a curated portfolio of more than 100 premium mobile games, including exclusive Hatch Originals like Arkanoid Rising. It will also provide Hatch Kids, a segment for kids to create and learn environment without any advertising or in-game purchasing option.
  • Vodafone is also working with Hatch to bring 5G cloud gaming to UK and Italy customers.

Big game developers

  • Mobile will play a key role in democratizing cloud gaming in mobile-first developing countries. We are already seeing some large game developers adapting their hit games to be more mobile-player friendly.
  • Eventually, large game processing will be fully offloaded to the cloud. Following the Tencent PubG success, Call of Duty is likely coming to mobile this year and other big console games will likely follow a similar path.

Looking Forward

  • Cloud gaming platforms will need to develop close working relationships with major game developers. Bigger platforms will likely develop their long-term relationship with game developers to bring exclusive games to their platforms to increase their brand value and customer loyalty.
  • Operators have the opportunity to develop data compression and edge computing capabilities for faster data processing and create an additional value proposition. This infrastructure support further can be packaged as a different module for other areas including Smart Vehicles and IoT.
  • With the increase of cloud gaming platform penetration, the game publisher will have a bigger audience to serve globally. Esports will further gain popularity.
  • While Google and Microsoft could well get an early-mover advantage in the cloud gaming segment, Amazon is a potential competitor. It already owns Twitch, which streams live videos of gaming action. Along with Twitch, Amazon’s extensive AWS cloud platform positions the company well to compete with Google and Microsoft in the cloud gaming space. Longer-term, it’s likely to be a Google, Amazon, Microsoft triopoly in western developed markets, while Tencent and Alibaba will lead in the Asian market. Reliance Jio network and cloud infrastructure will be a key player in India.
  • Private game server providers for multiplayer games (like Hosthavoc, Voodooservers, Streamline-servers, Extravm, etc.) will likely take a hit. Some might even switch focus to cloud AI, deep learning and data processing for enterprises. Some of the platforms for competitive gaming like FACEIT, ESL will also likely lose out in the longer term.
  • We are seeing a Netflix moment for the gaming industry. We believe PC, mobile, console and cloud gaming will co-exist in the short term. With the broader availability of 5G wireless and FTTH broadband networks, cloud gaming will start getting mainstream by 2021 in developed countries.
  • DVD players have been almost entirely superseded by streamed content. Gaming hardware is likely to become similarly obsolete. Cloud infrastructure players with the right game publisher partnerships will likely win the lion’s share of gamers. The faster a cloud gaming platform gets the ecosystem right, the more likely it will lead the race for the long term.