It’s taken a while, but the innovation of streaming as the best way to watch films and television is beginning to kill off DVDs and DVD players. Major department stores have decided to end the sale of DVD players because nobody is buying them, and when that happens, it’s only a matter of time before the format itself is dead. It’s taken Netflix and services like it twelve years to make DVDs all-but-obsolete, and it seems likely that Blu-Ray players will inevitably go the same way. With internet connection speeds now capable of reliably streaming in crystal-clear resolution, there’s simply no need for them anymore.
To many of our readers, the loss of standalone DVD and Blu-Ray players won’t be a big deal. As gamers, we never bought them anyway – our consoles were capable of doing the same job. If you think this change in the way that people consume entertainment media won’t affect you, though, you’re wrong. Someday – possibly sooner than we all realize – those consoles will also be obsolete. Streaming is coming to video gaming, and it means business. Big business.
Especially in the iGaming industry where there are so many games spread across the different platforms that have to be installed separately. It would enable players to have, for example, all the best USA poker rooms accessible from one device. There is huge money in this not yet tapped market and it will be interesting to see who will come out on top in the following years.
No Console Required
It’s been a short while since Google let the world know about its cloud-based gaming system Stadia, which has been joined in the cloud gaming world by the promising Apple Arcade. What’s perhaps more noteworthy is the fact that Microsoft is now getting in on the action. That’s the same Microsoft who is responsible for the Xbox. If they’ve started focusing on new technology now, it might be the case the whole concept of the Xbox is already dead as we know it. Their new Project xCloud, which was briefly demonstrated at the E3 conference, allows players to play full versions of brand new games on any screen that can support them. That includes your phone and your tablet device. So long as you have a controller with you, you can play wherever you are. There’s no more need for a console. The Xbox controller may be all that survives of the old machines.
Google’s Stadia works in a similar way, and allows players to access a (sort of) ‘Youtube of games’ via the Chrome browser. Again, so long as your screen can cope with the display and your device has enough processing power, there’s no reason to connect to a console. If the strategy is successful, this will be the start of a whole new era of video gaming. The games rooms we’ve built in our houses will no longer be necessary. People will sit on their couch, controller in hand, playing through their phones. When you get on the bus or train to go to work in the morning, you’ll likely see dedicated gamers with their headphones on and their consoles in hand, playing high-quality games through their phones to pass the time.
How Viable Is Streaming Video Games?
On the surface, this seems like a great innovation. Games consoles take up room. So do rows of boxes of video games. Video games also cost a lot to own as one-off purchases. If gaming companies took the Netflix model – by which we mean charging a monthly subscription and making games available via streaming – it should make things cheaper for players, while at the same time expanding the number of video game players by making gaming more accessible.
While some might feel this may not be an advantageous approach for game designers, there is a precedent. In the distant past, some people thought that online casino websites would fail, because development companies wouldn’t want their games listed side by side with those made by their rivals, and that they would rather receive money from customers directly instead of sharing it with the casino website and other companies. As it turned out, people flocked to UK Mobile Slots websites such as Amigo Slots because they were easier to use, and offered better range. Playing more than one casino game used to involve walking from one mobile slot machine to another. Now, they’re all in the same place. Players moved onto the websites, and the money followed them. The same seems likely to happen with video games.
To give you an idea about the potential scale of what Microsoft is planning, they’ve announced that every single game in the Xbox catalog will be available for Project xCloud, and all new releases will also be added. This isn’t a beta test, or a limited service. They’re going all in.
What About Those With Poor Internet Connections?
This is a problem. As many of you reading this will know, fiber-optic broadband and even higher speeds aren’t available everywhere. Given the speed of many modern video games, any amount of lag – or blurring of graphics – would make playing them frustrating at best, and impossible at worst. In pushing ahead to the next era of gaming, companies may be at risk of cutting off players if they move too fast.
Stadia, Project xCloud and all of the other emerging services sound like fantastic solutions in areas where data moves quickly, but in rural areas – or heavily congested areas where high demand is placed on servers – it may not yet be practical to implement the new systems. The forthcoming rollout of 5G will mean data moves faster than ever before, but that still won’t solve the issue of black spots and interrupted connections.
Microsoft’s bold ambition is to ensure that games can be played anywhere that a video can be streamed without buffering. That’s commendable, but there are still places where buffering is a real issue. Until that can be addressed – and addressed for everybody, it’s to be hoped that physical alternatives to cloud-based systems will still exist for those who want to pay for them.
We should all be excited about what the next era of video gaming might look like, but we should also make sure that we’re not leaving anybody behind. It’s not good manners when you’re playing ‘Call of Duty.’ and it wouldn’t be good manners here either. The gaming community worldwide currently stands at something like two billion people. If gaming companies want to make that into three or four, they’ll need to ensure that access is available to all – not just those who are lucky enough to get great WiFi.