The Problems With Cloud Gaming

If Could Gaming is the Future, Why Does It Feels So Underwhelming?

Cloud gaming promises a future in which games run on a remote server and are streamed to your devices. Not only that, but you could play them on multiple devices, on your mobile phone, tablet, etc. To play both, at home and on the go? Isn’t that what the Nintendo Switch does already?

Supporters of cloud gaming will tell you how digital is the future and how convenience will trump all other objections.

In a sense, they are correct. Cloud gaming may be the future. Except the future is not now. Out technology and internet speeds have yet to catch up.

Likewise, a digital-only future is not good for consumers.

Conversely, proponents of cloud gaming keep looking at the success of Netflix and Spotify. They keep promising this or that service will be the Netflix or Spotify of gaming. Books, music, television… Everything is digital now with a subscription fee. For example, Kindle Unlimited.

These comparisons miss an obvious challenge. Watching television, listening to music, reading a book are passive activities. Gaming is an interactive experience.

Dark Souls wallpaper/Alpha Coders

Gamers do not just sit on a couch and watch or listen. They are making split-second decisions and pushing buttons to make a character react.

Gaming can be stressful (do not ask how many controllers I have broken) and it will make you break a sweat (some action games like–cough, cough–Dark Souls will make you question your choice of hobby).

Besides, gaming is an art form. You cannot put limitations on art. It just is.

Google Stadia debuted last November to mediocre reviews. Among gamers, there is zero exciting about it. This was supposed to be the console killer. Not so fast. The reality did not meet the expectations.

Does Stadia’s failure mean the end of cloud gaming?

Why is Cloud Gaming Difficult to Achieve?

Cloud gaming is not impossible. Yet, internet speeds and data caps make it difficult to do properly.

Sadly, we do not live in Japan or South Korea where everyone enjoys super high-speed internet. And it is not just rural areas. I live in America’s fifth-largest city and internet speeds are not so good.

People forget gaming is more than a pastime or a hobby. Gaming is a lifestyle and a competitive activity for hardcore gamers.

For casual gamers, the fun of gaming can be broken by lag. Similarly, for hardcore gamers, latency and lag is a detriment to gaming and effectively breaks the game by making it unfair. If one gamer experiences delay reactions, he cannot win.

Overwatch wallpaper/Wallpapersden

If you are streaming a movie or TV series, lagging is not such a huge deal. In gaming? There will be controllers broken and curses yelled. Lots.

There is also the issue of cost. Gaming is not such a pricey hobby but cloud gaming could be. Granted, a Netflix style subscription service for a monthly fee can be enticing, assuming your internet bill does not triple (which it probably will).

In summary, cloud gaming is not difficult to achieve. We have the technology. What we do not have is the infrastructure–an obstacle not impossible to surpass.

Still, do you trust gaming companies to work together? Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft putting their games under the same platform? And why should they?

The Problems With Cloud Gaming

Cloud gaming has as many pros as cons. Remember when Microsoft caught a lot of consumer backlash when they announced the Xbox One would be “always online”. People balked at the notion.

DRM (digital records management) is good for corporations since it prevents piracy but it hurts the consumers.

My biggest problem with cloud gaming (and digital media in general) is that you do not own it. This is the same argument we discussed when we debated about ebooks versus print books, the issue of ownership (or lack thereof).

Indeed, you are paying to rent the media. Renting versus owning. Which one do you prefer?

The libertarian and the collector in me will always choose physical media. Who does not like to display their collections on shelves? Who does not like to borrow from their friends or trade games?

Rocket League screenshot

How many books or games you discovered (and ended buying) because someone let you try it or borrow their copies. Granted, people share their Netflix passwords all the time. Still, it is not the same.

Besides, who is to say the platform owner cannot take down the servers or remove a particular game. Did the users of Google+ and Yahoo Groups expect both services to end suddenly? No, they did not. Hence, who is to say other companies would not?

Furthermore, another potential problem (ahem, mobile games) is the preponderance of shovelware. Rushed, low-quality games for cheap prices, because why not? Quantity should never replace quality. Never.

Finally, I would warn those saying cloud gaming is the future to remember they also told us virtual reality (VR) was the future. Instead, augmented reality (AR) seemingly came out of nowhere and overtook VR.

I think quantum computing will overtake cloud gaming and fulfill the promises of cloud gaming. Since quantum computers are faster and are not limited by 1s and 0s. It is a matter of time before they are commonplace.

What would a future of quantum gaming look like? Will game consoles become obsolete in the future? Will we ever get a streaming service featuring all games under one subscription fee? We can only dream.

Reader, where do you stand on this debate?



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June 2023