Is Cloud Gaming the Future?

In this feature, we look at what some of the industry's top development minds have to say about the rise of cloud gaming.

At the Cloud Gaming USA conference in San Jose this September, THQ CEO Brian Farrell told a room full of people that cloud gaming is the future.

"No physical goods cost for game makers," Farrell said during the conference. "No inventory, no markdowns, and all the money spent by the consumer would go to the developer or publisher."

THQ is not alone. In the last two years, an increasing number of publishers have embraced cloud technology in a bid to rethink traditional business models and change the way that people buy and play games.

Cloud gaming first became a reality during the 2009 Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, where three companies--Playcast, Gaikai, and OnLive--first showed off the possibilities of gaming-on-demand services.

During its GDC 2009 press conference, OnLive revealed that it had been working on its on-demand game-streaming service for seven years, with the aim to digitally distribute first-run, AAA games from international publishers at the same time as retail channels. OnLive cofounder and former WebTV founder Steve Perlman revealed that the system would be designed to let players stream on-demand games at the highest quality onto TVs and any Intel-based Mac or PC running XP or Vista, regardless of how powerful the computer is. Perlman called OnLive "future-proof," pointing to the fact that players won't have to upgrade anything to keep playing on the system in the future. Instead, the upgrades will happen on the back end, with the company regularly boosting the power of the servers it uses to host and stream the games.

In June last year, OnLive officially launched in the US with a monthly subscription fee of US$14.95 (later dropped to US$10 per month) and the support of publishers, including Electronic Arts, Take-Two, THQ, Ubisoft, Epic, Atari, Codemasters, and Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment. Earlier this year, OnLive launched a Facebook application, which lets gamers launch games directly from the social networking site, and announced plans to integrate iPad and Android tablet operability into the game-streaming service in the US and Europe. Last month, OnLive officially launched in the UK, announcing its intention to "steadily expand" throughout Europe and to other continents in the near future.

Gaikai has enjoyed similar success, with the company's cofounder--veteran game developer David Perry--paying careful attention to outline how Gaikai's business model differs from that of OnLive. According to Perry, OnLive is targeting the "living room audience," something that will put the service in competition with publishers like Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo; meanwhile, Gaikai's strategy revolves around helping, not competing with, publishers to draw in new audiences by offering first-party titles through the service.

In October last year, a report from market research firm Screen Digest predicted that game-streaming services would bring in US$332 million in North American revenue by 2014, with Western Europe accounting for an additional US$79 million.

While many gamers continue to remain unconvinced about the benefits of the gaming-on-demand model, developers see an opportunity in cloud gaming. Bandwidth limitations aside, many developers dream of a time when games are not tied to a particular platform but, rather, can be accessed from anywhere. Watch the video below to see what some of the industry's top game developers think about the future of cloud gaming.

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Discussion

91 comments
samurai047
samurai047

If I'm not rendering my gaming content on my PC, I'm definitely not interested. I don't want my games appearing on my screen as if it was a high quality compressed video.

kojme
kojme

Oh well, I guess it's time to find a new hobby... Maybe I'll start reading again, atleast untill Barns n Noble force me to log onto their server to get the words streamed to the book pages...

Sahle123
Sahle123

@Hisairness2345 I very much doubt this will happen anytime soon. Cloud gaming, in my opinion, is just an idea right now and it's in the work. Mind you, technological advances in computer hardware usually progresses exponentially. So... I am very sure eventually we will reach a day where Cloud gaming will become a feasible idea. Right now, however, you're right--I agree wholly.

Sahle123
Sahle123

@BiohazardXTREME I suppose it easy to feel that way because when one buys something, usually, one would feel better about his/her purchase when it's a tangible product. With that, one feels a sense of security and comfort knowing that it will always be theirs (Unless something objectively happens.) I am somewhat of the same opinion as you in this facet. HOWEVER, here's an idea: What if gamedevs accomodated to people who feel that need an actually physical copy of the game. What if they made limited copies for those who are serious and passionate about the game. That way, 'gamers' like yourself would be able to purchase a real copy while others, less serious gamers, could buy the game via cloud gaming. I understand this is just an idea and perhaps it still needs more thought, but I know there will always be physical copies out their--even if cloud gaming takes over completely. Serious gamers demand that. (;

Sahle123
Sahle123

A triumphant roar of joy to most, if not all, GameDevs. :D I fully support this. And whatever the reprecussions may be, I am sure they won't be grave nor anything that can't be assessed and dealt with!

JimmyJimJim
JimmyJimJim

@zDSpider Well I've been using it since beta and live in america and have always had input delay, But still what you said about it being something with potential isn't untrue per se, but it's just that... something with potential, and it will sadly stay that way till they fix input lag, have it stream in actual 1080p and get some decent publishers to TRULY support it. Still it has it's problems though, you can kiss modding goodbye, there is the chance the game you bought could be pulled from the service. Always require an internet connection to play your games and this last one is speculation but if you read their fine print they say eventually onlive may cost a monthly fee.. So it wouldn't entirely surprise me if it got big enough that they would start charging you a monthly fee on top of having to purchase the games... Which was their plan from the get go but they probably didn't see the popular support they had hoped for.

icetone
icetone

sounds playably fun to me

zDSpider
zDSpider

I do have one complaint about OnLive and possibly cloud gaming in general unless they do something about it: Some older games don't support 16:9 aspect ratios and because you don't have access to the game files you can't edit .ini files to specify the resolution you want. And you can't run trainers that change the FOV either (so it doesn't look weird). Right now it simply displays a 4:3 or 5:4 resolution, with black bars on either side side of the screen.

zDSpider
zDSpider

Bunch of whiny bіtches, I swear. "Oooh, but I have a fairly good internet connection and it works like crap." DOESN'T MATTER even if you have a 10.000 GB/s connection!!! The servers are in America. If you live in Pakistan or something and have a latency of 800 ms (close to 1 sec) to America cloud gaming WOULD SUCK FOR YOU. Wait till they either expand to your city (or at least country) or they get some competition in your area. You'll love it. Seriously. Would you really rather spend $600 on a gaming PC and another $400 on some fricken plastic discs when for $10 a month you can play hundreds of games and rent new ones for something like $3-5??? At $3-5 you can game for YEARS. You can have a Pentium III ffs, with a Geforce 2 and still run Crysis and shіt. Get your head out of your asses. The technology has potential! And you can downvote this all you want, still doesn't make it any less true.

JimmyJimJim
JimmyJimJim

It's funny that your current posted blog laura is "Speaking Up: Why Female Game Writers Shouldn't Be Ignored" Yet when you post such factitious information it bares the question in mind; yes the satire really hits home. If you want to be heard than actually put some research into your articles. Within five minutes one could have ascertained that Onlive doesn't have a monthly fee and never launched with one, two EA doesn't support the service and Onlive never launched with their games; and not to belaber any longer but think about it, how does posting factitious articles like this help you in that cause?.

3rd_earthling
3rd_earthling

Aaah, the cloud... the ultimate wet dream for any digital empire. Total control.

TheLemonGelati
TheLemonGelati

"Bandwidth limitations aside".. yeah well, that's a pretty big issue. Even Net-flicks can be a pain in the ass streaming HD movies. I'd hate to see how a high-end game running at 1900x1200 with all the eye candy turned on would run.

soulless4now
soulless4now

Give me physical media or give me death...as a gamer!

BiohazardXTREME
BiohazardXTREME

If (or when) gaming is done exclusively through cloud distribution, I will cease to be a gamer.

npkgardens
npkgardens

I will always have a PC in my home, and I don't own a TV, nor do I want one. I also live in an area where connection speeds are mediocre at best, and reliability is often an issue. Cloud may work for some people, but not even close in my situation. Then we also have to ask, where is all of this bandwidth going to come from; not just for cloud gaming, but everything else too? The information pipelines are already almost saturated, and everyone keeps talking about cloud this and streaming that.... Somewhere along the line technology may catch up with our aspirations, but we are not even close yet.

TBear7130
TBear7130

The trend has been going that way. When I purchase a game, like a dvd, or a washing machine, IT IS MINE! I tried On live and besides the first problem of not getting what you pay for I use a PC because i want better graphics and performance. Not to mention unless all the required components including their servers are working, you will have more down time than my own equipment. Finally, I bet 100% that prices will not go down for games even with lower overhead. Quality drops, prices stay the same, your dependance grows, and so do their profits geee sounds like a great deal. Try On Live it is terrible, they do improve if they receive funding/consumers, but Steam is bad enough, and now this move. I want the software, I paid for it. Why would I pay to become reliant/dependant with lower quality games. And my our only remedy will be tech support that is paid JUST enough to not go elsewhere.

equili3rium
equili3rium

I totally agree with metaljeff. Cloud may be great for those who think they can't afford a PC (with a monthly fee for Cloud that you could save and put towards one) but I happen to like building one powerful enough to play the latest games. I may have to scrimp and save but in the end it feels great when my hand built PC runs the latest software at a blinding rate, I'd use Cloud if the situation warranted it (as in via a mobile device) but I doubt I'd let it take over my real love for PC gaming on a powerful PC.

Xaiano
Xaiano

This will have a market if they can balance the cost - I think the big market would be people wanting to play high end games on netbooks or tablets - imagine playing battlefield 3 on max settings on something as thin and light as a samsung series 9 netbook. Or play something better than 'angry birds' on an ipad. This certainly has a future, mostly with wi-fi connected mobile devices that don't have the power to run decent games. It will not replace consoles etc. - at least not for a long time.

Neyowolf
Neyowolf

Had to login just to say metaljeff is so right on V V V V

metaljeff
metaljeff

This whole 'cloud' business is pretty durn' scary....i love the 'virtual' aspect of videogames, but in 'reality(huh huh), they are more or less trying to make our lives 'virtyal this, virtual that'....is it really better to have all your music on a hard drive rather than simply have most of it in a physical CD and THEN put it on a hard drive?Ditto for games......Even music.A big craze now is 'virtual amplification', which no matter how good it is starting to sound, will never create the same 'feeling;' in your head while you are playing.That is because tube amps have VARIABILITY.On top of that, these virtual amps have all your effects too.Now when it breaks down you lose EVERYTHING, not just one component you need to fix or replace.....take a look at facebook.Rather than have a real life, you can just live vicariously through facebook!The possibilities are endless!Or so they would like you to believe...What happens when everyopne puts all their CPU info on a hard drive via Cloud?..And THEN the internets gets shut down by some hacker terrorist?Uh-Oh?Cloud gaming or direct hard drive purchases are a great OPTION, but in reality, well, reality is better...and this means physical things you can put YOUR hands on....The rebellion against 'all things' cloud had better start now or you might find yourself not just waiting a month to go online and play PS3, but you might be waiting a month to even play a game AT ALL...

MegamanX2011
MegamanX2011

In a world where internet is as fast and reliable as playing offline games yea cloud gaming will be interesting. Will his world ever happen? I doubt it.

mister_scowl
mister_scowl

The issue I have with Cloud Gaming is a similar issue I had with the password encrypted Catwoman levels in Batman: Arkham City. With Arkham City I didn't have a problem with it as an incentive to "buy new" as it were, but rather with the fact that you needed to have your console connected to the Internet to unlock these levels whether you buy new or not. My PS3 is connected to the Internet so it wasn't a problem for me, but what about the people who don't have their consoles connected to the Internet and bought new? S.O.L. The connection here is that with Cloud Gaming you naturally need to be online to join and play the games. What if my Internet goes down for a period of time? Those games I paid for are inaccessible to me. I pitched enough of a fit when the PSN got hacked and I was unable to play Final Fight Double Impact, which I paid for and downloaded onto my PS3. Cloud gaming is a viable option for some folks but should it become the Standard I will "tap out" of gaming, for these reasons and other reasons listed in this thread.

Kayweg
Kayweg

Clouds have one very important property. They dissipate ! Y'know what ? The faster the better imo. Having said that, this seems to be the oily, gluey sort of cloud with a tendency to stick. :(

xSCORP1Ox
xSCORP1Ox

@Animatronic64 My point is not that you should not be critical or sceptical of technology in development. By all means, moan to your hearts content. The issue, that person put his points forward as reasons strong enough to stop the development of cloud gaming, which is exactly what holds back progress. I have my own doubts that cloud gaming will ever be up to scratch with a top end Xbox 360 or PS3 or PC title. However, this is not even close to a good enough reason to stop the development of the topic. Also, his argument against MP3 is ridiculous. Yes MP3 does not provide the same quality as a CD but that was never a good reason to stop the development and the world would not be as convenient a place without that technology. The point that I found most ridiculous was his complaints about the journalistic standard of gamespot.com and how his profile says he has abandoned it gamespot in september due to these 'poor standards'. Yet, he could obviously find nowhere else that would put up with his own brand of rubbish so here he is back to complain in november. There is no problem with being critical or skeptical but these are very different things from just being negative for the sake of being negative and then, at that, not even being able to stick to his ridiculous views.

Hisairness2345
Hisairness2345

The input lag alone makes cloud gaming questionable. You just can't play competitive multiplayer games...especially on pc...with input lag of around 150 ms like I've seen reported. Yes it can improve but by how much? Extremely competitive players can tell the difference between 60 ms input lag and 100 ms. Plus 720p is crappy and it can choke up like 5 MBps of bandwidth just to display that crap. Pretty much all top tier PC releases can push 1080p60 so why settle for 720p crap with artifacts all over the screen. Yes. The layman doesn't care about any of this and the majority of game consumers are laymen but there's always going to be a large proportion of power users that aren't going to have anything to do with cloud gaming.

HardStomp
HardStomp

What the article doesn't talk about is the golden ticket of cloud gaming-- near-bulletproof DRM. When cloud gaming becomes mainstream enough, and it will, home hardware won't even exist at a reasonable price point to play local copies of games. The problem of piracy will then be passed on to the gamer, who will have to worry about more account hacking and credit card fraud.

aaronbraich
aaronbraich

Lets say in 5 years time, everyone has enough bandwidth to run TODAYS games on max with no problems. But in 5 years time, the games themselves will be bigger (better graphics/high res textures, more advanced physics ect) so will require even more bandwidth. Put simply, unless Internet Service Providers can dish out an AFFORDABLE connection where the bandwidth is a ridiculous amount, the quality will never be as great.

Kiriyama12
Kiriyama12

yes if everyone will have an optical fiber internet as standard, T1 or probably a 1 terabyte per second internet connection and games will just be 1kb in total size :P

taidalwave
taidalwave

i know cloud gaming has a lot of problems now that is why cloud gaming is the not the present but cloud gaming is the future don't look at it as it is right now but look at what it could be in the future

BDK-Soft
BDK-Soft

Not to mention the fact that all games look absolutely horrible. You can see the video compression when in dark areas as it's full of blocks and the streams only run in 720p. On a 1080p monitor it's fugly. On top of that, cloud gaming is not upgradeable; Meaning they'll run in the lowest quality possible with blurry textures, mediocre sound quality etc. Cloud gaming is a step backwards. There's no point in making games look awesome if you can't see it properly because you are limited to some random crap pc that's running your game somewhere in the world. It also completely destroys any and all games that require you to move and aim faster than your opponent (a.k.a. all FPS games).

thomas2392
thomas2392

You can't just change the way I play games upsidedown like that, and you certainly can't take control of my gaming life. **** cloud gaming.

kattiavinash
kattiavinash

May be there is a chance . I observed cloud computing will lead the future . But its doing better than i expected . Lets see how this cloud computing brings the revolution in gaming field .

ZoTrAcK
ZoTrAcK

Why if it's the future? the companies register more and more loss and game industry is just crumblig down with a large amount of awful products... All the profit are in predictions, which mean they don't exist...

AluminumAndroid
AluminumAndroid

NO. Cloud gaming means no exclusive content or special editions, no physical copy of a game to add to your library, no trading in, reliance on the servers to actually play a game etc. The cons outweigh the pros and in the end I think consumers will not readily welcome it as some in the industry would want.

AluminumAndroid
AluminumAndroid

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

HELL1ZH3RE
HELL1ZH3RE

Another episode of 'Let's destroy collectors value'. I'm really beginning to hate what this industry is starting to become.

trent44
trent44

I have given up on digital games. I gave it a fair chance for a while, but I find a lot of games are more expensive to download and take a dang long time download and install, compared to just grabbing some games at Gamestop. Also, It is nice being able to get a refund if i didn't like a game, or sell it after I played it all I could ever want to, or trade it towards a nice new game, or bring it to a friend's house who might not have internet access, or lend it to a friend, or just store it on the shelf to play 20 years later whenever I please and not be dependent on my ISP being up and the digital store/authenticating server still being in service...

Animatronic64
Animatronic64

@xSCORP1Ox "If you have nothing nice to say, then don't say anything at all" is a ****ing stupid quote. Not everything revolves around positivity. Get over it. If he wants to ***** and moan about it, he has every right to.

AluminumAndroid
AluminumAndroid

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

Animatronic64
Animatronic64

If cloud gaming becomes some industry standard, to the point where you won't be able to play games in any other way, then it can go to hell, along with the game industry. I'll just get back into reading.

xSCORP1Ox
xSCORP1Ox

@jamyskis So from what you are saying, the world would be a better place without MP3 technology? I mean, come on. Yes, most products of any sort will have downsides when compared to predecessors or competing products. That does not mean they should never have been developed. You certainly make some valid, all be it thoroughly negative comments with regards to cloud gaming. Have you ever thought that maybe, just maybe, there are people out there for which the pro's of this technology will outweigh the cons? This is the same as any new product or competing product. For example, I had been a PC gamer for years and then moved to Xbox. There are loooooads of things I miss about PC gaming but for me, the pros just outweitgh the cons for the way I play games. My overall point is, why is every comments section on this and most games sites just filled with moaning. Did you ever hear the saying 'if you don't have something good to say, then don't say it!'. All it seems to be is moaning. A classic example of this was the lead up to BF3 and MW3. You had MW3 fans going on BF3 threads to complain and vice versa. If you don't want to use something, don't use it. You don't need to convince 'noobs' not to use it! And finally jamyskis, if you closed your account (as it says on your page) in September due to your disgust with the journalistic standards of gamespot, what are you doing back here in November to complain again?

Ni6htSorrow
Ni6htSorrow

I like my games to be physical not digital for the reasons that I believe they would hold more value in the future. Case in point, my kids can inherit my systems and marvelous games today like Bioshock, Elder Scrolls, and Arkham City, and experience for themselves "retro" gaming like how I enjoy playing Pac-Man on old arcade cabinets and Super Mario Bros on the old NES when I was young. However, with digital especially cloud gaming, the joys of "passing along" and "inheriting" will be obsolete. It will be more like file-sharing or worst may not even grant you to pass your games and show a message that read like this: "Sorry, this game is non-transferable."

adilejaz
adilejaz

Steam is a good one to use!! Atleast I have all my purchases locked in one of my accounts of steam!! All I have to do is install steam and I have all my games the very next day in my computer!! :-D I love this Idea!! I dont even have to be there!! however digital distribution is something I am against!! it should be just looked at as an option rather than the main media for distribution of games!!

face_ripper
face_ripper

maybe this will end the problem of scratched unworkable discs.

jamyskis
jamyskis

@rhmontg: Actually your grandparents had perfectly valid questions and obviously understand the problems of digital distribution and ultra-portable devices better than you. Rechargable batteries do only have a limited life ("cycles") before they are useless and you can't charge them anymore. In devices like MP3 players this means having to buy a new MP3 player. And the quality of MP3s/AACs is beyond a shadow of a doubt worse than a CD - not audible on a portable player, I grant you that, but certainly audible on a large sound system. Typical ramblings of an ill-informed digital distribution fanatic.

jamyskis
jamyskis

I've come to realise in recent months that the credibility of any publication posting an article entitled "Is Cloud Gaming the Future?" is seriously doubtful. GameSpot is not the first and won't be the last to fall into this trap. This is poor journalism at its worst - no critical examination of the problems of cloud gaming from a gamer's perspective (control lag, image quality, internet fallout) or the legal issues (licence ownership and termination), no addressing the problem of absurdly high bandwidth usage and the likely revolt by ISPs causing connection prices to rise massively, no examination of the massive cost of running a data centre that deals with this kind of processing power. And, last but not least, no addressing the issue of why the same promises are being regurgitated that were used for digital distribution and have never come to fruition - that devs would get more of the money when they haven't, that game prices would fall massively when they haven't, that distribution costs would "drop to zero" when it's turned out that you still always have a middleman charging commission - be it Steam, GamersGate, GOG, PSN, Microsoft or whatever - bandwidth costs to account for, and employee salaries to pay.

M-S-M-S
M-S-M-S

Cloud computing is the future, no doubt. Digital distribution was the first step. Since I bought my first game on Steam, I buy only digital copies. It is much more convenient, the prices are usually lower, they offer a much larger verity of games compare to retail, and in the case of Steam - it has an amazing community support and automatic patches. The next step is cloud computing, but I have a few problems with the current technology: no 1080p support, quality depends on bandwidth - which even at its best it is inferior to PCs/consoles, support of games for only 3 years (OnLive), and the most problematic in my view - no MOD support. As a PC gamer, mods just can totally change the game experience. When I played Stalker for the first time, it was fun. But when I added the Complete 2009 mod, I was speechless. And this can be said to a lot of modified games. In some ways, the gaming community looses its freedom to enhance the games and the player is totally at the "mercy" of the publisher. But no doubt that this is the future and I hope, as a Steam user, that Valve is listening.

FLOWZMENTAL
FLOWZMENTAL

The day there are no more physical disc in the gaming world. That will be the day I quit gaming. I'm 33 so I seen lots of technological changes, but this is one I'm opposed to. I don't want to pay for a game to be stored on a server that can be shut down at anytime. I don't have that kind of money to just throw away XYZ Game Company. Also remember XYZ Game Company, yes, I have high speed Internet. Does the whole world have it? So what's next when this has ran its course? Will you beam it directly to our brains with cloud service?

Elem3nt
Elem3nt

I tried onlive, I figured I might as well give it a shot. I got a horrible list of games I would never want to play, and it was way way way too laggy to even be remotely enjoyable, and I have a fairly good internet connect.