What does this mean for devs, gamers and gaming houses?
Game developers also have a lot at stake in this new model. Over time, this might eliminate the need for them to port and support multiple versions of their games for PCs, Macs, consoles, and maybe even mobile platforms. This would make life easier and allow them to put more resources into game design. It would also curb game piracy to at least some extent.
The biggest benefit to game houses might be the economic model. I’d assume that the providers would institute some pay-per-use scheme where consumers are micro-charged for every game minute - or millisecond, if they can. I’d argue that this would encourage people to try new games and new types of games, sort of like the advent of iTunes brought a lot of people back into being active music purchasers. If they can truly deliver a great game experience on multiple platforms, and if pricing is reasonable, I think that a lot of non-gamers will at least dip their toes into the gaming pool. If this happens, then the industry could see explosive growth.
But what about consumers? For the novice and anyone who currently uses a console, this could be a version of gamer heaven. They’d be able to play on whatever device they have at hand and have a ‘GPU-tastic’ gaming experience. I think their game dollars will go quite a bit farther too – assuming that there’s plenty of competition out there. They won’t be dumping their consoles right away – they’ll need a smart TV or some other relatively simple device that attaches to their TV, receives the stream, and handles controller input.
One constituency that won’t be happy are the highly devoted gamers. I’m not sure the initial performance will meet their standards. Again, it’s like when MP3s and iTunes-like services started making inroads. The sound quality was clearly worse, and the ear buds and players weren’t much better. But it was so damned convenient. Files small enough that you could cram a lot into a small storage space. Songs cheap enough that you’d try some different artists just to see if you liked ‘em enough to buy more. Buying just the song you wanted, not an entire album full of dreck.
Ultimately, I think it’s this type of convenience that will drive the cloud gaming market to success. It might take a few tries, but eventually it’s going to happen. Power users might not be huge fans at first, but over time the market will provide faster services to appeal to the extreme performance types.
We’ll also see variations on the other extreme as well – old and bad games running on even older gear priced at rock-bottom rates to appeal to cheapskates. Eventually there will be a provider geared to almost every taste, and maybe even the ability to be your own provider by renting some cloud boxes for you and your pals. ®