Much like music and movies in the past, gaming is now moving swiftly to the cloud as 5G promises to create new game experiences and enables the old dream of gaming anytime, anywhere, on any screen.
But even more so than with 4G, when it comes to getting consumers to adopt new network technology, telcos need a credible and appealing use case to underpin their sales pitch. For 4G, that was streaming video and faster browsing. For 5G, gaming via the cloud is being talked up as one of the ‘killer apps’.
Thanks to 5G, ISPs, developers, publishers and even e-stores will be able to offer to their customers a gaming subscription service with the same quality as a high-end console, but accessible from any TV or PC, and even mobile devices. That’s because as well as much higher bandwidth and download speeds, 5G will also have much lower latency than 4G – meaning that streaming games become a possibility.
Cloud gaming providers, such as PlayGiga, have been collaborating with leading telcos and tech giants like Intel to research 5G performance for streaming virtual reality games.
Such developments could assist games publishers, who face two key strategic issues: how to keep expanding their addressable market and how to keep customers engaged and loyal.
According to data collected by Steam, 53 per cent of users don’t have PCs with the local processing power to run many of the latest games. Cloud gaming removes this barrier, thus vastly increasing the potential audience. In the existing industry model, game distribution is a bottleneck that is largely controlled by the platform holders. The ability to stream games to any reasonably capable computer can get rid of the bottleneck and so address a much broader audience. EA was one of the first major publishers to talk about cloud gaming and invest in their vision. They decided to acquire Los Angeles-based Gamefly in 2018 to give them a head start. Since then Google, Microsoft, Apple and Amazon have announced their own plans.
All these moves have put pressure on the rest of the industry. Companies without the ability to buy an existing player or build out their own technology are badly in need of a way to get some kind of foothold as streaming services gain traction. If these publishers don’t keep up the risk is that more powerful tech giants will disintermediate them.
Cloud gaming also represents the first big opportunity in some time for a brand new service that telcos can offer to their subscribers, adding gaming as part of a bundle deal – much the same as how you might be offered a TV package alongside your home broadband.
Most of the existing solutions may find a niche audience, but they are unlikely to appeal to the mainstream simply because they are targeted at more hardcore gamers. They are not something that families will subscribe to, or which will appeal to the kind of person who only wants to play the occasional blockbuster.
That’s why telcos have such a great opportunity to work with publishers to really get cloud gaming into the mainstream. The telcos have the infrastructure and the experience in selling subscription services at a huge scale, but they need great content. Meanwhile, publishers which have invested tens of millions in developing great games have now the opportunity for a whole new way to get their content out there to a huge new audience – and new revenues as a result.
By Javier Polo, published in the March issue of MCV.