Cloud games are video games that you play on the web. By running cloud gaming on a remote computer, your computer does not need to work as hard and can therefore be cheaper (and sometimes more powerful).
As with cloud computing in general, the benefit of cloud gaming is that it provides access to high-end hardware at a fraction of the cost. In most cases, an online data center has many computers with very high-powered GPUs connected to high-speed internet connections.
These computers are mostly idle most of the time, so it would be a waste if no one used these resources. Cloud gaming companies rent out this hardware for gamers who want access to better graphics than their laptop or home PC could provide.
The ‘computer’ you connect to is often a powerful data center-based computer with a high-speed and stable internet connection (fiber optic, for example) that runs the game. The advantage of cloud gaming overplaying locally is that you can play on any device, as long as it has an internet connection.
How Does Cloud Gaming Work?
Because the company’s servers do the processing, all users need to connect to these servers to play their games (unless they have a local network). The business model of most companies offering cloud gaming services is based upon monthly subscriptions rather than selling permanent licenses, so buying a game once and downloading it onto multiple computers yourself may not be possible. Instead, many companies offer free demos and/or subscription levels that support gameplay on limited gameplay modes.
However, cloud gaming provides major advantages. For example, gamers can use their familiar controls and even view their own games from the same screen they use to control them (at least in theory). These benefits come at a cost: clouds systems need to be powerful and well-connected to the internet because of the high bandwidth usage and low latencies required for a good gameplay experience. Any delay will impact the quality of the experience, making it unplayable for most users.
It is now possible to play highly complex 3D online games such as AAA video games without installing anything or worrying about technical issues such as hardware compatibility. Cloud gaming services provide instant access with just a web browser and an internet connection.
How much do Cloud Games Cost?
Like most avid gamers, if you are interested in cloud gaming, a typically common question that could be bugging you is; how much does it cost to play cloud games? Now, cloud gaming services are available for prices starting at around $5/month with no software to download, hardware to install/upgrade, or technical knowledge required.
Access is granted through a browser or dedicated app on your device, which you control with an existing game controller. Much of the processing is done in the cloud, so running costs for gamers are very low when compared to traditional PCs and consoles.
For example, both PlayStation Now and GeForce Now offer vast libraries of AAA games from big brands such as Ubisoft, Activision Blizzard, Take-Two Interactive, etc. Gameplay is streamed over internet connections, so they require good upload speed plus solid responsiveness. For many people, these requirements are far too demanding, but for others, it means they can play console-quality games on their PC or Mac; anywhere they have a good connection to the net.
This is all possible because Sony and Nvidia’s servers take care of resource management, so users only have access to as much processing power as required for the game being played – from simple 2D platformers right up to intense 3D shooters. Users can also rewind gameplay if they make a mistake, stream games directly through an Apple TV, or change video settings that will optimize streaming performance.
The big cloud gaming companies have built vast server farms with thousands of high-performance GPU cards connected across multiple networks in data centers around the world. This means gamers can instantly access powerful PCs or any device connected to these servers via an egress point, so long as they have a good internet connection. For example, a gamer in a remote location out of reach from their console or PC can instantly use Nvidia’s servers to stream top-quality games.
This is why cloud gaming services are becoming more popular among gamers, and Telsa even used streaming technology for its self-driving cars service. In Tesla’s case, the ‘Computer’ was truly in the ‘cloud.’ The German equivalent company that offers this service also recently achieved 1 Terabyte per second, which comes close to the speed of light (~300 million meters/second). That means people playing on it do not notice any delay at all when driving at high speeds.
Why is Cloud Gaming Popular?
Cloud gaming offers a fantastic opportunity for avid gamers to have almost endless access to the latest games. Cloud gaming services are affordable to all income groups, are simple to use, and require no installation or maintenance. The low cost of ownership makes cloud gaming easy for everyone to use – much more accessible than traditional PCs and consoles, which require constant upgrading over time.
Many gamers also prefer cloud gaming because they don’t need expensive equipment or software updates. The platform is always up-to-date since it does not require any additional intervention from gamers themselves.
Nonetheless, cloud games’ high level of convenience comes at a price due to bandwidth limitations, which prevent them from working well with slower networks. Some service providers recommend users have an internet connection speed of 30 megabits per second or more for decent quality streaming.
Another potential pitfall is that gamers have to be careful when playing online with others to avoid lagging or any other connectivity issues which can cause delays when interacting with other players. Although this is not unique to cloud-based services but rather the nature of online gaming in general, it still makes ‘cloud gaming’ a less attractive option for some people who do not have high-speed internet connections.
Can Cloud Gaming Affect the Future of Cloud Computing?
The major cloud gaming providers such as Nvidia and Sony have already dramatically increased server power for their games. This is possible because they own dedicated data centers, which allows them to build custom hardware instead of having to rely on consumer-grade equipment.
However, in general, cloud computing services do not offer this option, and therefore it restricts how much processing power can be employed at once. The biggest problem is that heavy users may require more virtual CPUs than what companies like Amazon or Microsoft can affordably offer in the future – thus reducing growth potential.
Nevertheless, cloud gaming growth means higher usage rates for these current services. It provides a ‘trial’ period for users before later adopting full cloud solutions, which include actual software and hardware for a specific purpose. Perhaps a ‘lite’ version of a cloud computing service is what the future holds.
One benefit of using cloud services is that money saved from not having to maintain physical equipment can be re-invested in even more cutting-edge technology, potentially leading to lower prices for consumers in the long run. But will this cause problems in the current market where data centers struggle to compete with consumer-grade internet speeds?
Well, it’s quite possible that companies offering cloud-based services may have to expand outside their home country or find another way to reduce costs which could mean giving up some control over their product before making it available on a much larger scale. Furthermore, just a few companies own most of these data centers around the world, which also restricts the amount of competition in this market.
This is why cloud gaming companies are incentivized to make games ‘mobile friendly’ to increase user numbers and spread the need for better internet infrastructure across all countries. The idea here is that if more people use smartphones, existing data centers can be easily upgraded with better hardware to keep up with demand – in particular in developing nations where there’s a massive explosion of smartphone usage rates.
Since cloud computing services rely on storage instead of processing power, it means that it could potentially happen much faster than what some people might expect, given how massive their data centers already are. Perhaps Microsoft has solved this problem, but they do not release much information about their Azure platform at all. However, this approach has an economic issue – more data centers means higher costs, making it harder for less profitable cloud gaming services to stay afloat. Also, if not done carefully, it can lead to more downtime, which means that cloud computing services are already limited by how many virtual machines they can run at once.
What Cloud Gaming Services Exist?
There are a few notable companies offering cloud gaming services:
- Nvidia GeForce Now: Starting at $9.99/month for several hours of play. After the included time is used up, gamers are able to buy more time or upgrade their plan for more hours or permanently unlock the game. If you are a subscriber, you are allowed to have friends come over and also play without extra cost. Other than the $9.99/month, Nvidia GeForce Now also allows you an option of going with the annual plan which starts at $99.99/year.
- Playstation Now: Available for Sony’s PlayStation consoles and PCs, Playstation Now streams games from its own servers. There is a free 7-day trial available, but afterward, it costs $9.99/month with same-day access if your subscription starts in the middle of the month.
Note that there are other options available with some even allowing you to play for free. As with any other services, if you wish to try cloud gaming, take some time to research and review the available options while comparing the pros and cons so you can make an informed decision.
Cloud gaming services allow gamers to play online without having to download or install any software. Instead of requiring a dedicated device such as a PC or console, they do this by using powerful servers that stream gameplay over the internet. Cloud gaming services are available from several companies beginning at around $5/month plus costs per hour once the limit time is used up. In the future, cloud computing will likely become a part of daily life as the technology becomes even more integrated across devices.