UPCOMING TECHNOLOGY – Speaking of new games released in the era of The Witcher 2, Tomb Raider, Watch Dogs, Star Wars 1313 and the likes, you no longer have to worry about upgrading your PC configuration or owning the latest consoles, ever. All you need is a display screen – be it a TV or desktop monitor and an internet connection with at-least 3 Mbits/s bandwidth; most importantly the internet connection must not be limited by download or upload caps.
What I’m talking about is the Cloud Gaming Technology – NVIDIA GeForce Grid is a service launched on the 25th May 2012 by NVIDIA and Gaikai (one of the premier cloud gaming companies) as a collaborated effort. It offers a high fidelity and immersive console/PC gaming experience on any device such as a TV, tablet, PC, laptop or your mobile irrespective of the underlying configuration. Streaming Xbox 360 Games, PS3 or PC with the exact visual and audio experience on any screen, without the need of expensive hardware is now possible. The game is first processed at the server side and then streamed at the user’s end. Cloud Gaming has been termed as a hardware and a software solution, this can potentially aid in making gaming the #1 form of entertainment in the world.
Cloud gaming isn’t a new phenomenon. It has existed in the market for a while now with OnLive providing the service since March 2010 (Check OnLive vs. Gaikai see below). Though both the aforementioned companies have NVIDIA technology as the underlying basis, how it has aided them to provide a next-gen cloud gaming experience is commendable. They have successfully aided both the cloud gaming companies in overcoming the hindering barriers which marred the previous cloud gaming experience. The latency (delay) over broadband networks, the quality of the video images and the high cost per user are now a thing of the past. So imagine playing a game, that you could never run on the most ambitious ‘ULTRA high settings’, on your average PC with gaming experience beyond your machine’s capabilities and performance smoother than imagined.
NVIDIA has its GeForce Grid running on Gaikai’s 24 data centers worldwide and Gaikai is already offering its global cloud streaming network as a service. It’s live in 88 countries, serving 400 million monthly unique users on hundreds of gaming sites and with retail partners that include Walmart, BestBuy, YouTube, the Electronics Arts’ Origin store, Ubisoft’s UBIShop, Capcom, and Eurogamer.net.
The Face-Off – OnLive Vs. Gaikai
OnLive launched its cloud gaming service on March 10,2010 and almost a year later Gaikai joined in. The two competitors, though offering identical services, are targeting different markets. Gaikai provides more flexibility to game developers and its technology partners by allowing them to provide a collection of customizable offerings (not restricted to games) and allowing them to brand their offerings, whereas OnLive focuses more on providing an end-user experience for gamers through their game systems and playPack subscriptions.
The partnership with LG and Samsung
OnLive has partnered with LG and has been in the market for almost a year more than Gaikai, who on the other hand has allied with Samsung. OnLive will be utilizing the Google TV as a platform built into LG TV’s. They also have tapped into browser based gaming and released an Android app last year, which allows players to use their portable devices as gaming consoles streaming games over Wi-Fi or cellular networks.They also are likely to launch their service on iPad.
What about mobile devices?
Gaikai hasn’t yet ventured into the mobile scenario but is soon going to launch a 3D-ready gaming tablet with physical controls, which is in collaboration with WikiPad. Both companies are relying on NVIDIA’s graphics processing units to provide the best experience possible. AMD has not entered the cloud gaming market yet, so NVIDIA has no competition for now. But the major competition here is more between the hardware manufacturers (Samsung & LG) than the service providers as the number of devices a brand sells would reflect the number of customers a service provider can garner.
Cloud Gaming Technology is still in its infancy. There are vast prospective markets which are yet to be penetrated with today’s high-consoles and PCs , so for such markets cloud gaming might just be a pipe dream. There lies another obstacle that hinders the ability to experience cloud gaming, it is nothing but the core pillar – networking infrastructure. So the true potential of cloud gaming can only be realized once this connectivity medium has reached the desired level. With that potential realized, one can say that cloud gaming possesses the ability to replace consoles as well as PC gaming entirely.