Cloud Gaming Explained:
Tired of upgrading your PC to the latest hardware so that you can play your favorite games at 4K Max Settings? or ever wondered if you could play games on any device on the go? Well my friends, let me introduce you to cloud gaming which allows us to the things mentioned above.
Traditionally your game is rendered on a pc that you own. But in case of cloud gaming, only the inputs from your pc is sent to a powerful server, and it renders the game for you and feeds back the rendered video that is shown on your pc. So, you don’t need to spend lots of money on upgrading your computer and can play your favorite games wherever and whenever.
Seems too good to be true? The answer is… Yes but mostly. Let me explain to you.
How Cloud Gaming Works:
In the case of traditional gaming, you run games on your own pc, which means it will do all the work for your game to load, render the graphics & send the signal via your monitor for you to see. In order to do that, you need to be in close proximity to your PC. This is sometimes a bit less flexible as you can’t just sit on a comfortable place and play the game.
But in case of cloud gaming, the actual computer, where the game is rendered is somewhere else from the input (keyboard, mouse, or the controllers) and output (monitor, TV) devices that are located near you. Cloud gaming has been with us for quite some time, but it has never been that much viable as it needs a lot of bandwidth as well as processing power. But with the recent developments of mega-scale cloud computing and internet infrastructure, cloud gaming is becoming an attractive gaming solution more and more.
Some popular cloud gaming services are Google stadia, Playstation Now, Nvidia Geforce Now, Vortex, Shadow, and Project xCloud. These companies have servers located all around the world, and these servers have games installed in them. Your game is rendered in the nearest server to minimize input and output lag (the time difference between you to press a key and the monitor to show it over your screen), which is the most critical factor when you are doing a cloud gaming session.
So we can say it, basically the combination of an online gaming system with video streaming. In online gaming, only the inputs are transferred from one computer to another, but the actual game is rendered on the local computer. And in the case of video streaming services like Netflix and Youtube, the videos are located in a remote server, which sends the file over the internet and then displayed in your device. Combine these, and you have a system that takes the input from your keyboard and mouse or game controller and runs the game in a remote pc or server and sends the rendered video back to your pc. This is done over and over again at a very high frequency to give you good gaming experience.
Difference Between Conventional Gaming and Cloud Gaming:
In the case of conventional gaming, the game is rendered on the pc that you own. As a result, gaming experience depends on how powerful your computer is. Input and output lag, in this case, is not an issue. The more powerful your system is, you can play games in higher FPS (Frames Per Second) in higher graphical settings.
But since cloud gaming renders the game on a remote server which is very powerful, the resolution of the game, fps, and graphics is not an issue. The only issue is to deliver the rendered game to your computer. So the ping of your system ( the time required for your computer to send data to the remote server and retrieve back data) and the bandwidth becomes the major issue. If the ping is very low, there will be less stuttering and lag in your game. And with higher bandwidth, you can play games in higher resolution. Another difference is costing.
In traditional gaming, you do a one-time investment in buying a computer, and you only need to upgrade your computer when it becomes outdated and can’t handle the recent games well. So it tends to be a very costly solution if you are a casual gamer. But in the case of cloud gaming, you are only paying for the monthly expense of the internet connection and the gaming service.
- Very cost-effective. No need to buy a high budget gaming pc only for the purpose of gaming.
- With the rapid change of technology, computer hardware becomes outdated pretty quickly. To be able to play modern games, with high graphics the computer (especially Graphics Card) needs to be up-to-date. With cloud gaming, no worries about upgrading the computer.
- You can play the game from any operating system you like: windows, Linux, mac android etc.
- No need for downloading large game files and installing. You play the game you like instantly.
- In the case of cloud gaming, the distance between your computer and the server the game is rendered on becomes a major issue. With increased distance, the time required for the two computers to communicate (ping) increases, which can make the whole gaming experience very laggy and stuttering.
- The bandwidth of the internet connection becomes the main factor in determining the resolution you can play the game. You need high internet bandwidth to play games in 4k.
- LAN connection is preferred in the case of cloud gaming due to low ping. A good wifi router is needed in case of wifi connection. Currently, the LTE connection is not very good for cloud gaming, but with the development of 5G the gaming experience might improve.
- You can’t play games if the connection fails suddenly.
- The Cloud gaming service charge needs to be paid monthly.
- In the case of a shared server, the quality of the rendered game might decrease in times of heavy usage.
- Also, the industry is still maturing unlike traditional gaming which has been with us for almost 40years. So, there are still some conflicting decisions made by the service providers which will be settled down once the industry has matured.
Major Players in the field:
1. Google Stadia:
Google Stadia is the main player in the market of cloud gaming. It launched in 2019. Currently supported platforms are PC, Mac, Linux, Chromebooks, Android devices, and TVs via Chromecast Ultra. You can play games through the Chrome browser. You can play up to 4k 60 fps and google recommends at least 10mbps for 720p streaming. The service dynamically changes resolution based on an internet connection. With google stadia, you need to buy a separate Stadia controller to be able to play the games. Currently, there are over 30 titles (as of April’20) available and google is launching new games every coming months.
2. Project xCloud:
Project xCloud is a cloud gaming service provided by Xbox, which is owned by Microsoft. It offers smooth gameplay with low latency due to Microsoft’s massive cloud infrastructure network. It currently offers more than 50 titles, but the future seems very bright considering the massive game library of Xbox and Microsoft can integrate the library in the future if needed. But the service is lacking in the sense that you can’t stream the games purchased on Steam and Uplay and any game stores other than Microsoft’s own. It is currently in the preview period.
3. Playstation Now:
It is a cloud gaming service provided by the console company PlayStation, owned by Sony. Playstation Now has been around since 2015. The main advantage of PlayStation now is that it has a large library of games. Currently, it offers more than 800 titles. The subscription fee is $10 monthly and $60 annually.
Shadow functions like a normal windows 10 machine. You can do anything, like installing games, software, and customizing the look. You can play the games purchased on Steam, Uplay, or Epic Games store. Its main strength is that it offers you a dedicated server in which you can play games which results in a very fluid experience. The only limitation is that it offers a limited amount of storage.
5. Nvidia Geforce Now:
Unlike shadow which offers full Windows 10 experience, Nvidia Geforce Now is restricted to streaming games only. It supports Windows, macOS, Android, and Nvidia Shield. You can play games purchased from game stores like Steam, uPlay, Epic Games Store, Bethesda launcher, and Battle.net. Geforce Now is not fully released yet.
|Google Stadia||1month: $9.99|
|Project xCloud||Preview state|
|Playstation Now||1 month : $9.99/month|
3 months: $8.33/month
1 year: $5.00/month
|Shadow||Boost (11.99/month): billed annually, full HD, 256GB storage|
Ultra (24.99/month): billed annually, 4k, 512GB of storage
Infinite(39.99/month): billed annually, 4k, 1TB of storage
|Nvidia Geforce Now||Free: 1080p, 60fps,standard access, one-hour play session|
Founders: ($4.99/month): priority access, real-time ray tracing, extended session
With the advent of cloud computing, cloud gaming is becoming more and more lucrative. All the major players in tech industries like Google, Microsoft, Sony, Nvidia seem to be very agitated about this field and are putting a lot of money into developing the infrastructure. As a result, the experience has improved drastically, and for the first time, cloud gaming seems to have potential in replacing console and PC gaming. Though it is not up to the standard yet, with the competition among multiple tech industries, we are hopeful that cloud gaming will offer a very cheap yet rich gaming experience for the years to come.
So, which cloud gaming services to choose from ? As you can see from the post all the game streaming services are unique and offering their own very own flavor. Out of all the offerings I think Nvidia Geforce Now will reign victorious, but when it is fully released. Other than that I would go with the “Shadow” game streaming service for now.