Cloud gaming has become more than a buzzword for many platforms. Several big-time names like Microsoft, and at one point Google, invested heavily in the service. For those unaware, cloud gaming primarily acts as a streaming service and storage service. Games are not downloaded or played via a disc as we have come accustomed to. Rather, games are stored on a cloud, think iCloud or Google Drive, but for games. Cloud services can essentially host any type of game like RTS, shooters, sports, RPGs, and non GamStop games.
As one might expect, this comes with many advantages. PC hardware barriers of entry become nearly trivial, and a wide range of devices can stream AAA titles. Services like Google Stadia, PS Now, and Xbox Cloud Gaming aimed to circumvent traditional hardware requirements. All players need is a subscription to one of the providers, an internet connection that is as stable as possible, and a device that ideally has a controller or a mouse and keyboard connected to it. While this seems to work for hardcore gaming, can it work for competitive gaming as well?
Esports Gaming on the Cloud
In terms of esports and competitive gaming, a solid cloud gaming platform and service effectively removes the nuance of equipment advantages. Local hardware no longer must do the heavy lifting in trying to keep up with human reaction speeds. This gets offset to the cloud. In theory, this makes competitive gaming very accessible. However, basic multiplayer games carry a variety of issues on their own, issues that would likely make esports and competitive gaming via the cloud a no-go.
A risky undertaking?
The law of conservation of energy states energy can neither be created nor destroyed only converted from one form of energy to another. In this case, think of energy as burden. Something must handle the burden initially carried by hardware. As one might guess, this will be the internet connection. This calls into question the stability of infrastructure.
Before its cancellation, if you tried to play Stadia in a variety of places you’ll quickly see why this is a problem. The problem with this is that the areas that lack affordable hardware typically lack the infrastructure needed to actually use the cloud at a workable pace. Internet Service Providers already attempt to monetize the different services used through internet connections. While an ISP may advertise priority connection through certain packages, understand it is more likely gamers will end up paying more for internet. On the contrary, this could potentially make cloud gaming for esports both more unreliable than hardware and overall more expensive.
Cloud gaming as a concept definitely has the potential to truly make esports and competitive gaming accessible. While it effectively eliminates hardware barriers, it does raise new ones of infrastructure and cost-effectiveness. Unfortunately, these are largely out of the players’ hands.
That said, for those curious about cloud gaming, here is a couple worth trying.
Xbox Cloud Gaming
Xbox Cloud Gaming is officially still in beta but is now widely available. The Microsoft offer is part of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate and cannot currently be booked separately from the game flat rate for Windows and Xbox.
In return, Xbox Cloud Gaming includes access to over 100 games from the various Xbox generations, including AAA games such as the Halo and Yakuza series. The streaming offer is currently limited to titles that are part of Microsoft Game Pass, Xbox games purchased separately in the store cannot be played via cloud gaming. As with Game Pass itself, games may be discontinued, but this is usually announced a few weeks in advance.
Sony’s PlayStation Now launched in the USA in 2014, making it a pioneer in cloud gaming. The Japanese on-demand offer includes over 700 games, including many titles from the older PlayStation generations 2 and 3.
Games from the current PlayStation 5 are not yet included in the PS Now catalog, at least not yet, but the offer does include one or the other PS4 blockbuster such as The Last of Us Part II or Horizon: Zero Dawn. As with Xbox Cloud Gaming, parts of the included games are only temporarily available with Sony’s cloud gaming offering. Sony does not yet offer the streaming of games purchased from the PS Store via PlayStation Now.
In contrast to the other providers presented, PS Now is available on a comparatively small number of platforms. In addition to Sony’s own PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5 consoles, the service can be used on Windows PCs. However, smartphone and tablet ueser will be out of luck. As an alternative to streaming, PS Now also allows the games to be installed locally, at least on the PS4 and PS5. Although this does not apply to titles from the PS3 era. These are only available as a stream on all platforms.
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