Space Ramblings

Why Cloud Gaming is not the Future

Sure cloud gaming might be the future. The really distant future. The one where everyone wears jetpacks, sends clones to go to work and lives in orbit around the earth. It’s not the 5 minutes from now future. Not even the 10 minutes from now future, no matter how much NVIDIA keeps beating the digital drums for GRID.

 

1. Mobile gaming won’t integrate with desktop and console gaming

Not only are mobile games different, because they’re intended for a different type of control mechanism and a different type of environment (kill 5 minutes while waiting to skydive over Hawaii or ride in an elevator to the next meeting), but there’s a built in hardware bottleneck which leaves the idea that you can walk away from Skyrim or Battlefield 3 on the PC and smoothly pick it up on your iPad, an idea.

The only way to make this kind of cloud gaming work is to throttle desktop and console gaming graphics and controls to the level of a pad. Desktop games have already suffered from being throttled to console gaming specs, but even with Id’s scalable engine and new chips, the marketplace won’t stand still just so cloud gaming can be a buzzword.

 

2. The technology isn’t there

I don’t mean whatever NVIDIA is rolling out to impress everyone with, that doesn’t matter, I mean ISP’s are not out providing the kind of connection that makes regular cloud gaming feasible outside a small group. That’s the group leaving comments about everyone else being backward. And that’s fine. If your target audience for AAA games is now limited to 0.01 percent of the marketplace, go for it. Someone else will pick up the rest.

And mobile? Good luck downloading a 32 gig game on your data plan while waiting in line. Unless providers can suddenly gain a compelling reason to provide the bandwidth to cater to that kind of gaming, without tripling everyone’s bill, but still being profitable, then you can forget about it.

 

3. No one needs it

Sure Diablo III has made a lot of money. The Auction House will make a lot of money too, when it gets working. Maybe after all the promotional expenses, Activision will use the money to buy another marble palace haunted by demons. Maybe. But is it really worth it?

Other companies were counting on Blizzard and the unstoppable Diablo name to make an unpopular concept workable, instead it arrived broken on delivery and no amount of arguments that games are supposed to be broken on launch will change that. Diablo III was the test bed and it blew it. Sure the sales are there, but are they going to be there for companies without the Blizzard/Diablo brand? If Blizzard had trouble functioning and faced furious feedback, what happens to companies without the fanboy insulation or the online gaming experience?

NVIDIA can pitch GRID, but it’s in the hardware business. It doesn’t have to worry about launching games and when the cloud goes bad, the customers won’t kick its doors in, they’ll rage against the companies they gave their money to.

Blizzard’s fanboy shield can only cover them for so long. Bioware’s gave them a free pass for Dragon Age II, but broke on Mass Effect 3. Betting on Blizzard’s to survive another of these isn’t a good proposition. And most companies don’t have even one shield.

Sure averting piracy is a priority, but the question is how much do you want to risk doing it? And how much do you want to spend?

Always online costs money and sticking auction houses into every 50-60 dollar game will infuriate players even faster. Turning every game into an MMO without the subscription costs is financially scary and trying to sell people a 60 dollar game with crippled single-player and ordinary multiplayer and then tacking on a subscription fee, I’m not even sure Blizzard could get away with it.

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