As befits the biggest games expo, E3 produced plenty of jaw dropping moments again in 2019. Some of the most exciting reveals included the link up between George R.R. Martin and FromSoftware on Elden Ring and the Marvel’s Avengers game. There was also plenty of talk about cloud gaming, although actual hard details about the big games streaming services were thin on the ground.
Cloud gaming is form of online game playing that sees players stream the titles they want from a server in the cloud, rather than buying them to play on a console. This makes proposed cloud gaming servers like Project xCloud by Microsoft similar to streaming movies and television shows from Netflix instead of buying them on DVD or BluRay. There has been a great deal of talk about it as the future of gaming and this year saw a number of the major tech companies reveal new cloud gaming projects, which will further fuel this fire. Somewhat surprisingly, Microsoft did not devote much of its time at E3 to its innovative Project xCloud idea, which it is claiming will allow gamers to play the hottest new titles using any device that has fast enough Internet. However, it did confirm that the new Xbox console – Project Scarlett – would have a feature called Console Streaming. This appears to be a blend of traditional console gaming and cloud gaming and will be Microsoft’s first foray into the cloud. We also got a few more details about the planned Stadia cloud streaming service from Google, including the news that a basic subscription will be $9.99 a month and that it will be able to run on Google’s Chromecast TV as well as Android tablets and smartphones.
It is easy to see why there is so much excitement about cloud gaming, despite the details still being scant, because it offers the chance to play the best games from anywhere on any device, rather than just at home on a console. Cloud gaming also promises speedier start times and cheaper gaming, but it’s not all positives (did you really think it would be?) Because the games come from an online server, any drop in the speed of the internet connection can really affect the game quality. There is also much more latency than there is when you are playing on a console due to the distance involved and the compression and rendering. These are problems that may well be solved as technology continues to advance though and with move and TV streaming already mainstream it is not far fetched to imagine cloud gaming achieving the same status within the next decade. We will have a better idea of how quickly it will catch on when the big streaming services are available to use.
The next year or so will bring major cloud gaming developments, including Google Stadia and Project xCloud, which could move gaming into the streaming era and show us its future.