The death of video game consoles, is it inevitable?
It is with a heavy heart that I write this article about an experience rather intuition that I had while I was contemplating on the future of video games. I am a die-hard video gamer like I said I was raised on pixels. Today, while I was playing my good old PlayStation 4, a thought struck my mind about video games and how it is changing faster than I can fathom. I have already mentioned about the evolution of video games earlier, and now things are incrementally changing. Most of them point to Death of Video game consoles.
Considering the technological change that we are witnessing after the introduction of virtual reality consoles and also the integration of this with augmented reality, it pumps me to see possibilities emerging from these changes. I am a pro-supporter of every technical improvement made to a gaming console, however, a certain aspect of redesigning video game has got me sentimental.
Collecting games is religion, we all are followers
I am a huge fan of collector editions in video games, although I may be owning only a few games, it is because I only collect games that are super close to me. I love popping these CD’s on my console and play a game without any concern related to the internet, virtual profile, keys and DLC’s. To ensure I remain as I am, I have always resisted and stuck to old school form of gaming. However, this major reformation in the gaming universe is going to make us (gamers) cave into digital copies.
Likewise, not only we are going to lose the physical possession of the disk, but also the digital ownership. I am talking about cloud gaming for video games, let us not confuse it with digital copies. A cloud gaming system is similar to cloud storage or cloud computing, video games are going to be stored on an online server, typically owned by the game studios and gamers will have to purchase the rights to access this server from their homes. Off course the pre-requisite to this is owning a seamless robust broadband connection. It is similar to Netflix, only this time, it shall be a collection of games instead of flicks.
The murderer of the consoles – Cloud gaming
Cloud gaming is led by one of most prominent names in the gaming community, i.e NVIDIA. Nvidia has introduced a cloud gaming system called the Nvidia Grid in which games are streamed online like any other streaming media such as YouTube for videos or Sound Cloud for audio files. It is targeted for any aspiring gamer or enthusiast, GRID renders 3D games in a cloud server, encodes each frame in a jiffy and stream it to any device which is connected to the GRID server.
Biggest advantage as it is marketed, there is no requirement of a console, with little to no latency and can be streamed on any TV, Tablet, Smartphone or PC. All that is required is GRID board that functions like a cloud computing device, rendering and transmitting games to any above-mentioned device.
Sony took it a step further as well
Even Sony has integrated cloud computing through PlayStation Now feature. Similar to its contemporaries, PlayStation now streams live games on PS vita, Ps3, Ps4 or PsTV. Sony brags of the biggest libraries of game by bringing about 400+ games from Ps3 collection. It is a subscription based model, charges are $19.99 for one month or $49.99 for three months.
Sony is leading the race of console gaming and also quick to adopt this metamorphosis. It has partially acquired OnLive, a leading cloud gaming services. If giants like Sony and Nvidia have taken the step toward game streaming, little control do we have in such an industry-wide transformation.
Netflix for games
There are streaming consoles available for you to be able to play games by streaming it on your TV. One such device is Nvidia Shield TV that stream games from your desktop Pc or Google play store on your TV. As much as I detest, this is the new trend in gaming and every gaming company has been steering in this direction. Streaming video games offer mobility to the video gamer by allowing them to stream either on a fixed console set-up or a portable device like a tablet.
This, in essence, discards the need for high-performance GPU. Cloud gaming services like Liquid Sky offers a platform to run high-end games on a low spec PC by borrowing the powers of GPU that are pre-loaded in the server, kind of like a virtual GPU but in a distant location. As much as I don’t want to embrace it, I do see certain upsides that might make me reconsider.
Cloud gaming makes life simple by….
There are several advantages to this for a gamer, such as
1) No high-end PC or console is required
Like I pointed out above, a game that is being streamed online does not require a high-end PC or console to generate the game visuals. The server on which the game is stored does the heavy lifting and then is streamed on our devices. Theoretically, an AAA title can be played on smartphone with average specs.
2) Play games on any device
When a game is played from a cloud, it shatters the limitation of console or PC specific games. In essence, an android mobile can play the game as much as an iPhone or Windows phone. This can seriously make gaming touch the next level as cloud gaming directly shifts the focus on games. Companies would not have to invest their resources on gadgets and instead focus on developing high-quality games.
3) Play at the ease of console gaming
One of the biggest advantages of a gaming console is ease and comfort in playing video games. All that is needed is the game disc or cartridge that is plugged in the console for direct play. Cloud gaming boast of this feature as the games come pre-loaded in the online server and any gamer who has access to the game can play it without the hassle of installation, and better so, even in-game updates will become history.
Cloud gaming makes life difficult by….
These 3 advantages are huge, and with this, we can expect a complete makeover or a paradigm shift that will take place in the industry. However, along with the merits, there are certain demerits that come along with cloud gaming.
1) Calibrated graphic quality
Although every game that is leeched from the server will operate at highest graphic fidelity, however, if the associated bandwidth with the client lacks that sort of power to relay the visuals, it may be calibrated from 1080p to 720p at 30FPS. And considering the advancement in game-tech, this will seriously impact the core game mechanics in a game. Hence those countries that are still improving their broadband to a reasonable level or lack the necessary speed may suffer.
2) High latency
One of the biggest drawbacks of cloud gaming and one that gamers deeply detest is latency. If you consider an FPS game, it is totally based on reaction time and if there is a lag, it can define a victory or defeat. Latency is the lowest when played in the current form of gaming with a mouse or keyboard sending a signal to the CPU that is connected on a LAN. Same is the case with a console, the buttons on the controller provide instant feedback. In the case of cloud computing, the input signal from client’s device travels to the server, which registers the same and sends the response back to the client. As you can imagine, the transmission length over a cloud will result in higher latency.
3) Lesser control over the ownership of the game
For a gamer it is essential that he/she owns the game that is purchased, this is not a possibility as far I can see with Cloud gaming. Every video game fanatic wants to own that game, heck if possible, we would want to own the character, the trophies, the powers and everything contained in the digital content. We want our games to be stored physically on our shelves so that our eyes could feast on the sight of such gigantic collection.
However, with evolution in the video game industry, the ownership bit is plucked off and all that remains is access to a virtual library with a fixed monthly or yearly fees. It has its pros and cons, for instance, it shall reduce or completely eliminate the piracy in video games, hence lead to better games.
To hell with Death of video game consoles, I love my gool ol’console.
I am not fully sure about how gamers will respond to the change, is it going to destroy or build the industry. There are countries that lack adequate infrastructure to provide for ultra-high speed internet connection. There are old school gamers who still feast on the physical copies of a game. Nevertheless, there is an entire generation of gamers who wish to have access to every game possible and play different games sporadically.
Instead of platinuming a single game, they concurrently play multiple games. There are gamers who dislike hardware upgrades every now and then and would like to have access to games that automatically calibrates with the devices that is played on. I hope we get options like we have today for physical or digital copies, so every gamer is carefully catered and have the liberty to choose their gamer lifestyle.
Believe it or not, as there is progress as a nation, there will be better infrastructure and better access to broadband services. Digital services are here to stay and will continue to expand into every corner of the planet. What do you think of the upcoming changes?