With the deployment of fiber accelerating and the 5G that is the tip of his nose, Cloud Gaming is expected to revolutionize the world of video games. Learn how this technology works, and the different services offered to users: Shadow, PlayStation Now, GeForce Now, etc.
It has been many months since the term Cloud Gaming returns regularly in the news. This new approach to the way we play video games is likely to revolutionize the market in the very near future. But what is Cloud Gaming really about? How does it work ? What are the different services offered and their differences? This is what we will discuss in this complete file.
How does Cloud Gaming work?
Cloud Gaming allows you to play video games on different media without them causing the graphics processing. The computing power is transferred to remotely hosted servers that run the games, while simultaneously transmitting the image to the players (with a little latency all the same). To take advantage of such a service, you need: a subscription to a Cloud Gaming service, access to a good internet connection (at least 30 Mb / s) and a platform to play on, such as a computer or a smartphone.
By following this principle, we can play the most greedy and sophisticated games with the least powerful machines, since it is the server that takes care of everything.
The different approaches of Cloud Gaming
Companies offering a Cloud Gaming service often adopt different strategies. For some, like Shadow, it is more about Cloud Computing, which gives access to a powerful computer in the cloud, able to play but also to behave like a real computer: office, data storage, photo editing and video, etc. On this virtual machine, it is possible to install software such as Steam or Origin to access its already acquired library of games.
The Blade Shadow Box
In the face of Cloud Computing is another approach, the Game on Demand. The difference here is that the subscription does not offer access to a complete computer, but rather to an interface allowing only games to play. This type of service is therefore less versatile since it only serves to play, but generally offers a large catalog of games and integrated with the subscription. This approach is generally described as "the Netflix of the video game" since it allows the same immediacy and simplicity as the famous SVOD service.
Between these two approaches, there is a hybrid model, that of Nvidia with GeForce Now, which offers access to a streaming game catalog, but only with games already acquired on Steam, Uplay or Blizzard Battle.net.
The service of the future, but still has some flaws
So yes, presented like that, Cloud Gaming has everything to be the future of video games. Whether on a smartphone, tablet or computer (even a Mac), it's technically possible to play your favorite games from anywhere, and from anything.
You do not need to buy the latest graphics card or equip your computer with more RAM memory cards: a subscription to a Cloud Gaming service provides access to a powerful machine that you do not need. 'to occupy. But above all, it's very simple: no need to download the latest drivers or optimize the display settings. Just launch the client with the game you want to play, simply.
Shield TV interface
Cloud Gaming, despite all these advantages, is not yet the perfect solution that will replace computers and home consoles. Firstly because it requires a very good connection, and it is stable. The preferred configurations are therefore the fiber or a very good VDSL, which goes through an Ethernet cable rather than Wi-Fi. Even if the connection is excellent, it is impossible to avoid a certain latency when the we use a cloud gaming service. Although it is minimal (between 1 and 10 milliseconds for Shadow) and almost imperceptible, it is important enough to potentially prevent a competitive practice of a multiplayer video game. Finally, we can criticize some services to offer a closed catalog, which prevents playing all possible games.
The home consoles still have good days in front of them
Some defects that a technology of the future could make disappear: the 5G. If there is a niche on which this new generation of the mobile network is expected, it is the latency. The 5G could offer a response time of the order of 1 millisecond, against 10 currently. Increased responsiveness, which should allow more people to enjoy a better quality Cloud Gaming service.
Cloud Gaming services already available
Shadow by Blade
Shadow is a cloud computing service that gives you access to a virtual machine in the cloud. It is possible to subscribe to the service and download the client on PC, Mac, Android and iOS. In addition, Shadow offers its box, the Shadow Ghost, which allows to use the virtual computer on any screen, which makes it possible to completely do without a physical computer. By subscribing to the service, you access a PC in the Cloud that has this data sheet: a GPU equivalent to the GeForce GTX 1080, an Intel Xeon processor, 12 GB of RAM, 256 GB of storage and a connection of 1 Gb / s, all under Windows 10.
Shadow offers an excellent configuration to its users, which is also scalable. The company is updating its components to provide the most up-to-date configuration possible. Whether with the box or just with the customer, it is very easy to play from any medium. And in case of a glitch, count on a very responsive customer service. We regret, however, the lack of storage: 256 GB, it's a bit fair if you cumulate the games of recent generations. And this service is probably the least easy to configure, since you have to play with both the client and the PC settings that we have virtual access to.
It is also a relatively expensive service, but you should know that it can completely replace a physical computer. With a commitment of one year, count on a subscription to 29.95 euros per month. Shadow Ghost, which is not essential for operation, costs 119.95 euros.
Sony PlayStation Now
Sony's PlayStation Now offers unlimited access to a PS2, PS3 and PS4 game catalog in the cloud for a monthly subscription. Games that are playable from a PS4 but also from a Windows computer. In total, it is more than 600 games that are available, it is possible to download on its PS4 (but not on PC) to play offline or use streaming. The games downloaded on PS4 offer a native definition, identical to the box versions. As for the streaming side, it is limited to 720p.
Sony's PlayStation Now is an advanced Cloud Gaming service. The game catalog is large, and allows you to play old PS2 licenses as well as newer AAA titles like Red Dead Redemption. Each month, the company adds new games for users of the service. With the ability to play streaming, it is very easy to switch from one game to another without any loading time. We regret, however, a catalog of games of uneven quality, with lots of passable licenses, and the lack of some recent quality references. Recent games that will have to be purchased, in addition to the PlayStation Now subscription.
The subscription costs 14.99 euros per month, or 99.99 euros per year. Note that it is possible to take advantage of a free trial period of seven days, convenient to check if it works properly on its connection. Also, access to multiplayer games on the PlayStation Now does not require an additional subscription to PlayStation Plus.
The GeForce Now of Nvidia
Still in beta, Nvidia's Cloud Gaming service gives access to a client compatible with Steam, Uplay, Epic and Battle.net that allows you to play games from its library. No catalog of free games available or virtual office, the client only allows access to games already owned by the user. Even if it is Cloud Gaming, Nvidia still advises a minimum configuration to its users: a GPU compatible with DirectX 9, a dual-core CPU at 2 GHz and 4 GB of free storage space. To take full advantage of the service, it is also recommended to have a minimum connection of 50 Mb / s. Note that it is possible to enjoy the GeForce Now with its Shield TV directly on a TV.
The GeForce Now service lets you play all compatible games, but offers optimized profiles for some of them. These optimized games are already available in the Nvidia Cloud, which saves the user a download and installation time. GeForce Now is currently able to display up to 1080p at 60 frames per second, if your connection allows it of course. For the negatives, note the ergonomics of the customer that can be improved, as well as compatibility with more gaming services. For example, Ubisoft's Origin platform does not work with GeForce Now.
The GeForce Now service is still in beta, and is offered free to those who participate. There is still no official release date on the horizon, so the service is still likely to change slightly. Shield TV is already available for sale, priced at around 199 euros.
The services that are expected soon
The Google Project Stream
It's the turn of the giant Google to get into Cloud Gaming. After a long beta launched in October 2018, a teaser from the firm suggests that its Project Stream service should be officially presented at the Gamer Developers Conference on March 19. We still know little about this service: during the beta, only the game Assassin's Creed Odyssey was proposed. A game that was possible to launch directly from its Chrome browser. Because this is where the strength of Google lies: no doubt that this service will be perfectly integrated with the various products offered by the firm.
A doubt persists as to its availability. The beta was available only from the United States, which suggests that Project Stream will not be available immediately on the Old Continent. According to rumors, this streaming service could even come with a case, like a Shield TV or Shadow Ghost.
Microsoft's Project xCloud
Microsoft is also working on its Cloud Gaming solution. The company has even made a public demonstration there is little where we discovered a Forza Horizon 4 playable on a phone, with a controller Xbox One. A gaming service based on Microsoft Azure, the brand's cloud computing service. The gaming division of Microsoft has fallen behind its competitor Sony, especially on the side of console sales. To compensate, Microsoft would multiply partnerships with other brands, such as Samsung, or Nintendo.
Kareem Choudhry, Cloud Gaming Manager at Xbox, announced that the first public trials will take place this year. But no conference or official launch seems planned at the moment.
But what are they waiting for?
As you can see, Cloud Gaming is a technology of the present, but especially of the future. The main players in digital technologies offer or develop their services. Some brands remain discreet however, a little too much.
Amazon seems to have all the elements to get started in Cloud Gaming. Through its AWS branch, the company already offers a cloud computing service, which remains reserved for professionals. In addition to being a commercial site, Amazon is already present in the areas of digital services, with Amazon Music or Prime Video.
As a reminder, Amazon has Twitch, the famous video game streaming platform. The link with Cloud Gaming is obvious.
Will Apple go to Cloud Gaming in its race for services? The Cupertino company seems to want to look for other sources of revenue: iPhone sales are falling, but not those of services. After a successful Apple Music launch, the Apple brand is ready to turn to video streaming. This is implied, without much doubt, the invitation to the keynote of March 25.
If the Cloud Gaming market is doing well for Apple's competitors, there is no doubt that the brand will launch into the sector. And as we can see for Apple Music and the future video streaming service, Apple usually takes its time before releasing a new product, to make a copy as perfect as possible.
Nintendo rarely does like its competitors Microsoft and Sony. Instead, the Japanese brand goes its own way, and it succeeds in light of the commercial success of the Switch. Will Nintendo get into Cloud Gaming? We do not know. Can the Nintendo Switch be a platform on which we take advantage of Cloud Gaming in France? This is what leaks suggest, suggesting that Microsoft's xCloud project is compatible with the Nintendo Switch.
Note that some actors did not wait for the builder's endorsement. In Japan, games like Resident Evil 7 or Phantasy Star Online 2 are available on the console and go through the cloud to work. The Ubitus company is responsible for these versions, which are exclusively for the Asian market at the moment.
Electronic Arts also wants to get into the race. The video game publisher has announced at E3 last work on its own Cloud Gaming service. In October, we learned a little more about this service, through a publication on Medium of CTO EA, Ken Moss. The Cloud Gaming service is called Project Atlas, and the least we can say is that the boundaries of this product are unclear. This service would be a mix of Frostbite (EA's graphics engine), cloud servers and artificial intelligence. A promising project so, but we know very little, starting with the date of marketing.
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