How Will Streaming Affect The Future Of Gaming?

When a lot of people are asked to picture gaming, they’ll largely picture the same thing: a console, usually a PlayStation or a Nintendo console, hooked up to a TV with cables and playing physical media or downloads. That’s been the static image of gaming for as long as video games have existed, and although it’s likely to continue into the future, things are changing very rapidly indeed. Gaming is no longer confined to the console or the PC, and it’s certainly no longer confined to wires, as we’ve seen with wireless ad hoc multiplayer.

Past and Present

One area in which gaming is inarguably speeding up can be seen as we enter the age of widespread streaming protocols. OnLive, the first gaming streaming provider, made a very early attempt to usher in the world of streaming entire video games on demand. Sadly, it was scuppered by some difficulties including variable streaming quality and a slightly prohibitive pricing model. OnLive closed its doors for good in 2015, but many services have appeared to try to take its place, not least those offered by major gaming forces like Sony and Microsoft.

So, with that in mind, we’re looking to address one question here: how will streaming affect the future of gaming? What will the gaming landscape look like in a few years or even ten, once streaming has become de rigeur (or, indeed, once it’s been defeated by the overwhelming prominence of physical media)? Will streaming become the default method by which we play video games, or will we simply revert to physical media or downloads for their convenience? The answers to these questions are largely dependent on several different factors.

If we want a possible model for how the future of streaming in gaming will look, we have only to examine browser-based gaming. Let’s take the casino gaming industry, for example. If you wanted to fire up roulette or blackjack on the Casimba casino, for instance, you would simply point to the game and fire it up, playing a game and earning cash within minutes. Streaming games online could well end up looking like that in the future; we simply choose from a list, fire up the game we want, and we’re playing it in seconds. Of course, browser-based games do require downloads often, but Casimba and its ilk are instant, so that’s what we could be looking at in future.

In order for that to become reality, though, a number of things would need to happen. First, the vast majority of gamers would need access to a fast and reliable internet connection, which isn’t currently the case. In order for streaming in gaming to work, your internet connection needs to remain constant, otherwise the game’s data will simply stop streaming and you won’t be able to play it anymore. Naturally, this isn’t an acceptable condition for gamers, so internet speeds will need to dramatically improve before streaming becomes the norm.

Google Stadia

In order to see how streaming in gaming could fail and not make a significant impact, we have only to look to Google’s Stadia service. While it’s still possible for Google to salvage something from the wreckage of Stadia’s launch, the company simply didn’t do enough to clarify quality and speed issues at launch, many of which were present for a huge amount of users. Stadia wasn’t the revolutionary streaming service the industry needs, and the reason for that is simple: it wasn’t any more intuitive or logical than OnLive, a service that predated it by sixteen years.

With that in mind, then, another thing a streaming service needs in order to overtake physical or download media is to be straightforward. We need to simply be able to start up the service, choose a game, and be playing it within moments. As it stands, some services are almost at that level of convenience; specifically, Sony’s PlayStation Now is almost an exemplar of the form, with only some slow speeds and questionable quality bringing it down. A streaming service needs to be more convenient than physical or download media for us to use it en masse, and right now that isn’t the case.

The Way Ahead

So, if we want to return to our original question – “how will streaming affect the future of gaming?” – then the answer is “we’re not sure yet”. It might sound like a cop-out, but honestly, there’s everything to play for in the world of streaming in gaming right now. Google’s Stadia service has died on its feet, so that isn’t the model the gaming world wants to adopt. That doesn’t mean there isn’t room for rivals and pretenders to take control of the medium and try to bring it to a much wider audience. With some of the most anticipated games of 2020 soon arriving, video game streaming has a lot of potential after all.

We’re already seeing companies try to take advantage of that potential, and that’s only likely to increase in frequency as the new console generation takes hold. The PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X will both have streaming technology front and center of their respective strategies, which makes sense; Sony is pushing PlayStation Now, and Microsoft wants to emphasise its work with Project XCloud. It’s only a matter of time before Nintendo and the leaders of PC gaming embrace this technology as well, as its potential to transcend the boundaries of hardware offers an enticing way out of the death of Moore’s Law.

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