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What is Cloud Gaming and How Does it Work?

What is Cloud Gaming and How Does it Work?

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In this fast-evolving era of video game tech, Cloud gaming is a revolutionized concept as the new frontier that potentially changes how we play & access our preferred games. In this ultimate guide on cloud gaming, we will take a deep dive into what exactly the technology behind it is and why so many people are concerned about its impact on the future of the gaming industry.

Understanding Cloud Gaming

cloud gaming - concept

Cloud gaming, or playing video games on demand over the internet connects players to data centers and saves them from having to run the games on their own devices. Just like Netflix brings us movies and TV shows, the game is also streamed to the user’s device.

Certainly, at the heart of cloud games is the idea that it makes high-quality gaming experiences available for a broader audience, without the barrier to entry (read: expensive hardware). Instead of needing a high-end gaming PC or the newest consoles, cloud gaming lets users play on phones, tablets, smart TVs, and nearly any low-spec computer you can find.

How Cloud Gaming Works

The core idea of cloud gaming is fairly simple, however, the technology required to achieve this consists of many moving parts. Here is a  quick overview of Cloud Gaming and How it works:

  1. Game Execution on Remote Servers: When a user starts playing any game, the actual game starts executing at a data center’s powerful server and not locally on the user’s device.
  2. Video Streaming: the game’s video output is picked up by the server and compressed into a readable format for streaming.
  3. Data Transfer: The video stream is transmitted over the internet to your device.
  4. System Input: When the player interacts with input devices of a game(eg. pressing buttons, moving mouse), they hand back these inputs to the server.
  5. Server Processing: The server processes these inputs and updates the game state, then sends back a new video frame.
  6. Continuously Loop: Here is the hardest part; the process of doing this is repeated many times a second, ideally between 30 to 60 per second so that movement in the game looks nice and smooth.

The Role of Cloud Computing

cloud gaming - amazon luna

At the core of cloud games is cloud computing. This is the infrastructure that allows games to run on servers in data centers and be streamed over the web. Several important technologies drive cloud computing in gaming including:

  1. Virtualisation: Allows one physical server to run multiple virtual machines, thereby utilizing the resources in a better way.
  2. Scalable: Cloud infrastructure grows and shrinks on demand to power business apps of any scale, when popular.
  3. Divided Computing: This division allows games to get divided up over several servers doing unique responsibilities like physics computations, AI activities, and rendering graphical features.
  4. Edge Computing: With cloud gaming, servers are settled nearer to end users which provides them with faster processing time and lower latency.

Low Latency and Network Infrastructure

Cloud Gaming – Network Infrastructure Is Everything In order for cloud gaming to be a feasible prospect, it needs low latency networks with which data can be transmitted between the user and server at high speed.

Latency in simpler terms can be defined as the time it takes for data to move from your device and reach back. Low latency is important for cloud gaming to provide a responsive game experience. Gameplay is best with less than 20 milliseconds of round-trip time.

Cloud games’ services use several techniques, in order to minimize latency:

  1. Geographically Distributed Data Centers: minimize the real distance data has to travel thanks to having servers in closer proximity.
  2. Streamlined Network Routes: Cloud gaming providers secure deals with ISPs that help create more direct and cost-effective pathways for data to travel through.
  3. High-End Compression Algorithms: By using these advanced algorithms it can allow you to transmit a reduced-size dataset whilst maintaining image quality at an acceptable level.
  4. Predictive Tech: A Serve tech that uses AI to predict clicks and pre-render frames, reducing perceived client latency even further.

Bandwidth Requirements

cloud gaming microsoft

Bandwidth, the amount of data that can be sent over an internet connection in a time frame as discussed above was another critical element to successful cloud gaming. Cloud gaming needs a lot of data to be transferred in and out ideally over an always-available high-speed connection.

Depending on the game’s streamed resolution and frame rate, cloud gaming bandwidth can fluctuate as well.

– 720p at 30fps: 5-10 Mbps

– 1080p at 60fps: 15-25 Mbps

– 4K at 60fps: 35-50 Mbps

The list also provides that cloud gaming can deliver to the participants a more powerful and faster internet infrastructure, including broadband connections of all sorts and mobile networks with broader coverage. This, of course, is a disclaimer: the problem could be that in the place where you are internet slow or your data cable clouds, flood is not included as well.

Input Lag: The Cloud Gaming’s Main Challenge

Cloud gaming battles are, in large part, cloud computing/client-side processing vs. input lag – the milliseconds of delay between a player’s action and its result on the screen. Although all gaming systems suffer from input lag, the delay caused by network transmission time added to cloud gaming is new.

Eliminating the input lag is very important because it creates a more responsive gaming experience, this will be critical in fast games like First-person shooter or fighting. There are a number of methods used to try and reduce input lag on cloud gaming services

  1. Frame Interpolation: This one can predict and produce intermediate frames in order to provide smoother gameplay.
  2. Predicting Input: pre-rendering potential outcomes based on AI predictions of likely player inputs.
  3. Variable Bitrate (Resolution Scaling): The ability to scale the video quality up or down on demand in reaction to low-latency conditions.

Even still, the input lag is somewhere that cloud gaming cannot quite overcome – especially for competitive gaming worlds where making these minute decisions quicker than your opponent could cost you a match.

Cloud Gaming Platforms and Subscription Services

cloud gaming - playstation

With cloud gaming becoming increasingly popular, many of the big tech corporations and game publishers have launched their own platforms or subscription-based services. The key players in the global cloud gaming market are Sony Corporation (Japan), NVIDIA Corporation (U.S.), and Ubitus Inc.

  1. NVIDIA GeForce Now: This one is a bit different, it lets you play games that you already own on some digital storefronts.
  2. Microsoft xCloud (Console, PC, Mobile): The cloud gaming element of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate.
  3. Amazon Luna: Amazon’s cloud gaming service, with Twitch integration.
  4. PlayStation Now: Sony’s game-streaming service that grants access to a library of PS games.

These are usually subscription-based services that require users to pay a monthly fee for access to the game library. A few platforms also give the option to buy individual games for streaming.

Device Compatibility and Accessibility

The main pitch of cloud gaming is that it turns high-quality gameplay into something one can experience almost anywhere. This includes:

– Smartphones and tablets

– Smart TVs

– Low-end laptops and desktops

– Web browsers

– Streaming Devices (e.g., Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV)

The wide range of supported devices means more people can get into gaming with relatively little effort and play games they wouldn’t otherwise have the hardware to run due to their graphical intensity.

On the downside, gaming experiences can vary from one device to another depending on its capabilities The screen size, input methods, and network connectivity can affect how well a game is played on any device.

The Impact of 5G Technology

cloud gaming - geforce now

5G networks are going to play a huge role in cloud gaming. 5G comes with the promise of offering solutions to several constraints prevailing in cloud gaming as technology imposes limitless advantages around:

1. Increased Bandwidth

5G networks offer much higher data transfer speeds, potentially allowing for higher resolution game streaming and more concurrent users.

2. Low Latency

The 5G is working towards cutting the latency down to even lower than 1 millisecond, for cloud gaming this could switch things drastically in responsiveness.

3. Network Slicing

This element of 5G networks permits the formation of virtualized, purpose-built networkings able to isolate discrete bandwidth for projects like Cloud Gaming.

4. Mobile Gaming

Enable high-fidelity cloud gaming on mobile devices with 5G such as in rural areas where Wi-Fi is slow or unavailable.

Cloud gaming is incredibly promising on 5G, but it will be years before 5G becomes as ubiquitous and fleshed-out as current platforms.

Advantages of Cloud Gaming

This technique could offer several different potential benefits in cloud gaming compared to traditional techniques:

  1. Accessibility: In the past – and sometimes still today – high-end games were something only people with a lot of money could actually play.
  2. Instant Access: There is no requirement for downloading or installing games.
  3. Cross-Play: Start a game on one device and finish it out on another.
  4. Always Updated: Never have to download and install patches, games are always up-to-date
  5. Less Piracy: Because games are run on servers, it’s harder for pirates to produce illegitimate copies.
  6. Pricing: They let you subscribe to a library of games for one monthly fee.

Challenges and Limitations

cloud gaming

Cloud gaming has the potential to be big, but is also fraught with challenges:

  1. Internet Infrastructure: Some regions lack inexpensive high throughput, low-latency internet connections which are essential for cloud-based gaming.
  2. Input lag: Optimizations can reduce input lag significantly but some increased amount of additional input is always necessary with Cloud gaming.
  3. Compression of Video: Since the video stream gets compressed in order to require less bandwidth, image quality is lower compared with local gameplay.
  4. Game Library Limitations: Not all games of users are available on cloud gaming platforms, and the user does not “own,” in the traditional sense.
  5. Service Provider Dependency: A cloud gaming platform shutting down could mean losing access to your games and saves
  6. Cost Over Time: Subscription Fees Can Add Up to Cost More Than a Gaming Console or PC.

The Future of Cloud Gaming

With technology developing over time, cloud gaming will become a major part of the industry landscape. A few trends and developments that may influence its future:

  1. Better Algorithms: There seems to be room for improvement in the algorithms that ensure video compression and minimal latency, too.
  2. Alliances With Other Cloud Services: We may see cloud gaming becoming more tied to cloud storage, social networking, and streaming platforms.
  3. New Game Design Paradigms: In the future of gaming we may even see new game design paradigms like games that are intentionally designed with only cloud capabilities in mind.
  4. AR and Virtual Reality: Cloud computing has the potential to deliver richer AR/VR experiences without relying on users who have high-end hardware.
  5. AI/Machine Learning: these can be leveraged to enhance the game streaming and predict user behavior.

Conclusion

What cloud gaming represents is nothing short of a fundamental rethinking of the way we perceive video games and how to get access to them. Through the use of off-site data servers and streaming technology, this kind of network has the flexibility to make high-quality gaming experiences more easily accessible than ever.

Nevertheless, the viability of cloud gaming, in general, will remain completely dependent on progress made in networking capabilities and latency reduction – while also managing to offer a comparable or superior gameplay experience/fluidity compared to localized hardware.

As well as with the advancement of internet speeds, and technologies like 5G coming into more common practice, cloud gaming is expected to bring solutions for gamers streaming different games on their hardware. Although traditional game methods will not be entirely replaced in the next few years, cloud gaming seems likely to make a splash in the future of video games.

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Author

  • Behnam Mehrafrooz

    Behnam is a game designer, a storyteller, and a pizza lover. He loves diving deep into a pile of text to find the right answers. A diehard Warhammer fan and a tireless eco-warrior.⁣

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