Sunday, December 3, 2023

Cloud gaming is not your enemy

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Historically, fans have resisted change – and sometimes for good reason. Throughout its long history, the video game industry has experimented with ideas that tend to put the best interests of gamers against those of corporations. Everything from intrusive microtransactions, to Xbox One’s failed ever-online plan, to the current NFT craze has prompted a vocal outcry from skeptical gamers.

With players currently on high alert due to a new wave of buzzing industry concepts, cloud gaming is apparently under more scrutiny than ever. The more companies experiment with the technology, the more it is treated as an existential threat to the industry. When Kingdom Hearts came to Nintendo Switch via cloud ports, fans dragged it through the mud. Sony’s recent revelation that PS Plus will feature cloud versions of PS3 games has caused a similar backlash from fans who have demanded native ports.

The skepticism is understandable because cloud providers have not yet won the trust of players. Cloud gaming is still a difficult technology because it depends on the user having a good internet connection – something that is not always possible in most of the United States. However, direct opposition to the technology may feel misplaced. Unlike other recent technical innovations, cloud gaming could actually solve problems. In fact, we already see how positive it can be as a choice.

Rising skepticism

The negative response to the continued growth of cloud gaming is complicated. While players have many legitimate issues with the technology, part of the answer comes from its initial implementation. When Google launched its cloud platform Stadia in 2019, there was no real roadmap on how the cloud should be integrated into video games. Google has wrapped its service in an expensive subscription model that prioritizes the technology itself over the actual games that supported it. With a small launch lineup and a lack of features at launch, Stadia immediately struggled to find his base.

That beginning of the revolution may have poisoned the well for some. Over time, cloud gaming has become synonymous with subscription services. It didn’t help that Amazon jumped on Google’s wagon with Luna soon after, reinforcing that perception. A distaste for technology seemed inseparable from reasonable fears that video games were moving into a subscription era.

Rich Shibley / Digital Trends

Although this may have exacerbated the skepticism, it is far from the sole reason that players are still turning their noses at the technology. The ever-evolving nature of cloud gaming poses a lot of problems for gamers who do not live in a major city that has access to fast internet. Delays and image quality dips can hinder experiences like Destination 2. With no way to play games offline, there is no guarantee that players will get a fully stable Wi-Fi gaming experience.

Other things are more complex. Possession becomes a particularly slippery concept with the cloud, and players are longing for it. If someone buys a game on Google Stage and Google shuts down the service, subscribers will simply no longer have access to it. That bleeds into game-preservation concerns, as some fear that a move to the cloud will eventually wipe out a few titles in thin air someday.

These are all valid concerns, but they are born out of a scenario in which cloud gaming completely replaces the way we play now. That’s just not the reality of technology.

Best scenarios

The role of the cloud in the modern gameplay landscape is largely complementary. It’s part of a broader industry philosophy that aims to make gaming more flexible – the same idea that gave birth to the Nintendo Switch and Steam Deck. For dedicated consoles and computer gamers, this means that it is now possible to play something similar Halo Infinite vacationing without dragging an expensive machine. The goal is to give us more options, not less.

Technology is a potential problem solver and we are beginning to see its usefulness unfold in unexpected ways. Its most obvious advantage is financial. For those who don’t want to spend $ 500 buying a new console or much more on a capable computer, cloud gaming lowers the barrier to entry by putting high-end games on the devices they already own. It broadens access and that’s basically a net positive result.

Someone playing Fortnite on the phone.
Photo by Joshua Hoehne sur Unsplash

But perhaps the best example of the cloud as a force for good came last week when Microsoft made a cloud version of Fortnite free for all players, no Game Pass subscription required. The move had a monumental side effect: It stealthily brought the game back to iOS devices. Fortnite has not been available in the App Store since 2020, a decision that has led to a high-profile legal battle between Apple and Epic Games. At the time, Apple banned the title as a punishment for Epic trying to get around Apple by taking a cut of its in-app sales. It was a show of strength that highlighted how much power the company has over developers.

Microsoft’s Fortnite move took away that power from Apple. Now gamers can once again enjoy the battle on iOS devices, and the company can’t do much about it.

If used as a tool, the cloud can solve such problems. Sony’s decision to make PS3 games available in the cloud can be frustrating, but it’s a clever way to get around the complicated architecture that has historically made it difficult to carry titles like. Metal Gear Solid 4 to modern appliances. Given the state of the Nintendo Switch and its aging technology, the cloud gives gamers a way to experience modern titles like Control that just wouldn’t run on the console otherwise.

Team Sonic Racing is played on a variety of devices that support Amazon Luna.

In all these scenarios, the alternative would be that these games simply would not exist on these platforms. Fortnite would still be unplayable on iOS due to corporate policy, PS3 games would be lost on time, and Switch owners would have fewer options. Although none of these may be optimal experiences for players with poor internet at present, their existence is purely additional.

As technology stands today, it doesn’t make much sense to take root against cloud gaming just as players reject microtransactions or NFTs. While it continues to complement traditional gaming experiences, it is a powerful tool that helps more than hurt. You don’t have to buy, but it’s not our enemy.

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