Video games are becoming more popular as means of entertainment or as hobbies with each day, so it’s no wonder that the companies involved in the adjacent fields are making tremendous efforts to keep things moving forward.
One of the best examples is the bloom of consoles – the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One are the next-gen consoles that are currently equally powerful as a high-end gaming PC. However, given the pace at which PC hardware evolves, console manufacturers had to find a way of keeping up, and they did.
The Gaming World Today
There are two main elements that are absolutely crucial to the gaming environment today:
- Realistic Graphics
- Multiplayer Capabilities
Dealing with first element was quite easy by massively improving the hardware in the consoles; as a result, both the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One are quite some performance beasts, with their octa-core processors, 8 gigabytes of RAM and powerful graphics cards. It was the second element – multiplayer gaming, which troubled the manufacturers.
For a satisfying multiplayer gaming experience, a good connection between the players was the mandatory condition, and any additional feature was an added bonus. A good example of extra feature is the PlayStation 4’s automatic recording feature that allows the player to upload a recording of the current match with the push of a button.
Meet the Cloud
Same as in the case of computer gaming, dedicated servers started to appear for popular titles, allowing players to enjoy quality multiplayer gaming without pushing their consoles to the limits. This concept is what sparked a great idea in the minds of the developers – what if they could improve consoles by integrating the cloud into the equation?
After all, cloud services were already present in the computer world for quite some times, with outstanding results, so there was already a precedent on how using a cloud structure could improve things. The two main companies that empower the console world, Sony and Microsoft, opted for slightly different strategies, though.
Microsoft came with the most daring idea regarding cloud usage, planning to move a part of the computing to the cloud for processing, thus allowing game developers to make use of the console’s hardware capabilities to add additional elements to the game in terms of graphics and complexity.
If this sounds quite complex and hard to implement, well, it is; luckily, Microsoft already had a very powerful cloud platform at its disposal – the Microsoft Azure cloud, which could provide the processing power the ambitious plan needed.
Sony opted for a similar path with the PlayStation 4, with some minor differences, though. First of all, the computing can be done either locally, if the game is played in a regular manner, or directly in the cloud. Unlike Microsoft’s approach, in the case of cloud computing, the game is ran entirely in the cloud, no installation being required on the console. Basically, you’re streaming the content of the game directly to the console.
While this may seem as a downside, because it does not offer any room for gameplay improvement, like Microsoft’s solution does, this is something that can easily be addressed along the way.
The Cloud – Today and Tomorrow
The idea to pair gaming consoles with a cloud platform is definitely a good one, but it does come with a significant limitation at the moment: Internet connectivity. While for a simple online multiplayer game a connection of 1-2 Mbps is enough, cloud computing and cloud streaming require a significantly faster Internet connection. We’re talking about 5-10 Mbps for a good experience, which is not a very common speed in a lot of places.
This means that, with today’s options, the usability of cloud computing and cloud streaming is quite limited. However, it’s important to note that Microsoft and Sony opted for these technologies for the long run, as their consoles have no problems dealing with the games of the moment, but it’s the games of tomorrow the manufacturers fear.
So, considering the speed at which everything evolves, by the time these features will actually be needed, high-speed Internet connectivity is likely to be available at a larger scale, thus piecing everything together. Well played Microsoft and Sony, well played.