Future of gaming: death of the console and rise of cloud?
Gaming has come a long way since the coin-operated Space Invaders arcade game four decades ago. The advances in the computing industry, from miniaturization of microprocessors and data storage, to the development of high-performance graphics cards, mean game developers are creating ultra-realistic, cinematic storytelling and adventure that attract and keep gamers captivated. Cloud gaming has emerged as the next technological advancement that is pushing the boundaries and possibilities for the video gaming industry.
Cloud gaming promises users the ability to play games across multiple devices through a subscription model. 2020 has seen cloud gaming move into the spotlight, with Amazon launching Luna, its streaming games service in September and Facebook announcing its entry into cloud gaming the following month. Cloud gaming could be on the cusp of disrupting hardware sales, but there is a hurdle to overcome. And that hurdle is latency.
Let’s talk about latency
Latency is the time it takes to establish a connection, transmit, process and return the graphical refresh of the gaming stream. If there is any noticeable delay, it negatively affects the gaming experience. It comes as no surprise then, that cloud gaming providers have invested heavily to reduce latency. Our recent cloud gaming report revealed that almost all cloud gaming platform developers such as Google and Amazon have half (49 per cent) of their patent activity within the streaming infrastructure and latency reduction area. The volume of patented innovation in streaming infrastructure has, in fact, surpassed patent activity in game transactions models, online multiplayer gaming and mobile/social network gaming according to patent intelligence from our Derwent World Patents Index.
Could the current generation of consoles that device manufacturers are building be among the last before cloud gaming becomes pervasive? Console makers are savvy enough to recognize the movement towards the cloud and the disruption to traditional business models. In Japan, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, a AAA game, was made available on Nintendo Switch via a streaming service on the same day retailers started selling their Playstation and Xbox copies. Microsoft added a game streaming option to its Game Pass Library last September. In fact, Microsoft Xbox boss recently said that “the device doesn’t dictate to me what I can do—I’m going to want to bring my experience to any device, whether it’s a PC, my phone, or a great console”.
The great leveller
Cloud gaming could truly be the great leveller, removing the split between consoles and PC gaming, de-platforming gaming and expanding its audience to those who were perhaps previously deterred by console and game costs. There is also an appetite from current gamers to try cloud gaming. Our research showed that more than four in five gamers who do not currently play cloud games are planning to start cloud gaming in the next twelve months. The same research also indicated that cloud gamers are willing to forsake brand loyalty if another platform offers better cloud gaming services. With gamers likely to be fickle, cloud gaming companies will need to stay on their toes, considering there is a host of up-and-coming contenders in the field such as Remotr, Steam and Vortex.
The industry has experienced a false dawn with cloud gaming previously, but there is a genuine buzz that cloud gaming is finally ready to take off. We need look no further than an adjacent industry that has experienced similar technical disruption – broadcasting. Streaming pioneers such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime are joined today by traditional media companies such as Disney with its Disney+ streaming offering. Music streaming has also become ubiquitous.
Will 2021 see the death of the console? The recent launches of and demand for the Microsoft Xbox Series X and Sony Playstation 5 show that consoles remain highly sought after. The jury may be out as to whether we will see a next generation of today’s newly launched consoles. Concerted efforts from major gaming players to solve the technical challenges of cloud gaming, coupled with the attraction to consumers of lower upfront costs and an ever-evolving gaming infrastructure courtesy of their cloud gaming provider, means it is surely only a matter of time before cloud gaming becomes mainstream.
Ed White is head of IP analytics at Clarivate
GfK and VMware: Innovating together on hybrid cloud
GfK has been the global leader in data and analytics for more than 85 years, supplying its clients with optimised decision inputs.
In its capacity as a strategic and technical partner, VMware has been walking GfK along its digital transformation path for over a decade.
“We are a demanding and singularly dynamic customer, which is why a close partnership with VMware is integral to the success of everyone involved,” said Joerg Hesselink, Global Head of Infrastructure, GfK IT Services.
Four years ago, the Nuremberg-based researcher expanded its on-premises infrastructure by introducing VMware vRealize Automation. In doing so, it laid a solid foundation, resulting in a self-service hybrid-cloud environment.
By expanding on the basis of VMware Cloud on AWS and VMware Cloud Foundation with vRealize Cloud Management, GfK has given itself a secure infrastructure and reliable operations by efficiently operating processes, policies, people and tools in both private and public cloud environments.
One important step for GfK involved migrating from multiple cloud providers to just a single one. The team chose VMware.
“VMware is the market leader for on-premises virtualisation and hybrid-cloud solutions, so it was only logical to tackle the next project for the future together,” says Hesselink.
Migration to the VMware-based environment was integrated into existing hardware simply and smoothly in April 2020. Going forward, GfK’s new hybrid cloud model will establish a harmonised core system complete with VMware Cloud on AWS, VMware Cloud Foundation with vRealize Cloud Management and a volume rising from an initial 500 VMs to a total of 4,000 VMs.
“We are modernising, protecting and scaling our applications with the world’s leading hybrid cloud solution: VMware Cloud on AWS, following VMware on Google Cloud Platform,” adds Hesselink.
The hybrid cloud-based infrastructure also empowers GfK to respond to new and future projects with astonishing agility: Resources can now be shifted quickly and easily from the private to the public cloud – without modifying the nature of interaction with the environment.
The gfknewron project is a good example – the company’s latest AI-powered product is based exclusively on public cloud technology. The consistency guaranteed by VMware Cloud on AWS eases the burden on both regular staff and the IT team. Better still, since the teams are already familiar with the VMware environment, the learning curve for upskilling is short.
One very important factor for the GfK was that VMware Cloud on AWS constituted an investment in future-proof technology that will stay relevant.
“The new cloud-based infrastructure comprising VMware Cloud on AWS and VMware Cloud Foundation forges a successful link between on-premises and cloud-based solutions,” says Hesselink. “That in turn enables GfK to efficiently develop its own modern applications and solutions.
“In market research, everything is data-driven. So, we need the best technological basis to efficiently process large volumes of data and consistently distill them into logical insights that genuinely benefit the client.
“We transform data and information into actionable knowledge that serves as a sustainable driver of business growth. VMware Cloud on AWS is an investment in a platform that helps us be well prepared for whatever the future may hold.”