One of the biggest shifts in the world of entertainment over the past decade has been the slow death of physical media. Where once you needed a veritable library of VHS tapes and cassettes, or eventually Blu-Rays and CDs, now everyone just streams their entertainment.
If you want to watch TV, you throw on Netflix and watch your show. If you want to listen to your favorite album, you bust open Spotify and start streaming it. People don’t own things the way they used to, and this has caused a huge change in the way that artists and actors make their money. One space that streaming hasn’t quite caught up to, yet, is gaming.
There is such a thing as game streaming or cloud gaming. Services like xCloud, Google Stadia, and Amazon’s Luna service all offer literal streamed games, using the same delivery system as Netflix or Spotify. The player doesn’t download an entire game and store it on a gaming device with these services. Instead, they stream the video feed from an off-site server and beam their controller inputs directly to the server via the internet.
This technology has been heralded by some as the natural future of gaming and derided by others as a bizarre experiment that won’t go anywhere. So, which is the truth?
Cloud gaming has its positive points. For one thing, streaming a game means that you don’t actually need to own any hardware aside from an internet router, a controller, and a TV. The normal overhead of buying a game console and then installing a game falls away. You can stream any game on a streaming service instantly, and, if you have fast enough internet, it’ll look amazing.
There are drawbacks, too. You need very fast internet for this to be seamless, and this isn’t an option for everyone. Likewise, if your internet gets choppy or cuts out, you’ll just lose access to the game you’re playing. This is a huge hassle for some people.
Cloud gaming is a cool space for companies to explore, as it offers some new possibilities for casual and hardcore gamers alike. It doesn’t seem likely that everyone will jump right in, though, as many people prefer to own physical copies of the games they play.
However, when internet infrastructure becomes better across the country and more people can access high speeds, cloud gaming could become as ubiquitous as Netflix. The only question now is which company will make itself the “Netflix of games.”