An industry perspective on cloud gaming
THQ, EA, GameStop and Gaikai share thoughts on latency and other key issues behind the move to the cloud
A new report commissioned by CLoud Gaming USA picks the brains of four key industry figures on the issues surrounding cloud gaming, which it identifies as latency, scalability, monetisation, and connected devices.
In the Future of Cloud Gaming: Industry Leaders' Thoughts, authored by John Gaudiosi, THQ president Brian Farrell places the responsibility for dealing with latency at the feet of publishers.
"Whether that means reducing the video resolution or coding specifically for an online game logic or adding more server locations, the potential solutions vary widely," he argues.
But Gaikai CEO David Perry disagrees: "Anybody that wants to stand up a real cloud network for gaming has to cover the world at a critically close proximity to the users." Gaikai has 24 data centres globally so far. "It's the only way to do it because you're dealing with physics."
I don't think core gaming online is always more demanding. In fact, with a game like Battlefield, the number of users per server is pretty comparable to what a casual game would look like
Richard Hilleman, EA
Richard Hilleman, EA's chief creative director, believe there's a mix of solutions, depending on the types of games you're looking to support. It's not just about streaming games. "There are other cases where the CDN, database, and other functionality that you can buy from the more elastic cloud services can do everything that you need," he says. "We are increasingly using them for that at EA."
On scalability meanwhile, Hilleman argues it needn't necessarily be a problem. "I don't think core gaming online is always more demanding. In fact, with a game like Battlefield, the number of users per server is pretty comparable to what a casual game would look like."
Farrell uses Homefront as an example of a game that needs a customised server and infrastructure, but claims cloud gaming will lead to more efficiency and better results for gamers because of the opportunities "to quickly start up new servers or shutdown under-utilised servers – meaning gamers get effective, reliable service and publishers pay for only what they use."
Farrell also talks about monetisation, predicting the multiple business models will evolve to suit the needs of consumers, and discusses new platforms like tablets and smartphones.
"Over the next five years they will become comparable in capabilities to your home consoles, and that's an incredibly exciting frontier for THQ and other publishers."
Hilleman meanwhile argues that in-game transactions are the future. "Our current experience is that the App Store model is essentially in freefall," he reveals, reporting that EA's success has been with DLC on multiple platforms.
The paper also contains contributions from GameStop president Tony Bartel, as he talks about the company's acquisition of Spawn Labs, a company dedicated to on-demand gaming. "One of the reasons that we bought Spawn Labs is it allows us to really start from the ground up and totally develop technology around our PowerUp Rewards system."
He also revealed that the company plans to developer its own gaming tablets.
"Our plan is to create a small subset of tablets that will be the Alienware of tablets, if you will. They will be optimised tablets for gaming that will have controllers that are hung off of them, either wired or wireless."
Cloud Gaming USA takes place September 7-8 in San Jose, and includes speakers such as Gaikai's David Perry, GameStop's Tony Bartel, Brian Farrell of THQ and EA's Richard Hilleman. More information can be found at the official website.