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.

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Latest comments (4)

Nicola Searle Senior Knowledge Exchange Associate, University of Abertay Dundee6 years ago
This is spot on - cloud gaming represents a huge change in the costs associated with servers. Instead of high, up-front costs, the pay-as-you-go model cloud server model significantly reduces the barriers to entry for games companies. As the technology improves, we should see more and more use of the cloud and, as the article states, new business models.
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Curt Sampson Sofware Developer 6 years ago
Yes, but the ability to do that with servers where the clients do the rendering has been around for quite some time. (Amazon EC2 has been available for nearly five years now.) When the servers are doing the rendering, though, that's a completely different story, and I suspect that Gaikai may be right that your typical cloud servers may not do the trick. On the other hand, Akamai or Google or whomever may expand into renting servers that are heavily optimized for high bandwidth and low latency to individual clients.

I quite like GameStop's tablet idea, though I wonder what (besides, presumably, external video output) will make it much different from a PlayStation Vita.
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Jeffrey Kesselman CTO, Nphos6 years ago
"Cloud gaming" has no real meaning. Its a buzzword. In order to talk about this seriously you need to actually define what it is you are trying to accomplish.

You have two cases. In the first, you have games designed for the internet. Your WoWs and the like. They build sophisticated systems for hiding and handling latency and bandwidth issues. They can do this because they are doing their own networking. These solutions invovle logic on both client and serve and are very game specific.

Then you have Onlive and such who are taking games not built or intended for high latency between the input and the game and try to run them in a high latency environment. That will never work as well. Period.

Edited 3 times. Last edit by Jeffrey Kesselman on 29th June 2011 9:43pm

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My company is heading the Cloud Gaming USA Conference & Expo taking place in San Jose, September 7-8 and we commissioned this report. To get the full copy free and for more information on the conference please head to [link url=

Hope to see some of you there! :)

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