The Real Debate About Gaming in the Cloud and the Future of Technology

Toms Hardware has a lot of great tech news every day.  This one caught my eye from a gaming cloud vendor talking about where gaming was going.  Here’s a hint, he thinks it’s going to the cloud. Smile

I’m really surprised at a lot of the comments about the article. In fact, I was hard pressed to find a single optimistic one.

A good percentage of the arguments seem to be that "games" should be physical media that you can buy in a store and touch. That’s the same argument music providers and purchasers were pushing 10 years ago. Now if you want to actually visit a store to browse and purchase a CD it’s more because you’re a purist or you want to take a walk in "simpler times". If I hear a song I like and actually want to buy it I don’t think twice about going to my favorite online provider and downloading it to my phone. In fact I love the convenience, speed and knowing that that purchase is mine no matter what happens to my phone. There is no physical medium to break or lose.

Other arguments seem to think that bandwidth is too slow/inaccessible/expensive/capped/et and set in stone. Bandwidth will always get faster and more accessible. I know that right now there are arguments at the cost, ISP caps, geographical limitations, but these have always been the same issues in one form or another. ~15 years ago (I’m 34) I was downloading at 2400bps. 10 years ago ISPs were having wars as to which 56k bps technology was to be used. DSL and Cable then started fighting it out and the government was being lobbied as to whether telco companies should be allowed in the entertainment medium (because Internet was seen as serving video and other "TV killers") or whether cable companies should be allowed in the telecommunications medium (because Internet was seen as communication and "telco killers"). Meanwhile computers have been getting faster and mobile devices smaller/more capable. In the end, 10 years from now communication methods will be much faster and potentially very different, but I’m sure there will be similar "debates" going on.

Another set of arguments seem to be geared towards real games are only fit on consoles or high end desktops. I really don’t know why the gaming genre constantly has to be fit into a small space. Already gaming is on a variety of platforms in variety of forms from simple little text games on old cell phones to Crysis II on a $4,000 gaming rig. The gaming platform as a whole is already incredibly broad and it won’t be getting any smaller.

The real argument in this article is where are high-end games going. Again, I don’t think it matters what one guy (who obviously wants to promote his company and that’s what marketing is, don’t be surprised or offended) thinks about where gaming is going.

In my personal opinion (because hopefully much of the above was objective 🙂 ) I have no problem with another company attempting to push gaming into the cloud with an alternative publishing platform. If I don’t like it I don’t have to use it. No big deal.

However, the potential is actually quite amazing and simply mirrors what other industries have done (i.e. music purchases/distribution and now movie subscription/distribution). I’ll just use the Microsoft XNA platform as an example. Potentially (not yet but potentially) the XNA platform can run on the XBOX, PC, Silverlight and a Windows Phone 7. If Microsoft can take this to the ultimate end then why can’t I subscribe or purchase a game online and play it on my XBOX when I’m at home on my 50" LCD and play it on my laptop or enthusiast PC when I want, then play it online within my Silverlight hardware accelerated browser and finally pop in for a few minutes on my dual-core (or whatever in the future) WP7 phone? I purchased or subscribed to the game and have four platforms. I think the argument in the future would be "what do you mean you’re going to sell me a game on a single DVD and not let me play it on any device I want?"

Right now if I buy a song I would expect to be able to play it on any of my devices in any location I’m at and it would infringe on my right as a customer to be told I can’t play it on my phone and my stereo at home and in my car or on my computer at work. We only allow gaming companies to do this because the current technology doesn’t allow me to move Crysis to my phone as easily as a song. Technology will one day make that available and I fully expect to be able to one day buy/subscribe to a game once and play it on any device I choose to because it’s my game/subscription and my devices.

Heck, I expect that one day bandwidth will be fast enough and $500 PCs will be fast enough that I can travel to another country, take photos, go into an Internet cafe (or just use my phone), upload photos to my online account, retouch them and edit video, make them available to family and friends, and even play a WoW (or whatever) for a little bit all without having to carry around a laptop.

That’s where I think we’re going.

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Matt Penner

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