Streaming For Gaming
We've all been there. That first time watching a video game on a proper professional-grade gaming rig. It is hard to describe the emotions going through you, as you realise the true potential of gaming, and immediately get depressed with the subsequent realisation that you will never be able to justify or even afford to spend that much on a gaming hobby. This cycle repeats itself every time you visit that one friend who has the coveted gaming setup, languishing in his 4K/60FPS indulgence, hoarding his controllers more fiercely than Smaug. it's not like you can blame him either. After all, if you had spent that kind of money on a huge and bulky gaming rig, you too would end up becoming locked in your room, afraid to go anywhere because your computer doesn't know the spelling of portable.
Which is why it is so exciting to hear the latest buzz in the tech community, about the industry-wide shift towards video game streaming as an alternative to investing in personal hardware. For those who live under the non-gaming rock, video game streaming, as the name suggests, is a service that allows you to play video games on any kind of supported device, as long as you have a good enough internet connection. The game is actually run on industrial-grade servers and GPUs, and you just enjoy the output, at the highest graphics settings and resolution possible.
While this is not the first time we have seen services like this, the entry of player as big as Google has really spurred the existing players and other on-the-fence parties into solidifying their plans for this segment. With India going through its own mobile internet and broadband revolution, it is also the perfect time for these players to enter the Indian market. Let's walk you through some of the major competitors in this field and their plans to shape the future of gaming.
Google created huge ripples in the market when it announced its Stadia subscription costs of just $10 per month for game streaming in 4K HDR at 60 frames-per-second. This performance is on par with top-of-the-line hardware available in the market today, and way beyond anything the competition offers. Thanks to Google's extensive cloud server network, this is probably one of the few services that can actually deliver on the promise on a consistent basis. The one thing where Google is still lagging behind though is the gaming library, especially against competitors with vast collections like Xbox & Playstation. You will get a few games for free every month, but for everything else, you will just have to buy the games the old fashioned way. Just make sure you have a minimum internet speed of 35Mbps if you want to experience the top tier graphics, or at least 10Mbps to maintain the base resolution of 720p.
Microsoft Project xCloud
Microsoft is probably the only player in this segment that can match Google in its market presence and resources. Between their Azure, Xbox & Windows platforms, they already have the software, hardware and gaming know-how required to make a project like this a success. The company is working with top technicians from each platform to see if they can deliver a high-definition gaming experience at less than 10Mbps speeds, which will be a huge plus point if possible. However, the one thing that really pushes them above the rest is a game library that consists of more than 3000 titles from Xbox and PC, that are already compatible with their xCloud platform. That is more games than all the competitors combined. We can't really crown it the champion though, because the company is yet to announce the final pricing and specs for the service. Still, if it is anything comparable to Stadia, it will automatically become ahead of the curve.
Sony is the oldest player in the video game streaming segment, with its Playstation Now offering on the market since 2014. It has a high subscription cost compared to the competition, at $20 a month, $45 for three months, or $100 for a year. Even with the high cost, it still offers the lowest resolution, at 720p over a 5Mbps connection (minimum). You can still try to justify the costs with the 750+ title game library that features games from all four generations of the console, including the exclusive and remastered titles. However, if xCloud offers more games at a cheaper price, it would be hard to hang on to that argument. Hopefully, it will get better soon as Sony has recently partnered with Microsoft to get help in improving their streaming service, which shows how seriously both companies take the threat from Google.
Nvidia GeForce Now
Nvidia is one of the biggest names in gaming hardware, so it shouldn't be a surprise that they would want to pioneer the software side as well. This led to the launch of the GeForce Now platform in 2015, which is still in beta mode. You can sign up to get access to the beta program, which lets you play games for free. Although Nvidia doesn't offer any games with the subscription, it is still compatible with over 400 games from Steam, Uplay and other platforms. So, if you buy, or already own one of these games, you can easily start gaming, at a maximum resolution of 1080p at 60FPS. Unfortunately, the system is an internet hog, so you will need at least 50Mbps if you want to play in 1080p or 25Mbps for 720p.