Cloud gaming caught global attention with the launch of Google Stadia in November. The concept has existed for a few years with on-demand gaming through services such as PlayStation Now, Nvidia’s GeForce Now, and the now-defunct OnLive, but due to marketing and technological hurdles, these services have not caught much mainstream attention.
With recent advances in wireless networking, a larger market of gamers to sell subscriptions to, and bigger players interested in the industry – such as Google and Microsoft – that is trending towards a change and especially for mobile devices.
These platforms allow video games to be played by running the rendering and logic of the game on a server with the video streamed over the internet to a screen where the player is at the controls.
The greatest potential impact for game streaming is through its sheer portability and the fact that with cloud game streaming anyone with a mobile device can sit down anywhere and get into their favorite game. That also means the greatest growth for cloud gaming will come for mobile.
Because cloud gaming processes the game on a server, the device playing the game does not need a super-powerful central processing unit or graphical processing unit to play the game. All that’s needed the bandwidth to receive the rendered image of the game and low latency to handle controls.
Roll-out of critical 5G infrastructure will herald a new era for cloud gaming
Much of this adoption will be driven by the global rollout of 5G wireless infrastructure. With 5G, mobile devices will receive greatly increase download bandwidth – with peak data rates reaching 10 gigabits per second – and a massive reduction in latency – as low as 1 to 4 milliseconds. By comparison, 4G networks peak around 100 megabits per second and can bear a latency of 50 ms.
Any gamer will tell you that latency is of massive importance to high-fidelity gaming, especially for action-oriented titles and shooters such as Destiny 2 and Borderlands 3. Both of these titles are currently available on Google Stadia – with more games anticipated coming to the platform in 2020.
Mobile chipmaker Qualcomm Inc. announced in December at its Snapdragon Tech Summit that the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865, the newest flagship chip from the company, would include 5G support going forward. T-Mobile has announced the launch of its nationwide 5G network also in December and American wireless carrier Verizon is already rolling out 5G coverage in parts of over 34 cities. As for Asia-Pacific, China is set to roll out the largest 5G network in the world led by China Mobile, China Telecom, and China Unicom.
According to a report from Business Insider, South Korea is leading in 5G network deployments and China is expected to eventually dominate the market by sheer size by 2025.
Competition in cloud gaming services is already preparing for the 5G future
The two biggest contenders currently in the mobile cloud gaming market are Google Inc.’s Stadia and the upcoming Microsoft’s Project xCloud. Both are cloud gaming solutions that will run on mobile devices – Pixel Phones and Android 6.0 (or higher) respectively. Stadia has plans to support more Android and iOS devices in the future and Project xCloud is only available by invitation.
According to research firm MarketsAndMarkets, the cloud gaming market estimated value in 2019 was $306 million and is projected to reach 3.1 billion by 2024. Amid the driving factors, including 5G networks, includes an upsurge in competitive and immersive mobile gaming experiences.
Cloud gaming will be big in the mobile market, and mobile gaming is already growing
Mobile gaming itself has been on a rising trajectory over the past few years. The daily time users spend on mobile devices gaming rose from 152 minutes in 2014 to 215 minutes in 2018, according to a report from Statista. The same reported estimated the mobile gaming market was worth $9.8 billion in North America alone and estimated that revenues topped $41.5 billion in Asia during 2018.
Statista further estimates that in 2017 there were approximately 2.1 billion mobile gamers, a number predicted to soar above 2.7 billion by the end of 2021. That is more than one-third of the total world population.
This metric regarding future market expectations alone shows that gamers look to mobile devices to play games and that will bear out as this trend shows no signs of slowing. As wireless carriers begin to release more 5G phones, and cloud gaming outfits adapt to support more devices, it will open up to an already massive market.