After Google Stadia shut down, the future of cloud is evolving.
In 2019, Google announced its cloud gaming service labeled Stadia, and took the gaming industry by surprise. While its original reception was mixed, one thing was certain; Stadia had the best overall experience for those with a solid internet connection when compared to other cloud gaming services.
Just last month, Google announced the official shutdown of all Stadia cloud gaming services during a companywide restructuring to meet current macro-economic conditions.
The aftermath of this news has left many game publishers and platform providers scrambling for a long-term solution that will sustain a cloud gaming audience without running department research budgets dry, while also keeping gamers compelled to use their services.
From our perspective, cloud has always offered a new avenue for gamers to access premium quality games without the need for expensive hardware which needs to be upgraded as the years go by.
We still plan to pursue the cloud market, so that Skyclimbers can make its way into the hands of more players, however we would be ignorant not to recognize the serious limitations that come along with cloud gaming infrastructure.
For one thing, cloud gaming services are expensive to host, significantly more expensive than traditional server costs per session. For example, let's say you purchase a game on the storefront and continue to play that game for months if not years on end without purchasing new game titles from that cloud provider.
Each time you launch that game and join a session, there are significant bandwidth and server power usage costs associated with that session, and you aren't paying anything extra the longer the session goes on.
Platform providers have two options, either charge the users a monthly fee OR subsidize the added costs in the hopes that users trickle down into a traditional gaming ecosystem from the same company.
Two major companies are actually performing both strategies simultaneously...
GeForce NOW, a cloud gaming subscription service that lets players rent out a high-end PC for gaming sessions up to 8 hours in length, is powered by NVDIA which is the largest GPU manufacturer in the world. By strictly capping play time to specific session lengths, they are able to reduce the total cost a single player can have on their servers, while also introducing them to the GeForce ecosystem in hopes they one day purchase a full PC powered by an NVDIA GPU.
Microsoft has a similar strategy with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, which not only bundles tons of games for a fixed subscription price, but also enables players to stream games to their phone from that same rotating library. This incentivizes players to make use of the cloud gaming feature intermittently while prioritizing long play sessions on their PC or Xbox through the wide selection of games from the service.
Neither of these companies are making a bet that most gamers will move to cloud platforms anytime soon, and one might ask what would the current state of cloud gaming be if Google had never announced the Stadia platform?
All considered, the benefits of cloud gaming are still significant, and if the cost / pricing models can be tuned in favor of platform providers, perhaps one day it will indeed replace our beloved consoles and PCs. Until that day comes, it will likely remain a niche market for those unable to access premium content elsewhere, or as a feeder program for more established means of gaming for long periods of time.
We at Paratope are still committed to cloud gaming and are looking forward to releasing Skyclimbers on GeForce now and are exploring options to partner with other major cloud platform providers to reach new audiences.