Cloud gaming doesnt get talked about much in Australia. At the moment it is still in its early stages, rolling out in the US and parts of Europe. There is a growing belief that it will play an important role in the future of gaming, and this has been underlined by Sony dropping US$380 million bucks on cloud gaming outfit Gakai.
What its technology does is move the processing needed for gaming from the client to the server. Like other things cloud-based, it requires datacenters capable of doing the heavy lifting. When you ‘cloud game’ you are effectively sending control signals to the datacenter and getting a video and audio stream back.
This means that you don’t need a powerful PC or console to run the game. Anything capable of handling HD video, USB controllers and an internet connection can do it. The key is ensuring that the time it takes for the input to reach the server, and the corresponding video stream to return, is fast enough to not make the experience unplayable.
Gakai, and its rival OnLive, both launched their technologies around the same time, and both were met with extreme skepticism. However the concept has been proving itself in the field, and as long as you aren’t too far from the datacenter it is an acceptible solution. It still doesnt match playing on a console or PC, but it looks set to get there with improved connections and technology.
Not only is Sony getting into the business with Gakai, but Nvidia recently announced a special line of graphics hardware designed to go into the datacenters themselves. It is becoming clear that the technology is going to be key to the console business in the future, by removing the need for grunty processing actual consoles could be cheap and cost effective. Or the ‘console’ could easily be built into a smart TV.
It also means the generational model of consoles would end - new technology would be rolled out into the datacenters rather than the home. It is, however, unlikely to happen with the next generation of console hardware - there is still a large number of people who don’t have the internet connections needed for the technology to run smoothly. But it is also something that will shine under the NBN, and where Australia will likely become a prime proving ground.