Gaming consoles have come a long way in their many iterations. From the original PlayStation to the PlayStation 4 Pro, or from the original Xbox to the Xbox One X, we’ve seen an increase in accessibility, quality and power.
Today’s consoles are so powerful that according to NASA, the flight computer capacity aboard space shuttles is less than 1 percent that of an Xbox 360.
And while we are still seeing the development of even more powerful consoles, the gaming console market could be heading in a completely new direction over the next few years: the way of streaming services.
Recently, Google announced its new game streaming service Stadia.
Stadia will be a subscription service that will allow anyone to play games anywhere. No hardware will be involved at all. You won’t need to buy a console or even a controller, although Google has its own controller available for an optional purchase. You can simply see a game on YouTube that looks interesting and click ‘Play Now’ within your browser. If you already have a controller, you’ll be able to use it with Stadia to play your games on PC, phones, tablets and Google Chromecast Ultra devices.
It all works because Google has extremely powerful servers dedicated to running games for Stadia. Those servers will do all the hard work of running your game while you play it via the internet.
Games will be able to play at extremely high-quality settings as well, making the service seem like a no-brainer for anyone who wants to have a variety of games at hand, but wouldn’t drop several hundred dollars on a new gaming console or gaming PC, 50 bucks on an extra controller and $60 on each game they want to play.
According to numerous leaks and rumors reported by Business Insider, Xbox is also working on its own game streaming platform. The platform will require the purchase of a cheaper version of the upcoming Xbox system, but this would also mean a slightly cheaper monthly cost for the streaming subscription.
Xbox Live has also made its way to mobile devices, and Head of Xbox Phil Spencer says that he is open to bringing Xbox Live to Nintendo Switch and Sony’s PlayStation.
This all sounds great in theory. Every game is available from every device for a small monthly payment, but in practice, the future of game streaming could be a nightmare for those who enjoy their current gaming experience.
For a few years now, PC technology company Nvidia has had its own streaming service available to a limited amount of beta testers. After waiting for months, I was lucky enough to receive access to the service.
Nvidia’s streaming service has some key differences from the big upcoming services, mainly the fact that you must purchase the games you want to stream, but it embodies what those experiences might be like.
The biggest thing you’ll notice when using the service is the large amount of latency—or computing lag. When playing games, there’s a huge gap between when you press a button and when the game registers your input. It’s not a huge deal in more casual games, but faster paced games simply aren’t playable when streaming over wireless connection.
Plugging in your device to an ethernet connection helps quite a bit, but latency still becomes a huge frustration when trying to compete with players who are using their own device to run the game instead of streaming it from a server.
Things get a little bit more questionable when you consider the fact that if you use a game streaming service, you’ll never own a single one of your games. Subscribing to any game streaming service means you are only paying to play the games during the time you’re subscribed. Once your subscription ends, all the games you’ve played are gone.
This might not bother a lot of people, but for many, owning a game is just as important as the time you spend playing it. Simple actions like letting your friends borrow your game disc, revisiting games years after their initial release and handing down games to younger siblings will no longer be available when everything is locked behind a monthly subscription.
But don’t panic yet. All the normal ways we experience games now are still readily available, but we’re definitely starting to see a huge shift in the gaming market.
Physical video game retailers are seeing huge losses recently in the United States. GameStop locations have been slowly disappearing, and the company recently failed to sell itself.
The gaming industry is heading down a path that is hasn’t ventured before, and it could be a treacherous one for those who prefer a traditional experience.
Edited by Abby Bower
Featured photo courtesy of Nvidia