The first generation of game consoles opened a brand-new method of entertainment and since then, technological innovations have brought more people together across the world through gaming. Today, the global video gaming market is worth a huge $93 billion and is changing every day with more big names getting involved.
Google is the latest to tackle the established players like Sony and Nintendo with the launch of Google Stadia, its own gaming service. But there’s a big difference – it’s completely online. Will the internet be able to cope with this data demand?
Google has confirmed that their gaming service will be launched in November, across 14 countries including the UK, US and Ireland. The days of buying a console with a free game of Fifa are long gone, and Google has announced that they will offer, in their ‘founder’s edition’, a catalogue of games in a ‘pay-once-play-forever model’ rather than for a monthly fee. Along with that, Stadia Pro will provide a monthly fee service, the equivalent of PlayStation Plus.
To stream games at the lowest resolutions, gamers will need to have speeds of at least 10Mbps; but in reality, the faster the connection, the better. The highest quality content boasts to run at full 4K resolution but requires a connection of at least 35mbps. For comparison, Sony’s cloud gaming service, PlayStation Now, only requires 5Mbps to stream games in 720p resolution.
Will the internet cope with Google Stadia’s demands?
Real-time communication is the most important feature for a game. As customers, we are becoming more demanding of our video game services and tolerance for lag is zero; especially when you’re in battle and have to wait for fractions of a second for your action to be executed.
Locality of technology is imperative for this to happen. Google are of course promising this will never be the case. It is investing heavily into edge computing to ensure that technology is closer to the user, rather than backhauling all their traffic miles away – which could potentially cause lag.
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Additionally, as e-sports continues to grow at speed, prompting predictions of it hitting $1bn in revenue this year, multi-player games will continue to put pressure on our networks. More people are playing together across the world constantly, whether that’s practising as a team, competitions or a public event, single player games have recently taken a backseat.
As a result, more people will be using the internet more often than ever before. However, many still don’t even have 4G yet and broadband speeds across the country can vary wildly. Therefore, with different speeds across the country, it’ll be hard to maintain consistent speeds for all gamers playing together in the UK. We, therefore, need to ensure that communications infrastructure can handle consumers’ requirements.
Everything can fail, but a hybrid solution is the best way to make sure that as much disruption can be avoided. Google’s global outage at the beginning of June proves just this. The multi-hour outage affected numerous Google services but also those that depend on it such as Uber and Snapchat. If this were to happen again, and Google’s gaming services went down, all of its customers wouldn’t be able to game at all – which would be a catastrophe.
Can Google Stadia learn from the mistakes of others?
It echoes previous failures such as the misjudgement of the Xbox One launch, when Microsoft announced pre-launch that you could only play with an internet connection, removing the opportunity to play at all after a period of 24 hours ‘offline’ and rendering the machine completely useless for those without access to the internet. Thanks to major backlash, it was never rolled out. Of course, gamers’ mindsets have altered slightly since 2013 and many have become more accustomed to having a constant connection to the internet. But Google Stadia will have an absolute dependence on the internet to function – something that could cause quite a few issues.
There’s no denying that the internet is a hyper resilient network, but the bubble will burst at the pace that everything is being put into it. By harmoniously working with on-premise solutions and the internet, the pressure is relieved, and companies and gamers can decide what works best for them. Approaching a hybrid and multi-cloud model will ensure that everyone has the power to choose the best-of-breed system for all workloads. The stigma around legacy systems needs to be altered, they are no bad thing.
It’ll be fascinating to see how Google executes Stadia and the wider reaction to it. If it gets it right, it’ll change gaming forever, putting serious pressure on competitors to follow suit. However, we must approach a multi-cloud, hybrid model to cope with the traffic that will continue to fly through our networks. Or else, we could see the whole thing burst and be back to playing our handheld Gameboys to get our gaming fix.