Cloud gaming in 2021

Cloud gaming in 2021

Beyond the magnificent and progressive fortunes of gaming hardware, of which we are waiting to see the full expression through the generation of PS5 and Xbox Series X | S, the even more futuristic element of the videogame landscape is the intangible cloud gaming. , which in the course of 2021 has already proved to be a very solid and tangible reality. This is the area that, more than video cards or very advanced CPUs, can give a taste of what the real videogame future is, the one most projected towards very advanced technologies, so much so as to be practically invisible. There is nothing more futuristic than a dematerialized hardware, usable only through internet connection and fast lines that put us in communication with servers and machines placed at sidereal distances, but able to offer a functional gaming experience on the screens. br>
We have not yet reached the state of the art and, in particular in a country like Italy where the online infrastructures are not evenly distributed throughout the territory and it will take a long time to get there , however something is moving.

Cloud gaming is often used on mobile platforms In the course of 2021 we have witnessed important steps taken by the various companies responsible for cloud gaming services, some of which have also had a significant effect in our country, so away from the latest technological frontiers that can be found elsewhere, in terms of public infrastructure. The digital divide, in short, is also felt in video games with cloud gaming, but the hope is that the technological evolution that is applied here to means of communication that is now fundamental for all citizens can lead to an improvement in this videogame field as well. , with better accessibility to services for all.

Great growth with many possibilities

Shadow is one of the recently born cloud gaming services, not very present outside the US Cloud gaming services have multiplied at a remarkable speed in recent years and in 2021 they reached an impressive quantity, a sign of great enthusiasm on the part of various companies that want to invest in the sector. On the other hand, the forecasts for this segment of the videogame market are really rosy: according to the report "Cloud Gaming and Interactive Streaming" by DFC Intelligence published last month and relating to the projections between 2021 and 2026, the video game sector in streaming should reach 13.5 billion dollars in revenues by 2026, which would represent a truly dizzying growth of this business, if you consider that the cloud gaming market in 2021 has just exceeded one billion, reaching 1.23 billion as record figure, however growing compared to previous years. The forecast remains a bit vague because it seems to consider a rather broad spectrum of experiences, beyond traditional gaming, but the increase in business would still be impressive, demonstrating how this sector probably represents the future of video games.
On the other hand, the solutions offered are already very many, although most of these are not actually usable everywhere and are mainly concentrated on the American territory. With servers strongly localized in this geographical area, some services simply cannot be used in our parts or at least make little sense given the latency problems they can encounter, however future developments of these alternative proposals cannot be ruled out. We are talking above all about Vortex, Shadow and Boosteroid, which are quite popular in the USA, but are almost unusable in Europe. However, they can give an idea of ​​how this sector is open to different proposals and competitors, which can stimulate a balanced and healthy market where competition leads to a lowering of prices and an investment in solidity of the experience or breadth of the catalog, as probably it will happen in the next few years.

Google Stadia and GeForce Now: the best experiences

Google Stadia only requires a controller and a smart TV, or a Chromecast, to be able to play. 2021 the best streaming gaming experience still comes from Google Stadia, with Nvidia GeForce Now very close. Despite the closure of the development teams and the disappointment resulting from the cancellation of the various creative projects with which Google had embarked on this adventure, it should however be noted that the use of its service in Italy is what leads to the best gaming experiences on average. in the cloud. The server infrastructure of the Mountain View giant has few rivals in Europe and between this logistical element and the algorithms used to optimize data transmission there is little doubt in evaluating Stadia as the currently best cloud gaming on the market.

Its problems, beyond the cancellation of all exclusive projects, derive from the business model adopted which still appears a bit anachronistic: the idea of ​​buying games at full price to be able to use them exclusively in streaming it certainly has little impact, beyond the catalog of titles included in the Pro subscription (€ 9.99 per month), which, moreover, is added to the costs of the individual titles.

In this respect, it is necessary to say that the increase and regularization of discounts and balances on a periodic basis now much more frequent than before is starting to somewhat mitigate the idea of ​​scarce convenience, to which the progressive increase of titles in the catalog is added as a positive element free access for Pro users. In any case, it remains the only service able to guarantee (pseudo) 4K, HDR and 5.1 audio with quite accessible requests for a good part of Italian users.

Nvidia GeForce Now offers three plans on different tiers, using RTX technology The service that is closest, technically, to the goodness of the Stadia experience is probably Nvidia GeForce Now (free, € 9.99 per month or € 99 for 6 months in its three progressive tiers), and it does so also in Italy. The free basic version still has limited queues and sessions, but the two subscriptions introduced allow you to play to the fullest potential using Nvidia RTX technology and with excellent results. Also in this case, the limit of the service is represented by the way in which the catalog is managed: even with the subscription, GeForce Now allows you to use only games purchased in a standard way. The positive element is that it interfaces with the existing catalogs of Steam and Epic Games Store, therefore without forcing purchases on a specific store, but we are far from the freedom of access to the huge catalog offered by other services.

Xbox Game Pass: the richest offer

Xbox Game Pass also counts on numerous games optimized for the touch screen There is no doubt that Xbox Game Pass represents, even in this case, the offer in absolute richer among the various competitors in the field of cloud gaming. The subscription to the Microsoft service (€ 9.99 per month or € 12.99 per month for the Ultimate subscription including Xbox Live Gold, EA Play and Game Pass on PC and console) allows direct access to over 300 games on the total catalog of over 500 titles present, a truly unparalleled offer, especially if you consider the fact that they are mostly very recent games.

Of these, over 100 have been optimized with the introduction of touch screen controls so that they can be enjoyed at their best on mobile devices, a feature that is increasing every month for games that can be used in cloud, considering the considerable percentage of users who tend to use the service on the move. The innovations applied during 2021 have led the Xbox Cloud to be able to be used also by PCs and Xbox consoles, making it one of the most easily accessible and well integrated services currently on the market.

Xbox Game Pass is constantly evolving and 2021 was a very important year from the point of view of the technological solutions implemented, as we also reported in the special on the subscription war in 2021: in addition to the expansion of use to the various platforms, which now also include iOS and Mac devices through web solutions, Microsoft has also invested significantly in improving the server infrastructure.

From this point of view, the Redmond house is practically on par with Google in terms of diffusion and solidity of the network infrastructure, further enhanced by the adoption of the Xbox Series X hardware in the blades dedicated to the Xbox Cloud . However, at least in Italy the Microsoft service does not seem to be at the level of Stadia yet, at least with the same connection and in the event that a high-profile line cannot be exploited. The positive thing is that the evolution has also been substantial during 2021, so it is likely that the Xbox Cloud will reach its maximum potential also in our part: if these drawbacks are solved, at the current state of the offer, it would be really difficult to beat it. .

PlayStation Now: the Sony tradition

PlayStation Now has the presence of Sony exclusives, playable in streaming on PC PlayStation Now is practically the oldest cloud gaming service among those currently available, despite never having managed to establish himself as a leading experience. If you think of the more than 100 million consoles between PS4 and PS5 distributed in the world, the approximately 3 million subscribers he can count on are practically a trifle, a clear sign of the lack of importance given so far to this type of subscription by Sony itself. Yet the Japanese company was among the first companies to move in this area, acquiring the pioneering Gaikai system almost 10 years ago and thus preparing the way for the arrival of cloud gaming in the PlayStation environment when competitors were still planning how to move. From then on, however, the service has remained more or less stationary, with few evolutions carried out in the technological field and a catalog of games that moves rather slowly, even if in recent months it has also seen the arrival of some important titles .

The strong point of PlayStation Now is the presence of the PlayStation exclusives, which in this way can also be played on PC in streaming and often cannot be found anywhere else except with a Sony console. The limit is the lack of many titles even among the first parties, in addition to the fact of not proposing launches on day one directly in the service catalog as happens with the Xbox Game Pass, a perspective that the Japanese company does not even seem to want to take into consideration.

PlayStation Now, the interface of the Sony cloud gaming service The result is a valid service, on the cloud gaming front (PlayStation Now has also been able to download games in the traditional way for some time), for those who want play Sony titles without having a PlayStation console, but rather limited on the catalog front, at least as far as recent titles are concerned. On the front of the historical catalog of PlayStation, however, PS Now really offers a lot of games belonging to previous generations, which makes it a valuable solution for those who want to recover the titles of the past, as well as offering a good experience in terms of input lag and quality of graphics and data flow.

The journey made in 2021 and the prospects for 2022

Will Amazon Luna be the protagonist of cloud gaming in 2022? As we have seen, 2021 has brought a general evolution of cloud gaming services on different levels: as a variety of proposals and in terms of actual technological progress. The difficulty in approaching this type of use is first of all technical in countries - such as Italy - where the infrastructures cannot yet guarantee the maximum yield for services that rely so much on the quality of the lines, but the greatest obstacle it could simply be psychological. The concept of subscription to play is not yet widespread and even less so is that required for access to a service that practically does not translate into visible physical goods as regards the videogame field, even if on this aspect the subscriptions for the services videos may have paved the way. From this point of view, however, very interesting perspectives open up precisely for the accessibility to cloud gaming, given that the absence of intermediate objects can make it extremely easy to jump into the game immediately.

In this sense, evolution more natural is the spread of apps that allow the use of services directly from smart TVs, as is already starting to happen for Google Stadia (an official app is already available for some LG TV models) and as it should also happen for Xbox Game Pass, at least according to Microsoft's intentions. This is an important step that we have seen starting in 2021 and which will probably proceed in 2022, thanks also to the increase in the computational power of integrated chips in TVs and similar devices, provided that there are no problems in terms of agreements between the companies producing the hardware and service providers.

The new LG panels have the Stadia app integrated The other possible evolutions concern the competitors in the field: as I said, the amount of proposals has significantly increased in 2021 and in recent years in general, but such services need large entities, capable of covering different geographical areas. The next actor to keep an eye on will be Amazon Luna, the new cloud gaming service of the e-commerce giant, but Netflix is ​​also entering the videogame sector with considerable decision with its own catalog of games linked to the video subscription. which will evolve in the near future. The cloud has already come a long way, but it still has a lot ahead of it: from technology that most embodies the future of video games, we expect to see continuous evolutions in the coming years, to the point of probably replacing the traditional mechanism of console generations. br>
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