Recent developments in streaming technologies have led to the inception of services like PS Now or the upcoming Project xCloud that will cause a shift on how we consume games. Is there a chance that PC Gaming culture as we know it will fade away?
Back in 2010, OnLive made a big splash across the internet, with the promise of instant access to a varied library of games (including EA’s Mirror’s Edge, popular at the time), with no downloads or installs. Effectively, they sold it as the “most powerful game system ever“.
Unfortunately, it never really caught on due to a lack of appropriate infrastructure to allow them to develop a substantial install base. They were ahead of their time, and brought on a revolution that has been slowly building up to this day.
Currently, the big players in the industry are investing heavily in streaming technologies:
- Sony ended up acquiring OnLive and all its patents in 2015, only to shut down the service shortly after. The service evolved into what we now know as PS Now
- Microsoft is also betting on this technology, with Project xCloud. This is advertised as a subscription service that will offer “the freedom to play on the device you want without being locked to a particular device, empowering YOU, the gamers, to be at the center of your gaming experience”
- Another giant getting in on the action is Google, with Project Stream. They recently conducted a test where users could play the popular Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, which yielded overall good feedback from users
- Even Nintendo has tried the technology in Japan with games like Resident Evil VII and Assassin’s Creed Origins
Back when OnLive made its debut, the community was skeptical. And rightly so, given the limitations of internet technology back then. But if massive companies with the actual resources to make something like this work (like Google) are doubling down on this, I’m inclined to think we’re in for a huge shift on the way we consume games, and probably the first sector of the industry to feel it will be the PC Gaming community.
If all the processing/rendering will be done at the provider’s end, who will be guaranteeing the latest and greatest in processing power, there will effectively be no need to invest in building your own powerful machines to be able to play at home (or “on-prem”, as we say at work). If all you need is a browsing device that will be able to communicate with a remote server, users will no longer need to build and constantly update their PCs.
Now, you may argue that these services will be no match for a gaming PC due to issues like latency or video resolution that depend on an immaculate internet connection. This is a valid argument, but I’m positive this will only be the case for the next 2-3 years. If this is the way the industry is going, and there is a demand for it, Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo and Google will make it happen.
Granted, this could also affect consoles to an extent, but console gamers aren’t used to having to build and upgrade their hardware on a regular basis. The only change will be that the box they place on their entertainment units will become smaller (OnLive was already pretty small). And that is if they buy a device at all. Who’s to say you won’t use your phone as the device that connects you to your games, which you can then just stream on your TV?
I believe there will still be gamers who continue to build their own PCs, but I expect this to become a much more niche part of the industry.
I recently discussed the shift from physical to digital games, which to a degree has enabled the move towards streaming. I also think that Nintendo hit the nail in the head with the Switch, proving that gamers want flexibility and portability from their devices. The final straw was Microsoft, which built on Nintendo’s success to offer gaming anywhere, on any device.
Seems like we’re in for some interesting developments over the next few years!
Let us know what your thoughts are on this topic in the comments section!
I've been a gamer since the SNES days and Donkey Kong Country was the first game I ever owned.
I currently work as a management consultant, and my console of choice is the Nintendo Switch, which I carry with me during my travels.