What are the deciding factors to look out for when choosing a cloud gaming provider?
Cloud gaming is a phenomenon that has taken the gaming world by storm in recent years and has major corporations stumbling over each other in order to enter the market and capture an early share of the billion-dollar industry. In recent years behemoth corporations such as Microsoft, Google and Sony have all created their respective services, with many other organizations making their intent to follow suit well known. Cloud Computing is not a new concept and has been around since the early 21st century, however, it has only been recently where a significant growth in networking capabilities in the user end and technological advances which has led to this becoming a viable option for gaming purposes.
Cloud gaming has now made it possible for users to play demanding titles using their limited local hardware at high settings and frame rates through the use of remote resources located in data centers around the world using the power of the cloud (Virtual Resources). Gamers now have the ability to access the hardware located in these data centers to install and run their games, which is then streamed onto their local device. The resources needed to download the game, install the game, and even run the game is taken over by the resources located in the data centers, which makes the specification of the local hardware redundant. As long as the user has the minimum required hardware and a persistent internet connection to receive the streaming data, they can use their desired cloud gaming services to fulfill their gaming needs.
So, with this in mind questions are brought forward in regards to what to look out for when deciding on a cloud gaming provider, as due to the recent popularity and advancement in the field of cloud gaming, users are now quite literally spoiled for choice. The first factor in which a user looking to delve into cloud gaming should look out for is the hardware specifications and features of the service and whether it meets their gaming needs. The specifications of the service in question would be analyzed via the available hardware, such as the Computing processing unit (CPU), Graphical Processing Unit (GPU), Random Access Memory (RAM), Storage capacity, and finally but not least the network capability such as the available download and upload speed of the provider. All these hardware and network capabilities work the same as they would within your local machine and will decide what gaming titles can be played on the Virtual machine and at what settings. The network capability is also an aspect that should not be overlooked, as this will determine how fast the game can be downloaded onto the virtual storage. All these factors will determine the overall convenience and usability and performance of the service and should be taken into consideration when deciding what cloud gaming provider to use.
Features and approach
Not all cloud gaming services provide the same features and use the same approach, as some services are solely geared towards gaming and gaming alone and uses proprietary and closed software to allow users to play selected games through their cloud resources, such as Google stadia and GeForce now, while other providers opt to provide a more conventional gaming method which gives access to the whole desktop for users to use at their discretion, such as Shadow Tech and Maximum Settings. In this scenario, users will be able to decide what features are a necessity and a choice of what service to use can be made accordingly. The price point of the service can also be a deciding factor, as there are two main pricing strategies used by cloud gaming services, which is a monthly subscription or a pay as you go/ pay per hour model. The price of such cloud gaming services will vary depending on the hardware and features that they provide and can range from low to high depending on the user’s criteria and needs and in some cases be customizable.
Arguably the most important factor which should be considered when choosing a cloud gaming service is the distance between the data center and the location of the client. This distance will determine the latency between the two, which is the time interval it takes for an action to be sent by one party and received by the other. Latency is an important factor, as it will determine how smooth the virtual machine will feel and be seen, such as how quickly an action such as moving the mouse or typing a letter is received by the virtual machine and then sent back to be seen on the local hardware of the user. The higher the latency, the longer the input will take to travel and return, which will inevitably lead to visual imperfections and actions being delayed which can negatively impact one’s gaming experience. This can be mitigated by choosing a service that has a data centre closest to your local hardware’s location such as the user’s country of residence, and also the routing capabilities of where the server is located. An example would be for a person living in Europe to ideally choose a cloud gaming service with data centres in Europe, rather than a service that operates within America or Asia.
A user’s network capability will also affect how cloud gaming services would work on the user end, as a strong and reliable persistent internet connection is needed to use any cloud gaming service. Due to recent advances by internet service providers, this should not be an obstacle as it may have once been in the past. An internet connection of at least 15 MB of download and upload should be enough for a user to access 1080p game streaming at acceptable frame rates, with anything beyond that increasing the streaming quality the user can expect. In this current day and age, an internet connection of at least 35 MB of download/upload would be enough to unlock full 1080p streaming quality at the minimum of 60 frame rates per second, with UHD and 4K not being out of the realm of possibility. The network capability of the user can also limit the type of cloud gaming options available to be chosen.
Another important factor that should be considered when deciding on a cloud gaming service is the compatibility of the service to the different types of devices and operating systems available. For example, not all services will work natively on every device and operating systems, such as on Windows, Mac, and Linux or Android and Apple devices. How a user is expecting to use the device and the compatibility of the cloud gaming services should take some precedence, as it would not be ideal to purchase a service that is incompatible to your local machine and devices that are available at hand. Any oversights made may lead to the service being unusable or will affect how the service will work for you significantly, as you will not be able to use the cloud gaming service as intended.
So why should you consider cloud gaming? Cloud gaming in general has taken significant strides into being a real viable option for gamers in recent times, with a catalogue of gaming services to choose from increasing at a fast rate. The ability to unlock your gaming potential on your local hardware by using cloud resources and your internet connection is too convenient to ignore. Instead of investing in an expensive high-end local gaming rig, gamers now have the ability to access these resources on their current machines and from a growing list of devices from mobiles to tablets to now android and apple tv devices. The model of most of the cloud gaming services in terms of pricing will allow gamers the freedom to pick up and cancel these services as and when they see fit, such as by purchasing a subscription when a need arises or by cancelling when it is not required any longer. Another major benefit of cloud gaming, in general, is that the maintenance of the hardware and the eventual upgrading will be taken care of by the providers, leaving gamers to only concentrate and worry about what gaming title to pick up next. With the ever-increasing cloud gaming power available at the user’s fingertips, nothing is holding users back from playing any title at the highest settings, which will inevitably take your gaming to a whole new level and open up possibilities that may have been closed off previously by your local hardware restrictions.
Written by: Bobby M