Industry Powerhouses Invest into Game Streaming as a Game Console Replacement

cageymaru

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Gaming corporations have long flirted with the allure of game streaming titles instead of selling consoles to consumers as the hardware is sold at a loss in some cases. Microsoft and Nintendo are said to be working on streaming services where you can play a game on most devices as long as it has a screen. And some major game publishers are predicting the end of the game console as soon as next generation.

But is there really truth to this perception that game streaming can completely replace the game console experience? What about latency and video quality? The US government has been trying to convince ISPs to install some form of internet in many areas to no avail. The FCC wants to keep the definition of broadband capped at 25Mbps/3Mbps. Is that really fast enough to stream games at game console quality and low latency if you have others in your home consuming bandwidth at the same time? Some areas don't even have cellular service.

Phil Spencer, executive vice president of gaming at Microsoft, compared the evolution of moving games to streaming with the change we have seen in streaming video. Microsoft's goal, he said, is to move gaming to a medium where you can play what you want where you want. But, he pointed out, even though streaming video claims mindshare and market share, DVD sales still pull in billions of dollars per year. Big shifts like this, he said, don't happen as quickly as we all think they do. "It takes time," Spencer said.
 

DukenukemX

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Streaming just prints more money, it doesn't actually have any real benefits to the consumer.

gif.gif
 

LurkerLito

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I just don't see it working at all. Latency + bandwidth + bandwidth caps and all the ways ISPs try to milk users is a failure waiting to happen. Paying for a streaming game service will cost users more than just buying a new full $500 machine that could run the game locally. Think about it, movies @2hrs each + people with bandwidth caps + using the internet normally = some people getting close to there caps, games @ 15 hours each + people with bandwidth caps + using the internet normally will be overage fees every month, even more so if you have multiple gamers in the house.
 

cageymaru

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Streaming just prints more money, it doesn't actually have any real benefits to the consumer.
As an add-on service I have no issues with game streaming other than my lack of interest in the service. I just see it as more DRM. I think companies might make a few more bucks initially off the novelty, but people will return to just buying consoles.

Also how do you stream a game with the precision of I Wanna Be The Boshy? I think that would impossible to stream as any latency issues is going to ruin the experience.

Warning language.

 

raz-0

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This is all very amusing.

Streaming will just be a way to go out of business until it's a good consumer experience. It'll have to feel playable like a local game and look good enough.

At that point, it will still likely be a way to go out of business if you switch to it exclusively. Because the only way people are going to flock to it is if it is somehow cheaper. Video streaming has seriously cut down the consumers' spend per minute of entertainment and completely disrupted advertising as a stream of revenue. Game streaming will be the same. You will either have to reduce the cost of hardware so much that people get lured in by the reduced up front cost in large volumes, or you will have to charge less, or you will have to engage in collusion to avoid a competitor. I don't think the PC is going away, and I don't see Apple and Google giving up their cut of their app stores any time soon. Much like video, the only ones who will be able to reduced the cost long term are those who can afford vertical integration approaches. So you are EA with a big back catalog, you flesh out your back catalog with low rent shovelware. Sounds compelling. So then you can choose between a) run an expensive server farm, or b) let your customer foot the hardware bill and run a cheap server farm. Increasingly more and more of your catalog offering will require less and less hardware compared to the industry norm. Which one do you pick?

Currently the selling point is "you can rent the game access AND the $800 graphics card for a low monthly fee!" except you don't get the equivalent of a $800 graphics card performance, and the competitor is a $400 or less console once you step away form the bleeding edge.
 

lcpiper

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They aren't selling consoles at a loss just to sell console titles, they sell at a loss because the platform sucks and they keep thinking they are going to shut down the PC gaming segment with them and sell consoles to us all.

The last console I bought was an X-Box and that was because I just had to have Halo, which of course was that neutered version that never ever came close to matching what Bungie was going to give us as a PC release of the game. Microsoft just fucked that all up.
 

J3RK

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I could see it being cool for something like a giant MMO that isn't (AS) subject to latency. Something that could be rendered in amazing quality by GPU farms, and then spit out at the pace of an MMO. Since MMOs are largely subscription based anyway, I could see this working out. Anything else though, I just have to say "fuck you" to all these mentally challenged, greedy publishers and studios that are trying to do us all a "favor" by saving themselves R&D on console hardware. I suppose I'll just stick to PCs and the seedy underbelly of independent developers. :D
 

BSmith

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What's wrong with you people? I mean...if it can be played on a phone, then it can be streamed! That is the new gaming portal and where the money is going to be! I mean, imagine playing Soduku, or solitare, or any number of puzzle games over a stream. Easy peasy!

You guys are sooooo far behind the times. Bunch of negative nancy old codgers!

Do I need to add a sarcasm emote?
 

toast0

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I just don't see how this is going to work very well, outside of very well connected users or very latency insensitive games (I would probably be OK streaming Civilization, especially if it was running on something beefy). My ISP manages to get me 66 ms pings to servers hosted in the same metro as me. Add several more ms for actually rendering, compression, decoding, and finally display lag and it's going to pretty hard to control anything.
 

J3RK

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I just don't see how this is going to work very well, outside of very well connected users or very latency insensitive games (I would probably be OK streaming Civilization, especially if it was running on something beefy). My ISP manages to get me 66 ms pings to servers hosted in the same metro as me. Add several more ms for actually rendering, compression, decoding, and finally display lag and it's going to pretty hard to control anything.

I stream within my house. Every which way. I have a few "gaming class" :D boxes in one room, and then stream out to TVs (except the living room where I have another adequate PC) to laptops, Steamlinks, and Shield TVs, etc. It works "well enough" meaning unless I was playing Quake 3 on a CRT, I wouldn't be able to tell the difference at all. Since I'm not, it's totally fine. Here's the big "HOWEVER" you're expecting. The few cases that are wireless are only one end-point, and are on good AC connections. The rest are all on Gb wired connections, with fiber backbones between the switches on each floor of the house.

That does not describe the "gamer community" at large where connectivity is concerned. (as a systems admin/eng, I decided I wanted to build this out at home for fun...)
 

viper1152012

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Just had thus argument and got flamed but.....

With the poor latency in non updated urban areas, data caps, poor connection speeds (looking at you less than 50) and old nodes they refuse to update with shit connections....

Never gonna happen at scale.

Sure like 2% or less on users could and less than half of those might but probally wont because they have a console or good pc already.

Dead, next
 

J3RK

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Dead, next

I hope you're right. I have every technical reason to believe that you are. However, with the recent and larger than usual push from all of the major publishers out there, and now console hardware mfgs as well (well one at least) they might just manage to push it out as flawed as it is, and have it get adopted by all your bro-shooter types out there. Ubi EA Activision types... I hope not, and I have my doubts, but they're in more of a position than ever to make it stick to some degree, and then we all watch a slow descent into disgustingness.

On the other hand, maybe it will bring about a Gibson-esque future of console-jockeys cracking corporate ice, stealing games, and selling them on the black market in a tiny alley-shop in the sprawl. :D Could be fun.
 

Dead Parrot

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This is just another push by retailers to do the best they can to encourage/force a subscription model. Why sell a game for $50 when you can lease it for $5/month? Small text(paperless billing, auto pay required, etc). Force the model, make it hard to check the bill and/or stop payments for a game and rake in profits for years after a game is released.

As several including myself have pointed out at various times, much of the US just isn't ready for it from an infrastructure viewpoint. Even if your house is lucky enough to have a good connection, will the upstream connection from the magic box to the main core of the Internet support hundreds or thousands of others streaming games and videos and music?
 

NAXDON

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A theory of what if ISPs really begin to ramp up speeds. Follow the money.
 

DukenukemX

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Also how do you stream a game with the precision of I Wanna Be The Boshy? I think that would impossible to stream as any latency issues is going to ruin the experience.
Something to keep in mind is that a lot of games today have a delay in your actions. Its very noticeable especially compared to older games where your actions had a much better response time. This maybe my tin foil hat, but I wonder if games today are given a delay so that when streaming is introduced that you won't notice it cause they'll remove the artificial delay from the local version of the game.

8a8.gif


I hope you're right. I have every technical reason to believe that you are. However, with the recent and larger than usual push from all of the major publishers out there, and now console hardware mfgs as well (well one at least) they might just manage to push it out as flawed as it is, and have it get adopted by all your bro-shooter types out there. Ubi EA Activision types... I hope not, and I have my doubts, but they're in more of a position than ever to make it stick to some degree, and then we all watch a slow descent into disgustingness.
Game companies have had crazier ideas they tried to push and never worked. Not only is streaming difficult to get working across the United States, but more so around the globe due to lack of internet speed. But then you have cost, and then you have resale value, and etc. First person shooters will have much more noticeable issues with streaming, cause imagine moving your weapon with a mouse with latency? You, will, hate, it.
 

toast0

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I stream within my house. Every which way. I have a few "gaming class" :D boxes in one room, and then stream out to TVs (except the living room where I have another adequate PC) to laptops, Steamlinks, and Shield TVs, etc. It works "well enough" meaning unless I was playing Quake 3 on a CRT, I wouldn't be able to tell the difference at all. Since I'm not, it's totally fine. Here's the big "HOWEVER" you're expecting. The few cases that are wireless are only one end-point, and are on good AC connections. The rest are all on Gb wired connections, with fiber backbones between the switches on each floor of the house.

That does not describe the "gamer community" at large where connectivity is concerned. (as a systems admin/eng, I decided I wanted to build this out at home for fun...)

Within one house, without too much wireless, streaming totally makes sense; I just don't see it going beyond that unless ISPs suddenly start caring really hard about latency, or gaming providers start building out giant gaming boxes inside ISPs ala Netflix Open Connect, but with GPUs instead of hard drives. :)
 
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cyclone3d

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Within one house, without too much wireless, streaming totally makes sense; I just don't see it going beyond that unless ISPs suddenly start caring really hard about latency, or gaming providers start building out giant gaming boxes inside ISPs ala Netflix Open Connect, but with GPUs instead of hard drives. :)

Thing is... the latency can never physically go low enough unless you have a huge number of servers distributed all over the place. And it isn't just distance that causes latency, it is also every single piece of hardware in between you and the server that will cause latency.

Everybody would absolutely have to have separate REAL fiber from the server to each computer in their house for this to even possibly work acceptably.

Controller lag sucks big time, and even 20-40ms latency for each slight change in movement is going to kill it.

Now if the only games you are going to play is stuff like racing games on ice tracks with cards that have slicks or flight sims with huge aircraft it might be ok. Any real action type games are going to be a big NOPE.

The bandwidth would also have to go up exponentially unless you want to be stuck at about 15fps or at super low resolution.

And what of the computers actually doing the rendering? It isn't like they are going to be able to reduce costs that much compared to in-home consoles or computers. How many instances of a game do they think they are going to be able to run on a single system?
 
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toast0

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Thing is... the latency can never physically go low enough unless you have a huge number of servers distributed all over the place. And it isn't just distance that causes latency, it is also every single piece of hardware in between you and the server that will cause latency.

Everybody would absolutely have to have separate REAL fiber from the server to each computer in their house for this to even possibly work acceptably.

Controller lag sucks big time, and even 20-40ms latency for each slight change in movement is going to kill it.

Now if the only games you are going to play is stuff like racing games on ice tracks with cards that have slicks or flight sims with huge aircraft it might be ok. Any real action type games are going to be a big NOPE.

The bandwidth would also have to go up exponentially unless you want to be stuck at about 15fps or at super low resolution.

And what of the computers actually doing the rendering? It isn't like they are going to be able to reduce costs that much compared to in-home consoles or computers. How many instances of a game do they think they are going to be able to run on a single system?

There's definitely a range of latency that's tolerable. ISPs have some control over latency, if they cared enough -- my packets don't really need to go from my ISP down to California and then back to get to servers 10 miles away from my house, DSL can run in a lower latency mode, but it usually doesn't, etc. People play games happily on all kinds of super laggy monitors though.

Potential cost savings could come around sharing/scheduling, although it depends on how peaky things are; worst case, you need one instance per active game, which is probably less than the total subscribers. There could be a real computation benefit of rendering everyone in one multiplayer game on a single system though.

Overall, it sounds pretty sketchy though.
 

J3RK

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Potential cost savings could come around sharing/scheduling, although it depends on how peaky things are; worst case, you need one instance per active game, which is probably less than the total subscribers. There could be a real computation benefit of rendering everyone in one multiplayer game on a single system though.

Overall, it sounds pretty sketchy though.

Yeah, there could be some real computational and communications savings by having it all local to a regional datacenter or something like that. Basically LAN type performance, possibly higher than average consumer GPU performance visually, and all they're really streaming is control data and a video stream. I think it could be pulled off somewhat successfully. If they have local caches on the streaming boxes for some things, that would help even more.

I still see it failing with things like shooters, platformers, and anything that requires high precision in close to real-time.

For big open world RPG type things though, it could really work out pretty well.

I'm still 100% not interested though. I'll keep playing my PC games, indies and my Nintendo games for as long as they're willing to put out hardware to run them.
 

MrTryfe

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I just don't see how costs won't be considerable for any streaming enterprise, unless we're getting server farms of the cookie cutter graphics variety. Its one thing to use thin clients for work purposes, and another thing entirely to share graphics load.

Am I missing something here? How will video card bandwidth be distributed? Only reasonable solution seems to be some QoS type throttling to deliver less than ideal graphics. Of course, most people probably won't mind that, so the question would be just how much of an effect enthusiasts will have on the decision making. I'm guessing probably not much, if current consoles are any indication.


Of course, that doesn't even begin to address the obviously latency issues. With the stock some of these hardware companies are giving to something like e-sports, maybe that's where the demarcation lies? More competitively serious gamers might not be enthusiasts for high level computing hardware, but latency is the end all and be all for competitive types. I know many players who play CSGO/DOTA/LoL with cheap, serviceable systems. More than a 25mbps connection isn't required for these people, but low input lag/high refresh rate monitors, and wired Ethernet connections are key.


Though, in all likelihood, the casual market will override all of these things.
 

J3RK

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If all the mainstream crap went this direction though, it does open up a nice market for the "hardcore" and enthusiast for content. Someone will swoop in and take the place of the EA, Ubi and Activisions and I guess Microsoft? Some of the companies (id Software) knows their audience. I could see Zenimax/Bethesda pushing for streaming for sure, but some of the more dedicated PC studios I think would stick around. If not, someone else will take their place I suppose. Some of the indie studios are doing things on that level these days. (well close to it anyway)
 

Burticus

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I couldn't make streaming in my own home work well enough to be worth the effort, and that is on FIOS fiber 50mb internet and gig wired copper to the living room. I was unhappy with twitch/fps games, but platformers or kiddy games could be fine.

I think the technology will eventually get there, but not everyone has gigabit fiber going to their house.

But the way the publishers are pushing online only digital distribution like the next coming of Jeebus, for the sole sake of profit margins and killing resale... I think we will see streaming only sooner than we think. Maybe not next gen, but likely the one after that... PS6 timeline (2030 or so?)
 

J3RK

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I couldn't make streaming in my own home work well enough to be worth the effort, and that is on FIOS fiber 50mb internet and gig wired copper to the living room. I was unhappy with twitch/fps games, but platformers or kiddy games could be fine.

I think the technology will eventually get there, but not everyone has gigabit fiber going to their house.

But the way the publishers are pushing online only digital distribution like the next coming of Jeebus, for the sole sake of profit margins and killing resale... I think we will see streaming only sooner than we think. Maybe not next gen, but likely the one after that... PS6 timeline (2030 or so?)

I’ve got it working internally rather nicely in my house. I streamed DOOM 2016 to my laptop in bed the other night because my wife was watching TV (otherwise I’d have used the Shield TV). I played with mouse and keyboard on the laptop (play with a pad on the Shield since it’s more relaxing). Anyway, it felt tight and responsive enough to play like I would sitting at a desk, though my little bedside table was a bit cramped :D That was just using Steam’s in-home streaming so nothing fancy there. I’ll admit though that my network isn’t exactly consumer grade. Cisco Layer 3 switches, fiber between switches, etc.

Internet is another thing entirely though. I just have Comcast standard coax 250Mb. It’s good, but I don’t know that it would be good enough to stream and feel like my internal setup.

I just plain hate the idea of streaming over the internet...
 

seanreisk

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Industry leaders have said that streaming is the future of gaming because it offers the most for the consumer. And someday that might even be true. I've also told my girlfriend that oral sex is the surest way to have a meaningful carnal gender-audit while also avoiding pregnancy, but I'm thinking those game industry folks are gonna go broke if people only stream video games on my birthday.
 
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rudy

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I just don't see it working at all. Latency + bandwidth + bandwidth caps and all the ways ISPs try to milk users is a failure waiting to happen. Paying for a streaming game service will cost users more than just buying a new full $500 machine that could run the game locally. Think about it, movies @2hrs each + people with bandwidth caps + using the internet normally = some people getting close to there caps, games @ 15 hours each + people with bandwidth caps + using the internet normally will be overage fees every month, even more so if you have multiple gamers in the house.

Console users have always fallen for low performance and lower up front cost only to spend more in the end. Streaming fits perfect with this customer base.
 
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It makes sense at the moment. Millennials want to use an app to subscribe (the rest of us call this rent) everything. When they get older, they will realize they have nothing to sell if they get stuck for money. Or their kids will grow up wanting to own things their parents didn't. Things will change again and the cycle continues.
 

gulguran

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Gaming corporations have long flirted with the allure of game streaming titles instead of selling consoles to consumers as the hardware is sold at a loss in some cases. Microsoft and Nintendo are said to be working on streaming services where you can play a game on most devices as long as it has a screen. And some major game publishers are predicting the end of the game console as soon as next generation.

But is there really truth to this perception that game streaming can completely replace the game console experience? What about latency and video quality? The US government has been trying to convince ISPs to install some form of internet in many areas to no avail. The FCC wants to keep the definition of broadband capped at 25Mbps/3Mbps. Is that really fast enough to stream games at game console quality and low latency if you have others in your home consuming bandwidth at the same time? Some areas don't even have cellular service.

Phil Spencer, executive vice president of gaming at Microsoft, compared the evolution of moving games to streaming with the change we have seen in streaming video. Microsoft's goal, he said, is to move gaming to a medium where you can play what you want where you want. But, he pointed out, even though streaming video claims mindshare and market share, DVD sales still pull in billions of dollars per year. Big shifts like this, he said, don't happen as quickly as we all think they do. "It takes time," Spencer said.

Haven't there already been companies that have burned through their startup money and failed at this?
 
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