For a while, we’ve known that cloud gaming has huge potential. Xbox, PlayStation and NVidia have either launched or are planning some kind of game streaming service. Google Stadia is set to emerge for early adopters later this year. And Shadow let us put their technology to the test, reviewing both the service and set-top box.
The size of that potential is now clear, thanks to fresh data from research and analytics firm Penn Schoen Berland (PSB). The company asked PC and console gamers for their opinions on cloud gaming, and MMORPG.com managed to get an exclusive look at the results. It couldn’t be clearer - nearly 90% find cloud gaming compelling.
But, if we’re honest, cloud gaming is also being held back. Unreliable internet connections have made us nervous about the new tech, even though they’ve improved massively since the early days of online gaming. Then again, new technologies like 5G and Wifi 6 might squelch these final issues.
In the research (which was commissioned by Shadow), PSB gathered responses in May 2019 from over eight thousand gamers in the United States, United Kingdom, France and Germany. Those taking part were aged between 18 and 54, played at least an hour of HD quality gaming per week, and bought at least one title in the last six months.
From this group, 60% are familiar with cloud gaming, which is surprising for a service that’s seen as niche. They could also see the benefits of cloud gaming, with 44% calling out that storage space is less of a worry, and 35% saying they wouldn’t have to invest in expensive hardware just to play games at a high level.
We’re also a picky bunch. Although some commentators have been talking about a “Netflix for Games”, it turns out we prefer to play the games we already own. 58% of respondents want to play their own choice of PC games, compared to 42% who are happy being locked into a service with a limited catalogue. Hail to the Steam library.
We tend to think of cloud gaming as a boost for existing PC gamers, but it could also help our console friends enjoy a new range of affordable or free games. 2 out of 5 console players want to get into PC gaming, but are put off by the high equipment costs (56%), the need for regular updates (41%), or figure it’s just too complex (40%). These are all areas where cloud gaming can provide a massive lift.
For us regular PC gamers, there’s also some home truths that cloud gaming could fix. 37% of us are frustrated with the amount of time it takes to download a game, or the gargantuan amount of space they devour. By contrast, a cloud gaming PC in the middle of a datacenter would have an obscenely fast internet connection and dedicated storage for your library.
However, there are some justifiable concerns over cloud gaming, much like there were when Netflix or Spotify first launched. Being unable to play when the internet connection goes down (35% of respondents) or the connection stability (33%) were two major callouts, but the biggest worry was the subscription fee.
Understandably, Verizon, AT&T and others can’t catch a break, as 18% of us are fed up or ‘dissatisfied’ with our home internet connection. 42% of those call out random disconnects as the biggest issue, while lag is a distant 2nd place at 17%.
But even here cloud gaming can help. Being disconnected from the cloud server doesn’t drop you out of the game, as it’s still running on the remote service. Getting back in the dungeon or battleground is just a case of reconnecting to the cloud gaming platform, even if you need to swap to cellular data because a dumpster truck just pulled down your cable.
Besides, most of us now have broadband that’s good enough to run cloud gaming - 88% of us have a connection that’s rated 20mbps or higher. WiFi 6 means that those home connections will be able to spread further and support more devices, which means no more clashes with roommates that gorge on Netflix when you’re trying to raid.
Even so, the latest cellular developments might make wired connections a thing of the past. With 5G now getting off the spec sheets and into phones, our pocket internet connection might be the only one we need.
Ultimately though, one thing’s for certain: the industry big hitters think that cloud gaming is ready for prime time, and gamers of all forms are certainly willing to give it a go. We just need to hope that Ma Bell doesn’t screw it up for all of us.