With cloud gaming the games run remotely on a server. The game is therefore not installed on the drive of the console or PC. All you need is a fast internet connection and a browser or an app. The game runs on the server, which sends the images to the app on your device. When you control the game on your device the interaction with the server takes place.
You often find the comparison with Netflix. This is partly true. Just like with Netflix, you often have a subscription with cloud gaming and you can choose from a wide range of games that you can play immediately without extra costs. Just like the movies or series, the games come from a central server. With cloud gaming, however, much more happens in the backend. The games are not a linear stream like a movie. A game depends on the input of the gamer. Based on this input, the action takes place and the image is formed on the screen. Processing the information and forming an image is called rendering. This rendering takes a lot of computing power and happens with cloud gaming on a server and not on your console or TV.
So the rendering takes place on the server. These servers contain high-end graphics cards, fast processors and lots of memory. This means that your device does not need to have it. This allows you to play cloud games on phones, PCs, tablets, consoles or even your smart TV. I play cloud games a lot on my tablet.
So a lot of information is sent back and forth between the server and my tablet. The server sends the images from the game and my tablet sends my input for the game to the server. Suppose I play a shooter then the server sends the complete image of the game to my tablet. On my tablet I look at the image and I see a tree with something moving behind it. With my controller, which I have connected to my tablet, I move my game figure forward. At that point, the server receives my input, processes that information, and sends me a new image. This new image is a tree coming closer. I see an enemy behind the tree. I grab my gun and shoot. Between seeing the enemy and the shooting, I’ve already given several types of input on my controller. Also the picture on my screen has changed; a rifle has come up and a bullet has been fired. Various sounds were also played. You understand that all this creates a lot of traffic between the server and my tablet. Moreover, everything has to be done in a fraction of a second. The time this takes is what we call latency. And now in October 2022, that is all going very well, but not yet perfect.
However, we have come a long way. The first serious cloud gaming service was that of OnLive in 2010. In 2011, Gaikai produced a streaming service that worked from Facebook on which, for example, The Sims 3 ran. The resolution was not that high yet.
Gaikai was acquired by Sony in 2012 which eventually led to PlayStation Now, Sony’s streaming service that never really took off.
Nvidia has been working on Geforce since about 2017. This allows you to play games from your own Steam library in the cloud. This service is powerful and with Nvidia Cloud as a total system there is immense potential.
In 2019, Google will launch the cloud gaming service Stadia. You must subscribe and purchase the games separately. The big advantage is that it can be used on all conceivable devices. However, due to unclear communication, this was never a success and Google recently announced that it would end the service at the end of 2022.
Microsoft has also been working on project xCloud for several years. This eventually evolved into Xbox cloud gaming in combination with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate. You can play more than two hundred games in the cloud for a fixed amount per month. This includes all Microsoft triple A games on the day they are released. The resolution is now 1080p and latency is low. From my point of view this is the best service at the moment.
I play cloud games because:
- I’m not an absorber
- I like to try out games
- It’s cheap
My wife likes to watch TV after a hard day’s work. I like to watch, but after an hour I often have enough. I like to be interactive. It is difficult for me to take in information alone, in other words I am not an absorber. So gaming is ideal for me. I can do that in a separate room, but that’s not very cozy. I find it much nicer to grab my tablet or laptop and a controller and then play a game next to my wife on the couch. With cloud gaming I don’t need a fancy gaming laptop with roaring fans around my lap; a simple laptop or a recent tablet is sufficient and it is also nice and quiet.
For Game Pass Ultimate from Microsoft I pay €12.99 per month and I can choose from more than two hundred games. Games are added weekly (and games are disappearing). Every week there is a game that I want to try. With cloud gaming you don’t have to download anything, so it’s so relaxing to quickly check the bank to see if there’s anything for me.
I think you can try Game Pass Ultimate from Microsoft for $1. Then you have access for a month and, if you wish, you can also install the games on your Xbox or PC. I also have PlayStation Plus Extra with which I can stream games from the PlayStation to my tablet. Although that is not cloud gaming, you can experience how it works. With your tablet, for example, you must find out whether your Android or iOS version works with your controller. In particular, the own controllers from Microsoft and Sony sometimes have trouble with older operating systems. If you don’t have a controller yet, you can now find a lot of controllers online with an explanation of whether they are suitable for your system. You can also work without a controller and only with a touchscreen, but that’s not a real gaming experience for me.
I would say try it. A new world opens for you!