Gaming on Cloud: Google vs. Microsoft vs. EA

Today, the games you play are very much dictated by the device you are using. The future of video gaming is a world where you are empowered to play the game you want, with the people you want, whenever you want, wherever you are, and on any device of your choice. All of the above can be achieved through cloud gaming services.

In addition to the change of gaming infrastructures, it helps:

  1. Improving low resolution standard dynamic range to Ultra HD high dynamic range
  2. Transitioning from 4G and WiGig connectivity to 5G in the future
  3. Provoking a plethora of 3D graphics innovations in lighting, texturing, and drawing objects
  4. Making big data, server-side neural network algorithm training possible
  5. Solving latency issues remotely and supporting a large, multi-user network

Google launched Project Stream, as it’s first foray into AAA PC gaming 
“pushing the limits of streaming technology” from traditional downloads to playing games on Chrome browser. [AAA (pronounced “triple-A”) is an informal classification used for video games produced and distributed by a major publisher , typically having higher development and marketing budgets.]

Microsoft, just a week later, announced Project xCloud, expanding beyond the Xbox empire from the living room to PCs, tablets, and mobile devices.

Electronic Arts – the world’s largest video game developer best known for games such as Battlefield, The Sims, and FIFA – also announced its own cloud gaming platform Project Atlas that will make full quality video games available on home computers and mobile devices.

Microsoft xCloud: “Gaming with you at the center”

Microsoft is well equipped to address the complex challenge of cloud game-streaming. With datacenters in 54 Azure regions and services available in 140 countries, Microsoft’s cloud services Azure has the scale to deliver a great gaming experience for players worldwide, regardless of their location.

Project xCloud will also have the capability to make game streaming possible on 4G networks and will dynamically scale to push against the outer limits of what’s possible on 5G networks as they roll out globally. Currently, the test experience is running at 10 megabits per second(Mbps). To put into perspectives, it will take at least two seconds to load an average web page. When it comes to gaming, a 1-2 second delay is considered high-latency. Essentially, Microsoft is promising to deliver high-quality experiences at the lowest possible bitrate that work across the widest possible networks.

In Microsoft’s announcement of Project xCloud, it also touched on the seamless onboarding process for existing Xbox One titles. Leveraging a strong existing console library, developers will have the ability to opt-in for the service, deploying titles with “no additional work.” Some of the first Xbox One games to xCloud include Forza, Halo, Gears of War, and Red Dead Redemption 2. It’s looking promising for all Xbox gamers and is set to debut in 2019.

Google Stream: “Pushing the limits of streaming technology”

In the official blog post, Google emphasized extensively on streaming high-quality AAA video games —”from incredible detail and life-like movement of the characters’ skin, clothing, and hair, to the massive scale of the world in which the game unfolds, down to every last blade of grass”. Product Manager Catherin Hsiao described the challenger for game streaming: “When streaming TV or movies, consumers are comfortable with a few seconds of buffering at the start, but streaming high-quality games requires latency measured in milliseconds, with no graphic degradation.”

Using Chrome as a platform, Google partnered with one of the most successful video game publishers, Ubisoft, to stream Assassin’s Creed Odyssey to your Chrome browser on a laptop or desktop. A limited number of participants were invited to play the latest in this best-selling franchise at no charge for the duration of the Project Stream test.

“We have been able to work very closely with Google and are very happy,” Yves Guillemot, Co-founder and CEO of Ubisoft, said, “cloud gaming is going to help to reach a lot more players for our triple-A games, which is a great thing.”

Electronic Atlas: “Offering living, breathing worlds that constantly evolve”

Just two weeks after Microsoft’s announcement of xCloud, CTO of Electronic Arts Ken Moss published the blog post on Project Atlas. Moss talked in length about Project Atlas and it’s potential, but the real driving point here is that EA is betting big on a cloud-enabled future.

Different from xCloud and Stream, EA was proposing to streamline game development through the provision of a unified platform for developers. It would be a platform designed from the core to harness the massive power of cloud computing and artificial intelligence and putting it into the hands of game makers in a powerful, easy to use, one-stop experience. “With the unified platform of Project Atlas, game makers will have the ability to seamlessly deploy security measures including SSL certificates, configuration, appropriate encryption of data, and zero-downtime patches for every feature from a single secure source,” Moss later concludes, “this means that they can focus on what game makers are best at — creating the best games.”

It will be interesting to see if EA also makes its games available via other streaming platforms as the tech giants build their own simultaneously.

Takeaway

Tech giants’ vision for the evolution of gaming is similar to music and movies — entertainment should be available on demand and accessible from any screen. However, unlike other forms of digital entertainment, games are interactive experiences that dynamically change based on player input. Cloud game-streaming is still a multi-faceted, complex challenge that takes in tremendous work and money in R&D. CSS Insights analyst Raghu Gopal theorized that the mainstream launch of a reliable cloud-based games platform may still be several years away.

6 thoughts on “Gaming on Cloud: Google vs. Microsoft vs. EA

  1. Really excited to see people playing well known games on different platforms. The first thing I thought of was Fortnite’s cross-platform where players were able to play multiplayer on console, PC, and smartphone/tablet. I would never imagined someone be able to play Assassin’s Creed on chrome browser. Cloud gaming definitely lowers the barrier for new gamers, and benefits developers as more people play their games. This is definitely a right step for platform companies as they offer new free services and features to both buyer and seller. Awesome post!

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  2. Great post Cecilia! It’s really helpful to make the connection between gaming and music and movies. It seems like they still have a considerably long way to go in order to get the lag time down. It will be interesting to see the atmosphere in public places if people will be holding controllers in front of their faces. This follows the usual trend to have people constantly using devices.

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  3. Very cool post! I can’t wait to see how cloud-based video games compare to video games now and if they can have the same level of graphics. I wonder how having a streaming gaming service will affect revenues for new games (e.g. EA comes out with a new version of Fifa every year, so will EA have a premium to gain access to these new games every year?). Thanks for sharing!

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  4. This is a very interesting post! I don’t really play games outside of the apps on my phone, so I had no idea that there was such a disparity in who could access games depending on their browser. As the popularity of AR gaming continues to grow in the future, I wonder how various browsers and cloud services will be able to incorporate this technology into their platforms.

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  5. Nice post! Solving the latency problem can absolutely make gaming a better experience. I have seen some people buying computers for gaming because a normal CP might not provide enough storage or speed for high-quality gaming experience. Not being a big fan of game, but I really want to see if in future more innovative and interactive games will drive me in. Thanks for sharing!

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  6. Great post! It is interesting because the gaming industry will often historically lead the charge in new technologies. So many advancements in graphics cards came because of gaming, Gaming is leading the charge for VR. Now it looks like games will be helping to drastically improve connection speeds and streaming technologies. I also wonder if with the advent of streaming for video games we will see more a more subscription based video game services.

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