A Cloud on the Horizon: Cloud Gaming’s Impact on Consoles and the World

cloudyLast November we took note of the comeback of consoles and their most fearsome competitor yet – cloud gaming. Sony has readily joined the market by partnering with Gaikai who is powering streaming content to PS3, PS4 and the PSP usurper, PS Vita, which can stream your PS4 games right into your hands. This doesn’t mean that cloud gaming companies are settling into an auxiliary role – not at all – there are some among them who want their own platforms, their own games, and are already amassing the resources to do it.

French telecommunication (telco) company, Orange, has recently joined up with G-Cluster – a giant in the cloud gaming universe – which now powers Orange’s gaming ambitions.[i] Telcos already have several advantages in this market: they provide broadband services, have easy access to large scale servers, and have an established customer base. It seems that cloud gaming companies are preparing for a coup d’état.

Cloud Nine

For those of you who think cloud gaming is restricted to apps or MMOs, it might shock you to learn that cloud gaming is closing in on two decades of development. G-Cluster first demonstrated their primitive Wi-Fi infused gaming at E3 in 2001, and within four years they launched it in Japan and Europe. Flash forward ten years and they now provide cloud gaming to over eight million players worldwide.[ii] Prominent cloud gaming companies are erupting in Portugal, France, Japan, South Korea, and the US. Another world-leader, Ubitus, quickly monopolized on the 4G outbreak in 2011 by partnering with mobile providers, which brought cloud games to millions around the globe. Two years later, and with Samsung as an investor, they are the preferred cloud gaming platform for Google TV.

In 2012 Orange released a gaming service based on their TV market with the power of their broadband service to back the streaming quality. Three million consumers of Orange TV France already have access to their cloud gaming platform, coupled with their partnership with internationally experienced G-Cluster, and this fuels their hopes of launching their gaming services across Europe, Africa, and eventually other countries.[iii] They have laid the foundation for becoming a global cloud gaming force.

You can see how the potential for availability is as big as anyone could dream it to be. Anyone with an Internet enabled device can access hundreds of games with as little as a smartphone or basic laptop. Even now, games are being developed in countries that we never would have considered – games that you might be playing on a daily basis could have their origins on the other side of the globe. With an ever-expanding global market for gaming there will be an inherent demand for video game localization services and international community management. Cloud gaming companies are going to have to rely heavily on multilingual video game service providers if they are to have any hope of supporting and cultivating their international markets.

Like Clockwork…

Orange’s upper-hand is ingenious. The way cloud gaming works is similar to ‘video on demand’. By using a thin client, where the game is stored either on the operator’s – or in this case – the company’s servers, the game is streamed directly to the computer that is accessing it. This effectively eliminates the need for a console, and it even makes the need for a powerful ‘gaming computer’ less necessary since there are no downloads or installations required and the company’s server is doing the heavy lifting. Not to mention that Orange is developing an app that will allow players to utilize their smartphones as controllers – in a couple of simple steps they have vastly reduced the amount of required hardware. The server does all the work: receives the user input (button presses), processes it in terms of the game, and sends back the game output (by moving your character). Insert a high-speed Internet connection and you have a gaming experience that is instantaneous and can be as equipment-centric as you desire. This will allow them to enter emerging markets and target countries with generally lower household incomes.

Telcos’ distinct advantage is that they have this equipment in place: broadband provider, access to large clusters of servers, and the ability to encrypt and compress data – these are the basis of cloud gaming. This is how Orange created a cloud gaming business out of their TV base, but like other cloud gaming companies, Orange wants to enter the physical gaming realm.

Stealing the Thunder

2More and more the lines between cloud gaming consoles and consoles integrating cloud gaming are becoming blurred. G-Cluster has already claimed the spot of ‘World’s first cloud gaming console’ and we’ve already seen Sony’s solution, but still cloud gaming companies only have games that are already available on consoles or PCs.[iv] Even so, Orange wants to enter the market with a console that receives games at the same time as its traditional counterparts as well as games unique to their platform.

Orange is hoping for a future where publishers will come to them for new releases. They believe that their platform will be an attractive option for game developers; in fact, they have already signed on with Ubisoft, as well as PC and mobile developers. Yet they’re looking at the big titles of their console counterparts, which brings us to the issue of awareness – even though cloud gaming is not yet universally known, it has accessibility on its side.

Providers of cloud gaming services proclaim that their accessibility, where players can play at home on their TVs and then continue on-the-go with a Wi-Fi device, is one of the things that makes playing in the cloud appealing. Right now cloud gaming companies like CiiNow utilize a ‘home gateway’, which spreads the broadband network over multiple Wi-Fi enabled devices. Another alternative method is one used by OnLive and GamingAnywhere, which relies on users to download their software. Orange could have easily implemented these strategies (they already have the equipment in their customers’ homes) but instead of having their idea in ‘the Cloud’ they want a tangible platform option next to PlayStation and Nintendo.

And speaking of Nintendo – where are they in all of this? Their President Satoru Iwata staunchly announced last year that Nintendo plans to stay out of cloud gaming, but will still keep an eye on its developments.[v] The closest they have come to the Cloud is the WiiShop Channel where you can download ‘Virtual Console’ games or WiiWare games/applications. Meanwhile, at Microsoft, the Xbox One seems to be boasting its ‘entertainment system’ abilities – any mention of the Cloud seems to primarily concern saving games or Azure’s dedicated servers.

Every Cloud Has a Silver Lining

The fact that cloud gaming companies are developing consoles ensures their existence into the future, but traditional consoles as we know them might need to follow Sony’s example. Cloud gaming has the advantage of a built-in global network. G-Cluster alone has offices around the globe: HQ in Tokyo, R&D in Finland, content management in Paris, and marketing in the US – this is a game changer on a global level. Traditional gaming consoles need to tap into this network before the Cloud chokes them out.

What do people think of this development? In 2011, when ‘cloud computing’ was only a twinkle in a buzzword’s eye, the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA) commented on the potential barriers of cloud computing in the EU – and they made some telling observations. With the advent of cloud technology you can no longer apply a ‘one-size-fits-all’ model to data flow.[vi] The EU is an excellent resource on the rules of localization, and they realized back then that it would take an army to disseminate information in multilingual formats. At the same time cloud computing cannot be a ‘barrier’. In many ways it facilitates data flow across borders, and that is why it requires skilled localization efforts and constant monitoring. Cloud gaming is going to be facing these issues as companies like Orange expand into international markets.

Additionally, release dates for console games are often staggered from country to country, giving the developers time to prepare each release for each market. With cloud gaming, the product is available everywhere, immediately. This puts much more pressure on localization teams and multilingual community management teams to have everything prepared in all languages for the first launch.

At MO Group International, we’re up to the challenge. We offer video game localization, online marketing and game community management services. As gamers ourselves, we love to facilitate the growth of fun and new games and technologies into foreign markets. Our teams are well equipped to translate games, expand your markets or, if you just need a community management facelift, we can help with that too. If you would like to know more about our services offered in over 40 languages visit: http://www.mogi-translations.com

[i] http://www.orange.com/en/press/press-releases/press-releases-2014/Orange-invests-in-G-cluster-Global-Corporation-and-affirms-its-ambitions-in-cloud-gaming

[ii] http://www.orange.com/en/press/press-releases/press-releases-2014/Orange-invests-in-G-cluster-Global-Corporation-and-affirms-its-ambitions-in-cloud-gaming

[iii] http://www.orange.com/en/press/press-releases/press-releases-2014/Orange-invests-in-G-cluster-Global-Corporation-and-affirms-its-ambitions-in-cloud-gaming

[iv] http://www.broadmedia.co.jp/pdf_i/20120920_01_e.pdf

[v] http://www.nintendolife.com/news/2013/04/satoru_iwata_nintendo_has_no_plans_to_adopt_cloud_gaming


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