Cloud games allow you to play video games without consuming space or battery life on your devices. Big tech companies believe they have huge potential to increase their access to consumers, but no one has unlocked that yet.
Facebook is the latest company to try, and yesterday announced that it is launching cloud games for its applications and web browsers. Most are versions of existing mobile games, and all will be free to play. This is very different from the cloud gaming strategy of Google, Microsoft and, soon, Amazon, which each offer versions of large video games (consider Red Dead Redemption or The assassin of faith) for purchases through a monthly subscription.
Entering the cloud gaming arena, Facebook announces that its competitors’ offers are too elaborate and expensive.
“We will not make too many promises and deliver too little,” wrote Facebook’s vice president of gaming blogging, referring to the unusual launch of Google’s cloud gaming service, Stadia. “We are not trying to replace your favorite gaming hardware.”
The main attraction of cloud gaming is that users do not have to download or install games as they would like on a console or computer. Instead, the names are transferred to them, on devices they already own, from remote servers. Technology, when done right, lets you play games the same way you listen to Spotify music or watch Netflix TV shows.
But technology is just as exciting as it is expensive, and much of the experience of playing a cloud streaming game still depends on the user’s own internet connection. Unlike streaming music or movies, games require users to send their signals back to data centers, which must process and display them, and then send them back to players in real time. There is a high possibility of lag and other relationship problems.
However, Big Tech bets that the future of games may be in the cloud. Eventually, if the infrastructure matures, and more users adopt the format, it can create a much more vivid gaming experience for players. Because all computing power takes place outside your home, cloud-streamed games can, in theory, have more realistic graphics and allow many more players to communicate in virtual worlds than is currently possible.
For Facebook, cloud gaming is both a short-term and a long-term game. Global consumers are increasingly spending more time playing video games. The more time they play cloud games, the more time they spend on Facebook. And more time for Facebook users means more exposure to ads and, possibly, new data collection opportunities. Cloud games should not be a new income on Facebook, but more a way to strengthen existing ones.
This does not have to be the case for Google, Microsoft and Amazon, which want to raise some of the revenue that users spend on games they purchase through the cloud gaming services of those companies. A Google Stadia subscription costs $ 10 a month, while Microsoft xCloud is $ 15 a month. Amazon Luna service will cost $ 6 per month initially.
The adoption of these services is slow, which Facebook would argue because cloud gaming libraries are weak and users do not want to recreate the console experience anyway. The success of cheap, affordable games such as Among us suggests that there can be a huge opportunity in games that are cheap and easy to play with friends.
One drawback for these companies is that their cloud gaming services are not yet available on iOS devices. Apple does not allow its devices to include applications that act as third-party application stores and distribute their own software. Until Apple and cloud gaming companies address this, it puts a hard cap on the potential size of the player base.
Apple could play hard on Facebook, Google and Microsoft because it wants complete control over the applications offered on its devices. Or maybe it’s because he wants to start a cloud gaming service. The company reportedly filed a patent for one earlier this year.