As exciting as the gaming world is today, gamers and developers can't help but look ahead to what the future holds. That's not to say they're dissatisfied with the current state of gaming, though some can be highly critical. Instead, it's the sense of anticipation for and fascination with what's just around the corner that keeps them hooked. What new games are due to come out later this year or next year? How will the current console generation advance? Will current trends lead to a rising dominance among PC gamers? All are questions worthy of reflection, but when talking about what lies ahead for video games, no discussion would be complete without an examination of cloud computing. The cloud has already made significant impacts in various industries like business, healthcare, and government, so it's no surprise that it stands to make a lasting mark on video games.
To properly estimate what kind of effect cloud computing will have on the video game industry, we must first look at how video games are currently using the cloud. Perhaps the most common use of cloud computing at the moment is cloud storage. Gamers have the opportunity to save games onto cloud servers provided by gaming bigwigs like Microsoft and Sony. Some developers and publishers provide saved game storage space as well. The arrival of the current generation consoles (Xbox One, PlayStation 4, WiiU) has also ushered in a wealth of new capabilities with the cloud. When the Xbox One was first announced in the spring of 2013, Microsoft touted that the company would have 300,000 dedicated cloud servers for the purpose of adding extra processing power to Xbox games. It is this capability that, while used to an extent today, could be even farther reaching in the future.
When it comes to predicting what the future holds for cloud computing and video games, we must first stop looking at PCs and consoles as isolated machines. For years they operated as such, much like a self-contained unit for the sole purpose of running purchased games. The cloud is changing that conventional image. With the benefit of cloud computing's added processing power, some of the tasks normally associated with consoles and PCs can be offloaded to the cloud. This can easily lead to an overall improved gaming experience. For example, under the old model, all rendering and AI would have to be computed by the local machine. Those processes, including physics modeling and even cloth motion, can now be taken to the cloud and its added computing power. In other words, consoles and PCs don't have to handle the calculations on its own, which can bring crisper textures, smoother gameplay, and improved graphics to your living room.
The idea of even purchasing a physical copy of a game may become a thing of the past thanks to the cloud. While many gamers currently download their games from company servers, the cloud may render that obsolete as well. Games in the future may instead be directly streamed to the gamer's local machine or television. Think of it like a version of Netflix, only with more interactivity. Games may in turn be constantly updated and expanded through cloud upgrades as well. A purchased game has the potential to evolve over time, whether its through updates to its AI depending on how gamers play or through new content added to the video game world.
The cloud may also prove revolutionary to developers. Instead of spending large amounts of resources on infrastructure, developers may instead have access to cloud computing technology, giving them an added boost in creating their games. Microsoft has already launched part of this effort through its Orleans project, which seeks to help developers build scalable cloud applications, giving them more time to focus on the actual business of making the next bestselling title. One example of this is KUMA Games, which uses the cloud as a way to render graphics and support downloads, giving the developer more agility and scalability while focusing on gamer interaction.
All of these capabilities and theoretical uses are merely scratching the surface of the cloud's potential. By taking hold of the advantages of cloud computing, video game developers have the opportunity to propel the industry into a new age. The full realization of cloud computing's benefits may still be a number of years off, but there's no denying that the future may look radically different compared to the current state of gaming.