Is Streaming The Future Of Console Gaming?

by - 6/29/2018 08:37:00 PM

Photo by Unknown / Public Domain

There was a time in the not-too-distant gaming past when console manufacturers would be able to set the internet alight with sneak peeks of next-generation consoles. Often this buzz would bubble up within the global gaming community shortly after the present-generation consoles had been released to the market! This time around, however, there seems to be a distinct lack of enthusiasm from the big console manufacturers about future hardware releases and an awful lot of chatter about streaming.

The rumour mill...

Rumours started to fly when both Sony and Microsoft went all coy about their next releases. There’s still no concrete information about their next generations of consoles. Instead, Sony has released some brief information about what the hardware will look like, and Microsoft has gone off on a tangent about distribution tactics and the like. These snippets of gossip have led some tech insiders to conclude that the future generation of consoles will play much like high-end PCs do now and that streaming games from a central server will play a big role in the future of console gaming.

Then, after chats with head honchos from Ubisoft and Microsoft, Variety published that article proclaiming the death of the console. CEO of the former, Yves Guillemot, was pretty outspoken about his thoughts on the subject: “I think streaming will become more accessible and make it not necessary to have big hardware at home...there will be one more console generation and then after that, we will be streaming”.

Microsoft’s Phil Green, however, didn’t stray from the company line that their intention is to make gaming accessible to everyone: “I care...that people can play Minecraft no matter what console or device they have in front of them.”

Meanwhile, PlayStation already has its own streaming service, PS Now, which lets gamers stream releases directly to their consoles, as well as PS Vue, which is the TV version of the service. But the company has released some information about the PS5’s hardware, specifically its GPU architecture, Navi. Some extensive reporting by PCGamesN revealed that this GPU isn’t even as powerful as some of the GPUs used in the top 2018 gaming PCs, which would effectively make a console that will potentially be released in 2020 less powerful than a 2018 computer.

Why the furor?

So why all the furor about streaming for next-gen consoles? Streaming has been an integral part of certain aspects of gaming (such as eSports) for years. As competitive gaming has developed, the rise of live streaming has enabled burgeoning players to generate income without needing to travel or play in tournaments. Plus, PC gamers have been playing streaming games from online multiplayer platforms like Steam since their creation.  

The main issue seems to be that the infrastructure just isn’t there to support streaming for console gaming—just look at the situation with the potential PS5. Streaming a game, especially those 4k resolution ones that are all the rage with top gaming studios, requires a hell of a lot of bandwidth that some gamers just don’t have. Sure, playing console games with an internet connection does unlock several extra experiences; however, it’s the individual gamer’s choice to make.

The future

Then there’s the question of whether or not the hardware itself can support the technical demands of streaming large games from a central farm server. Streaming might very well be the future of console gaming, but we’re talking ten years or more down the line—not two. And when it does happen, it’s a process that gaming companies, development studios, internet service providers, and even local governments will need to work together on to ensure that the global gaming community will continue to enjoy the high-quality entertainment that it's used to.

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