Why Does Cloud Gaming Need Cloud-Native Development?

by Gaming

Last week, Juniper Research released a whitepaper titled Will Cloud Gaming Change the Way We Play?. It discusses the impact that cloud gaming and other subscription models are already having on the video game industry and a forecast for the anticipated value of the cloud gaming market in 2025. Juniper Research’s overall conclusion was that “cloud gaming is not yet ready to disrupt and change the landscape, and, in the short-term at least, it faces significant challenges.” 

Whilst 5G and unlimited data plans are expected to be key drivers towards the success of cloud gaming, particularly for mobile games, the provision of 5G services is currently limited, with the first true 5G-enabled phones only hitting the market over the past year. Issues with internet provision also serve as market restraints. Streaming games in the cloud consumes significant amounts of data and requires more broadband speed than most other online activities. A fast connection is vital in overcoming lag and “multiplayer games are more likely to fall victim to any lag between the user and the data centre streaming the game.”, Juniper Research points out. 

Whilst the report is insightful, it only talks about cloud gaming in the context of game streaming, or gaming on demand, where games can be played directly on cloud servers, rather than on a local device. However, the real problem stunting the development of cloud gaming is that in its current iteration, cloud gaming is merely a distribution platform, and defining it as such inhibits the potential for both developers and end-users.

Designing Games For The Cloud

Subscription model cloud gaming is only a small part of cloud gaming. Here, the ‘cloud’ element only comes in at the end of the development cycle, when games are completed and copied over to streaming platforms. 

Studios are forced to invest in building out large teams and complex processes to re-architect games for this method of distribution. Intricate architectures create vast numbers of dependencies, and making even simple updates or bug fixes is fraught with complexity and risk. Any lags or crashes destroy the player experience, resulting in unsatisfied customers and lost revenue for studios. 

However, with cloud-native development, code runs the same on a local machine as it does in the cloud. It accelerates QA and development cycles, removing the need for convoluted middleware and the complexities of containerisation. It also augments the extant version of cloud gaming by tapping into the near unlimited processing power of cloud computing meaning games that are realistic and immersive and require a high level of computational complexity can be realised. 

The potential of cloud-native development was demonstrated in our partnership with CCP Games. Over the course of seven months and three phases, CCP Games and Hadean were able to fully realise the strength and capabilities of using cloud-based spatial simulation technology to build bigger game worlds with unprecedented gameplay possibilities faster and more cost-efficiently. Phase One of EVE Aether Wars, a pure technology test, supported 14,000 connected clients (3,750 globally-distributed human players and over 10,000 AI), breaking their world record for the most number of players in the single game. The third and final demo, however, truly represented what cloud-native gaming could look like. It was built entirely on the cloud by CCP Games and drew in over 2,800 players from 80 countries. Players enjoyed a more fully-defined overall game experience and it was brilliantly received by the community.

By utilising the right infrastructure and cloud-based technology, the promise of cloud gaming will truly be realised and cloud gaming will change in unprecedented ways; new genres of games will be possible with thousands of players across the globe all enjoying an uninterrupted player experience, games can be developed and updated live without any impact on the user and studios can focus more on creative ideation rather than fixing bugs and technical issues. 

However, until cloud-native development is adopted by studios as its first port of call, cloud gaming will never truly be able to deliver on the vision it has promised, even after 5G adoption is widespread. Until then, cloud gaming platforms will simply be streaming services and will be unable to facilitate world-class experiences. Yes, it may make gaming more accessible to more people, but will the offerings be good enough to entice people and retain them long-term? 

To discover how you could break through barriers of game design, download The Cloud-Native Gaming Handbook.