Polish Perspective comments:
Just a nerdy sidenote. I’ve been accepted into the Geforce Now beta; Nvidia’s game streaming service. Streaming services are going to move into the video game space after conquering both music (Spotify) and TV (Netflix). So I was curious about how the experience would be.
The basic premise is that most gamers don’t need to own expensive hardware. Unless you play twitch-shooters at a serious level – where every extra ms of latency is hyperimportant – , your needs can be covered easily. Hardcore gamers are very vocal, so their numbers tend to be exaggerated. Most gamers’ needs could be covered. Right now the invitation-only beta is free. You still have to own your games. These are still early days so the exact business model is still being figured out.
Google released their Project Streaming a few days ago, which is their first foray into the same space. Taketwo’s CEO stated in a conference some weeks ago that he sees a large industry-wide adoption 1-3 years down the line. The chess pieces are being put into place.
For me, I have a super basic celeron-powered laptop which I bought for ~$300 since it covers my basic browsing needs and it does so well enough. I have no home PC right now so this solution is right in my backyard.
So how is it? Surprisingly good. You need at least 50 mbit/s in order to get [email protected] home. I can stream Witcher 3 at great quality settings on my laptop at 60 fps. The service supports cloud save, too. Installation for the most popular games takes just 10 secs. For the less popular ones you have to re-install them at every time, which is a bit of a PITA if the game is big. Anything over 20 GB tends be annoying in my experience. But the upside is that you don’t store anything locally. I have just 8 GB free on my SDD as I write this, so that is a big bonus for me.
You can be very portable too. You only need the app and a decent internet connection to access your library. You could play these games on vacation, in a library, at a friend’s house. Unlike bulky and fat gaming laptops, my laptop weights just 1.2 kg so portability is definitely key. I usually have a small wireless mouse with me regardless.
I’ve tried some online shooters (primarily NS2, a small game which I own) and the experience was totally decent. I tried the more popular CS:GO and I had zero latency/lag issues. The only downside there was 60 fps, but that is limited by my screen. Nvidia has a way to stream at 120 fps but your screen needs to support it. Right now that is a downside given that the only laptops which have such support tend to be gaming laptops, and they are often very expensive in the first place (nullifying the need of the service). However, you can still use this on a basic home PC with just an integrated GPU and a cheap CPU with a simple 144 Hz monitor which you can get for under $200 these days. It’s also very possible that we could get cheaper laptops with 120-144 Hz monitors down the line.
As stated above, the hardcore gamers will never be satisfied with this, but for most casual gamers out there and even moderately serious ones, I see no reason why this wouldn’t be attractive. Pricing is null right now, but most discussion have ranged in the $10-20 range. If we assume the upper bound and include access to games in the price down the line (just like Netflix), then it would be very attractive for vast swaths of gamers. Especially those like me, who only game occasionally and who don’t have the time to be super serious. Another benefit is that hacking will be much harder to do, especially in online games, where it can be a real plague on PC in certain titles.
There are still a lot of kinks to iron out. Internet is hardly 50 mbit/s or above in most places (though 5G buildout will certainly help that as data capacity increases). In some countries, data caps can get in the way, though not in Poland and many European countries. Exactly how the distribution of games will be structured is to be established. All the business models are still early-stage. This is why it’s still a beta and why Google is just now dipping their toes. But this is coming. The experience was definitely good enough for most gamers and it is an economical solution, too. I can just buy the latest Metro game when its out on Steam and then stream it for free – as of now – on my crappy laptop at good quality settings on 60 fps instead of splurging on expensive hardware. Even at at temporary cost of $10 or $20 per month, it would be a good deal. You don’t have to lock yourself in for years. What’s not to like?
While I don’t particularly follow gaming news, I am still quite amazed to have missed this.
Anyhow, this was certainly very useful information.
I was planning to build a new machine once I get a good financial cushion again (I’ll be giving away the rig I built in 2013 to a relative soon). But bearing this in mind, what’s the point? Laptop + docking station + peripherals has been a solid decision for work for several years now, and with video game streaming, the vast majority of people will no longer need a gaming PC either.
(I have always been opposed to gaming laptops. They are far worse for video games than dedicated rigs, more expensive, you can’t upgrade them, and their bulk makes them subpar for work and mobility too).
Couple more comments:
1. What about mod support? I find some games (e.g. any Bethesda blockbuster) basically unplayable without being souped up by a ton of mods.
GeForce Now only seems to have support for mods on the Steam market, not self-installed mods.
I don’t imagine it’s possible in principle to even get a lot of leeway here, because:
2. You are talking about granting people access to masses of computing power, which some will exploit to power other applications, such as Bitcoin mining. This is no longer an issue, since all serious mining is now done on dedicated ASIC hardware, but still, I am sure there’s no shortage of other commercial ventures that bright, enterprising people will be able to find and exploit if given the option of loading extraneous programs.
3. So ironically, while game streaming would make video gaming much more accessible – hopefully even killing off some of the parasitic overgrowth that is mobile gaming – the massive influx of normies it would produce after it becomes popularized like Netflix and the deathblow it will deal to what remains of modding culture will further despoil video gaming beyond even its current woeful state.
At least that’s my take on this. Perhaps it’s not the best take. I did only learn of this recently. What do you think?