The future of game streaming is an open road. But we already have some markets we can use to draw a map: online video streaming services. If you're not careful, game streaming will hit the same speed bumps.
If Microsoft, Sony, NVIDIA, Google, and others start to ramp up their game streaming subscription services, we can already see what the biggest problem is for gamers will be: an increasingly fragmented selection. As platforms and consoles, they get the biggest and best games on their streaming service, and only their streaming service, gamers will find it impossible to play all the titles they want on just one of them. Not that this is anything new for the gaming industry, of course: it's the good old-fashioned platform exclusivity problem, now spread out among more and more platforms
Streaming Looms On The Horizon
To be clear about our terms : the "game streaming" in this article refers to playing video games in your home over a broadband connection, where the actual hardware that hosts the game (the PC or game console doing the number-crunching) is on a server somewhere. [1
We're not talking about streaming video of someone else playing a game that you watch on a service like YouTube or Twitch.
If you're not familiar with it: game streaming is very cool. It allows someone with minimal hardware, like, say, $ 200 SHIELD, to play games that are otherwise limited to a $ 1000 gaming PC. It does not need local media or massive 50GB downloads, and a relatively small monthly charge can give you access to hundreds of games, and let the Netflix setup. Regarding pure hardware, the only real downer is that you need a solid broadband connection: most of these services recommend 25 Mbps, but I've found that they tend to stutter on anything less than 50.
With those pieces in place, the experience is pretty amazing. You can play games at maximum graphical settings with almost perfect sync, including the fastest multiplayer shooters or fighters. And it's only going to be better and more available: Microsoft is a major developer of streaming-only version of the next Xbox console, the service which would undoubtedly be available on Windows, too. Even Nintendo is a dipping company: the company is currently streaming some older titles to SHIELD owners in China. Predictably, Amazon is looking for this action as well.
Here's where the "but" comes in.
The Library Problem
Streaming video services are fighting tooth and nail to get original, exclusive content: Netflix's has its high profile Marvel series, conventional shows like Orange is the New Black and even full theatrical movies like Bird Box. Hulu has exclusives like The Mindmaid's and continuations like The Mindy Project . Amazon Prime video is home to shows like The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and The Man in the High Castle.
And all of that's great! These services are becoming powerful production houses in their own right. But if you're trying to watch one or more shows from each service, as many do in this "golden age of television," you're going to have to subscribe to them all. Want the new Star Trek or Twilight Zone shows? Add CBS All Access on top. How about the Teen Titans or Young Justice superhero shows from DC? Add on DC Universe. Want new Marvel and Star Wars shows? There is a new Disney service coming later this year.
The promise of online TV was a-la-carte watching, with no one ever forced to pay for something they didn't want, like cable. But a decade later, we have the same cable problem in a new outfit. To get all the TV you because, you're going to have to pay for a lot of it that you don't. There are ways around this, like subscribing to one service at a time and binging all of its content, then moving on to the next. But that's hardly ideal, especially when things like Amazon Prime bundle programming with other Prime services. Most people who watch all their content online are going to need to pay at least two concurrent services, even if they don't need to access live TV for sports and news.
This is a problem with streaming game services as well. Now, not only gamers have to deal with platform-exclusive titles like The Last of Us or Spider-Man on PlayStation and Smash Bros and Zelda on the Switch, they'll have to juggle which of their games can be played all-online or only locally. Which ones are included in the service fee, and which ones need to be purchased just to play remotely? Flip a coin.
If you're frustrated with the decentralized nature of premium online TV, wait until you're the same for new $ 60 games.
Possible Solutions: Console Publisher Requirements And "Renting" PCs  There's a new console generation due in 2020 or so, at least for Microsoft and Sony. This is generally when battle lines are drawn, and new exclusives are solidified. But assuming both Sony and Microsoft are planning with an eye to focus on game streaming, it's an opportunity to avoid at least some of this market fracturing.
At the moment, each streaming service has to negotiate with developers and publishers to get games . These agreements are made, the service can host games on their backend and deliver them to customers, either as a freebie included with the subscription or on an optional all-digital purchase. As the owners of the Xbox and PlayStation brands, Microsoft and Sony can use a good old-fashioned corporate stronghold to make their streaming services stand out
You see, developers and publishers also have to pay for licenses to release console games — that's why games on the Xbox, PlayStation, and Switch are generally more expensive than they are on the wide-open PC market.
If you are interested in accessing the built-in audience on Xbox or PlayStation, Microsoft and Sony can participate in their streaming services and conditioning or publishing on their consoles. Want a game released on the Xbox Two or PlayStation 5? Good!
This strong-arm approach will not solve the decentralized problem for gamers, but assuming that both Microsoft and Sony implement it in some way for the next generation of consoles, it might at least mean that the transition to streaming games is no more fragmented than the current market. The big industry names will still fight over exclusives, but players have been wondering whether that hot new game can be played on their Xbox Stream (or whatever the name might be). Of course, things get more complicated on the PC
Streaming that relies on PC games is even more decentralized, and services from NVIDIA, Google, and Amazon are able to use that tactic. Take a look at the current GeForce NOW library for a prime example: it's a scattershot or AAA publishers. Big names like Valve, Ubisoft, Activision-Blizzard, Take Two, and Bethesda are represented, but titles from EA are missing (thanks, Origin) and smaller in games and older classics are notably thin on the ground. But consumers may be able to benefit from the PC platform in another way. Shadow
Shadow allows users to essentially "rent" a virtual high-power gaming PC, and access it from any low-power Windows, macOS, Android, or Linux device, with iOS support coming soon. This solution means you need to manage game installations and performance yourself, but it makes gaming content available more or less anywhere you can get a solid broadband connection, with 4K and 144Hz options available, too. Shadow even allow for local and remote backups.
The service is $ 35 a month and doesn't include an all-you-can-eat library, but the low cost of PC games in sales and bundles can help offset that. game that goes for $ 20 or $ 30 on consoles can also be found for five bucks during a steam sale. It's a promising and flexible approach, though it might turn off gamers hoping for streaming simplicity.
Streaming games solves some big problems, especially when it comes to cost. If you have an internet connection that can handle it, you will have some really exciting options in the near future. You will also have a fresh set of annoyances to deal with. The streaming game platform that solves or at least minimizes these annoyances will come out on top.