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How "Cloud Consoles" Will Direct The Future of Online Gaming

Les Thomas Discusses Coming Changes to a Global Industry

The Sony gaming fiasco strikes me as a combination of generic corporate hubris combined with the maddening Japanese bureaucratic tendency toward ostrich behavior and stonewalling when trouble appears.

Perhaps Sony's arrogant, feckless response to a massive invasion of privacy will only serve gamers to remain in more secure clouds, away from Sony. In this case, don't blame the cloud, blame the idiots who "manage" it.

So it does seem as if Cloud Computing will continue its current arc of progress when it comes to the gamers of the world. With this view, I recently had another chance to interview Les Thomas, Producer for the Cloud videogame "Sybil Danning's Ruger" (with an upcoming tie-in television movie shooting in Canada next year).

He noted right off the bat that "no one takes the Cloud for granted anymore. It has been integrated into nearly every facet of computing. And Cloud Computing has roundly been touted as the replacement of traditional videogame hardware."

Me: Surely you jest. There are millions of fans of all the particular platforms, whether Xbox, Playstation, and the Wii.

Les: While this is an overstatement in its denial of the psychology of the gamer and brand dedication, it is, by all analysis, an approaching reality. In fact, the most elite of videogame analysts, Michael Patcher, recently predicted that all gaming will be delivered via cloud by 2030."

Me: So Cloud will just take over some day...

Les: Not precisely. I recently spoke with Michel Guillemot at CES 2011. He said Cloud gaming is the future of gaming, but that "it could not stand alone. It must be ancillary to a larger system."

Me: I see...

Les: He was on hand to promote the exclusive deal between his Gameloft company's Cloud gaming service in concert with Panasonic's upcoming Viera Tablet and SmartTVs. Such devices are the means to an end in Cloud gaming for industry elites looking for the commercial payoff.

Me: How does that work?

Les: "Cloud consoles" like OnLive and Gaikai offer tremendous savings with on-par gaming experiences, often with the same games available on traditional consoles. These thin clients are my choice for the most viable business model because they play to the psychology of the gamer--console-, control-, and franchise-driven) and the need for experiences similar to their contemporaries.

(Within this context), the most effective business models will be based on scaling--or tailoring--to the location of the server. Continent-specific servers and technical support could be an effective way for start-ups to integrate into the current staff of the Cloud gaming field.

And because the market is emerging, with exponential growth for decades to come; new service companies should begin their wares now, so that servers are not only consolidated in usual tech sectors. Imagine a server in Africa providing the gaming needs of the continent, for example.

Me: Not all continents are equal in their capacity to deliver through the cloud, though.

Les: Sure. So in countries with less sophisticated means of connecting to the cloud, such as a DSL connection of 1.5 mbps for use with a standard-definition television, the processor and the Internet connection would be scaled according to their set up, so as to provide the highest quality game experience based on their hardware.

Thin clients or "Cloud consoles" that exist could be modified for cost, or the delivery could be drastically scaled back in cost, so that as better connections become available, new hardware per se would not be needed.

Me: What's the final picture going to look like then?

Les: Whether consolidating and virtualizing servers or full-on Cloud services will win out, in the short term transition as the market tips the scales is unclear.

Efficiency is met by either means. So a lot will depend on where the revenue is sought, whether it's local or outsourced. But consolidation, especially in the short term, offers the obvious benefit of improved hardware, software and bandwidth availability with less effort. This is important in the browser and stand-alone online gaming field.

Still, I believe Cloud will rule the day. "Cloud consoles" are highly technical, efficient machines, and this overshadows the benefits of consolidation, because that is essentially what they do best.

These models can co-exist in the next two, and perhaps last two, lifecycles of traditional consoles. They will promote play for the hardened PC player and videogame enthusiast from poorer nations and those who look gleefully to the cloud, realizing that if you have the right "Cloud console," you're doing what the other guys are. You're playing current-generation games at a drastically reduced price.


More Stories By Roger Strukhoff

Roger Strukhoff (@IoT2040) is Executive Director of the Tau Institute for Global ICT Research, with offices in Illinois and Manila. He is Conference Chair of @CloudExpo & @ThingsExpo, and Editor of SYS-CON Media's CloudComputing BigData & IoT Journals. He holds a BA from Knox College & conducted MBA studies at CSU-East Bay.