Your next console may not be a console, but a TV
You arrive, turn on the TV, take the remote, and play. Without turning anything else on, watch out. That already happens today in a limited way, but everything seems to point to video game streaming will be the main way to play in the future .
At least that is the proposal of services like Stadia, xCloud or Luna. Its takeoff is being slower than we expected, but if they fulfill their promise, soon the PC and consoles will be redundant, because you will only need a Chromecast-type HDMI dongle to play or not even that: with TV you will have everything.
Spotify and Netflix show us the future
It seems logical to think that the future is not especially bright for gaming consoles and PCs. They will continue to have a place for a few more years, without a doubt, but his proposal seems to have it difficult against services such as Stadia, xCloud or Luna.
The reasons are obvious, especially when we remember how we have done in recent years with markets and formats that also seemed eternal like music or movies and series.
Today not many people consider buying a music CD or vinyl —Although this last format is resurfacing with force– and the same happens with films and series in physical formats, which are almost more oriented to collecting than to the reproduction of the content as such.
Comfort and convenience of the world’s Spotify and Netflix it is too powerful. These platforms are phenomenal rivals for that almost “artisan” method of playing music on a CD player or turntable or watching a movie and DVD a Blu-ray player (of which less and less remain and they have ended up having part of their salvation on consoles, funny).
It is true that next-generation consoles and PCs achieve something important for many: ensure that we will have the best possible visual quality experience. If we have a powerful PC, an Xbox Series X or a PS5 we can rest assured, because it will be difficult for the games to be seen better on a streaming service in the short term.
However, the reality that has conquered us in other areas appears again: the quality of the music on Spotfy and the video on Netflix (and their respective alternatives) is probably not ideal for audiophiles and moviegoers, but the truth is that are perfectly valid for the vast majority of users.
The 4K content is becoming more frequent in the realm of video streaming platforms, and there are music streaming services like Tidal The Qobuz that promise audio quality above average in terms of compression of those contents, for example.
Video game streaming is still (a bit) in its infancy
Yves Guillemot, co-founder of Ubisoft, it was clear to me: this new generation of consoles will be the last: later we will play as we listen to music, by streaming.
That future seems feasible, but video game streaming services continue to crawl. Stadia, that carries more than a year with us, has had to shift focus while xCloud is currently available only on Android devices.
Both platforms are struggling to reach Apple phones and tablets, and although they are working on it the Cupertino firm has not made it easy at all.
It is evident that this and other proposals are preparing to reach all our devices. It seems that mobiles and tablets are clear initial targets of that plan of attack, but so are PCs and laptops.
In fact, that Luna and other services — Electronic Arts is simmering with Project Atlas– can be enjoyed through the browser is of course the ideal option to turn these platforms into transversal: it won’t matter where you play, because if you have access to a browser behave in a decent way (not worth the Raspberry Pi 400, we fear) it is likely that you can enjoy those experiences without too much trouble.
From Netflix button controllers to Stadia button controllers
In fact, the real promise is no longer in playing on mobile phones, tablets or computers, but to do it directly on TV. Achieving it without there being anything else connected, or almost nothing, seems to be within reach.
Devices prove it like the Chromecast Ultra that gives access to Stadia: it is not a particularly powerful device, and even so it is the basis of an experience that is expected soon to be available in new Chromecast con Google TV.
That a simple HDMI dongle comes to offer that capability is promising –it’s not hard to imagine Amazon releasing a Fire TV Stick specially geared towards using Luna– but it is even more so that the televisions of the future do so.
It does not seem difficult at all for them to achieve it: the experience is already remarkable in some models when it comes to moving through the interface of Smart TVs and their applications, and all this will only improve with the advancement of the processors that integrate and also from platforms like Android TV / Google TV, Tizen or webOS, among other.
In fact it seems inevitable that sooner or later Samsung, LG or Xiaomi on duty sell us Smart TVs that promote precisely that ability to offer access to Stadia or xCloud.
Thus, LG promised that Stadia would arrive natively to their Smart TVs by the end of 2021, and Microsoft has already announced that this service will come to Smart TV in the form of an app. Presumably, many other platforms do the same, and the landing of these applications on Android TV / Google TV, Tizen or webOS seems absolutely inevitable.
That could be one of the star components of the next generation of Smart TV that arrives in 2021 or 2022: “Look”, the manufacturer will tell us, “not only do you have quick and direct access to Netflix, HBO, Spotify or YouTube, but also Stadia and xCloud“.
That would totally shift the business model, focused years ago on hardware, to a services model. It has happened in many other areas, and of course companies like Microsoft, Amazon or Google have long been defending that model tooth and nail.
The reasoning is obvious: Why sell “boxes” (like those in Office 2019) when can you sell subscriptions (like those in Office 365)? While one model involves a single payment, the other involves a recurring payment, something that is much more attractive for companies to maintain and grow.
With video game streaming platforms, the approach would be precisely that: one in which Sony or Microsoft would stop importing as software manufacturers and would be more providers of those platforms, of those “Netflix of videogames” that have already channeled. Microsoft has certainly done it with Game Pass and xCloud, and the future seems to be going down that road with no apparent turning back.
In that future of platforms, “the box” will no longer matter. It is true that consoles and PCs will probably continue to matter in certain scenarios, but we insist: for the vast majority of people Stadia, xCloud, Luna or GeForce Now will be “good enough”.
Over time, in fact, they will be more than that: the capabilities of our broadband lines (fiber, 5G, Starlink) also seem to guarantee that even on sensitive issues like latency we will be facing totally satisfactory experiences for most users.
Challenges, but also many new opportunities
There is of course challenges for that future era of video game streaming, Perhaps the most delicate is latency, which for example was already criticized by our colleagues at Xataka eSports when they tested Stadia. Although there are efforts to reduce it through hardware or by software, It is a factor that a priori seems impossible that can be compared to the latencies of the game on consoles or PCs.
There are also doubts about the how the crossplay will be implemented: If we play FIFA on Stadia, can we compete with players who play on PC or xCloud, for example?
Here the outlook seems optimistic, at least if we pay attention to the Google statements o go Microsoft moves in the last times. Sony seems more reluctant, but it seems that they also seem to give in to the desire of gamers to be able to compete between different platforms.
Waiting for all that to be solved, video game streaming will open the doors to companies that previously had not had easy access to this market.
These days there was talk of the Huawei rumor launching a console —Probably along the lines of Nvidia Shield-, and this could also lead to startups in this segment present their proposals. They tried the mythical Ouya that finished in the hands of Razer (another candidate to enter this segment) and also projects such as Mad Box they were smoother than anything else.
And of course, this also opens the way for giants that had been somewhat removed from the more traditional segment in video games. Apple is not doing badly with Apple Arcade and its App Store with its video game section, of course.
However, that streaming video games also opens the doors for the firm raise your own platform or at least present your particular HDMI dongle with that capability. With the power offered by the efficient cores of the new M1 chips, of course, imagining something like that is totally logical.
Thus, we are certainly at the gates of a more than probable revolution in the world of videogames. One in which consoles and PCs for gamers will not disappear, of course, but they will probably end up becoming a giant market niche in which only TV will be needed (or at most, a new batch HDMI dongle) to play at 4K and 60 FPS without worrying about anything.
Image | Pixabay