The Impact Of Video Game Streaming Services

Technology and content align to create the perfect environment for video game streaming services to innovate.

Streaming services are coming to video games. In many ways they are already here, but now some of the biggest players in the game are unveiling their new plans and implementing strategic shifts that could have a lasting impact on how we play the games we love. New players with deep pockets are coming into the gaming space and could be about to shake up an industry that’s been spearheaded by Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft for the last 20 years.

Google recently announced their keynote at the upcoming GDC in San Francisco from March 18th – 22nd 2019. They are rumoured to be discussed or perhaps unveiling the next steps for Project Stream. Microsoft also have their eyes on GDC by semi-announcing (and then swiftly deleting) plans to unveiling Xbox Live to Nintendo Switch and mobile devices.

A similar seismic shift is about to happen in the gaming space. Where as the infrastructure has been there for a few years now in the video and audio space, the gaming space is different as

  • Lag issues wouldn’t be acceptable by customers in the current market
  • Service providers have to take into account input from the player, rather than just beaming content to users

However, with the emergence of fast internet speeds now becoming widely adopted as networks upgrade their lines either through existing cables or through new fibre systems, the ground work is being laid for streaming to revolutionise gaming.

Current Market

Streaming services aren’t new in the video games space and they are part of our daily lives outside of gaming. Services such as Netflix, BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All 4 and Now TV are widely used in the UK.

Currently out there we have Playstation Now, Nintendo Switch Online and Xbox Game Pass. Let’s take a look at each of these services in a little more detail.

Playstation Now

Sony offer over 250 PS4 titles plus 350 other titles to stream or download. Playstation Now is available on PS4 or PC and you need a DualShock Controller and a PSN account if you want to play on either. There’s a number of Playstation Exclusive titles, 250 PS4 games and 350 other games. Sony recommends an internet connection of 5Mbps or above and a wired connection for the best experience.

Cost £12.99 per month
GamesExclusive titles such as God of War, Bloodborne, The Unchartered Series, Last of Us plus many other PS4, PS3 and PS2 games
Other features Download games, cloud saves
PlatformsPlaystation, PC
Requirements5Mbps internet, Dualshock controller, PSN account

GeForce Now

Nvidia’s GeForce Now isn’t like the previous entries in the list who mainly provide content. GeForce now is about providing you the capability to play AAA PC games on any device running Bootcamp.

Rather than pay a subscription service for a library of games, you buy the games as per normal through Steam, Battle.net or Epic Game stores.

Cost Free during beta test
GamesAssassins Creed Origins, Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds, Civilisation 5, Injustice 2, Shadow of War
PlatformsPC, Mac
Requirements Minimum 25 Mbps, 50 Mbps internet connection recommended, MacOS 10.10 or higher or Windows 7 64-bit or later

Xbox Game Pass

Xbox Game Pass isn’t a streaming service, more like a downloadable library of content.

Cost £7.99 per month
GamesMore than 200 games including Halo 5: Guardians, Crackdown 3, Forza Horizon 4, Gears of War 4, Rise of the Tomb Raider, Sea of Theives and more.
Other features Play selected games through Windows 10 Play Anywhere
PlatformsXbox, PC

Although not a streaming service it’s worth a mention here as it could potentially be rolled into whatever Microsoft’s Project XCloud turns into.

Nintendo

Outside of Nintendo Switch Online Nintendo are experimenting with streaming games in Japan. In 2018 Assassins Creed Odyssey and Resident Evil 7 were tested. Nintendo are yet to bring these services to the West, however these are interesting moves from Nintendo.

Historically Nintendo have been behind the curve with regards to online services and features for their games, so starting on a strong platform and capitalising on the success of their Nintendo Switch could be a good move.

New Players

As well as the ‘traditional’ big 3 we have a number of new players to the game and they come with significant technology and financial advantages.

Project Stream – Google

The software giant have been testing their ‘Project Stream’ in 2018 with Assassin’s Creed Odyssey being playable through the Chrome browser. In 2018 Google hired former Xbox & Playstation executive Phil Harrison and have been picking up game developers ever since. It’s not yet known if the streaming service will have some kind of physical element (like a console) or just be available through the browser.

Project Stream required 25Mbps minimum and apparently the results are impressive. Check out a sample below uploaded to Google’s YouTube channel.

One benefit of Google’s Project Stream is how easy it is to get up and running. Simply go to the website in Chrome, sign in and start playing.

Google also have a project codenamed Yeti, which is rumoured to be the hardware component of Project Stream. Perhaps this is something similar to a chrome cast device enabling any device with a USB port to become a console. We should find out more from Google during their scheduled GDC keynote this year.

Microsoft Project XCloud

Phil Spencer talked about Project XCloud at E3 2018. Project XCloud is the ability to play Xbox games on any devices, anywhere where you have a good enough internet connection.

Kareem Choudhry discussed more in a post on Microsoft’s blog in 2018.

The future of gaming is a world where you are empowered to play the games you want, with the people you want, whenever you want, wherever you are, and on any device of your choosing. 

Kareem Choudhry – Corporate Vice President, Gaming Cloud, Microsoft

Microsoft believe they have the technology and the content to be one of the biggest players in the video game streaming service market. They have been developing their Azure Cloud network to help keep the latency low. Microsoft have been openly trading in a library of content with it’s users through the Xbox Game Pass.

Microsoft are testing their service in 2019 and I’m sure we’re going to get more details at this years E3.

Amazon

Amazon already own Twitch, the biggest broadcaster live video game content creation. There are rumours of Amazon going into the video game market by capitalising their install base on Fire TV, Echo and handheld device range.

Amazon may yet have an ace up their sleeve with Amazon Web Services – the cloud based infrastructure. Reports have stated any service from Amazon wouldn’t be available until at least 2020. So we still may have to wait a while to see what Amazon do in this space.

Apple

Apple are rumoured to be entering the video game streaming service business according to cheddar. Discussions with developers started in the latter half of 2018. The service would be a subscription services for unlimited access to games per month.

Exact details of price and content have not been revealed. However Apple have been recently investing in services rather than hardware due to slowing sales in 2018. These are merely rumours at the moment. However Apple’s investment in music services could pave the way for a similar games service in the not-too-distant future.

Streaming services impact on broadcasting

TV and movies have seen the impact of streaming services already. Netflix, Amazon, iPlayer, YouTube, Facebook and Hulu taking on the the traditional broadcasters.

In 2019 new players will enter the video streaming market with Disney and AT&T looking to launch their services. Disney have a wealth of content including traditional Disney/Pixar, Marvel Cinematic Universe, Starwars, National Geographic and ESPN. In the UK the BBC and ITV have announced plans to join forces and release their BritBox service.

Younger audiences have moved away from traditional broadcasting as content is now available to them anywhere and on multiple devices. This has led to traditional scheduled broadcasting companies having to change or risk being left behind.

Device consumption for 16-24 year olds in UK, The Changing TV Landscape, Ofcom

Here are some impact highlights from streaming services on traditional broadcasters:

  • Only 18% of TV shows in the US increased their ad rates in autumn 2018
  • A growing number of TV shows in the US now have a median viewer age of 60, falling outside the 18 – 49 range that advertisers target
  • 24% of families no longer subscribe to traditional cable TV in US compared to 16% in 2017
  • In July 2018 in the UK there were more subscriptions to Netflix, Now TV and Amazon rather than traditional cable/satellite services like Sky and Virgin media
  • Traditional broadcasters face losing up to £1bn per year if Amazon, YouTube and Facebook become the dominant players in the TV game

In summary traditional broadcasting companies are losing ad revenue and younger audiences as content is available on more devices on demand. TV Streaming services have come into the market and now are starting to dominate the companies that once ran the show.

Streaming services potential impact on video games

Streaming services impact on video games is no doubt going to be a big deal. The following is speculation as we don’t know exactly how it’s going to play out, but some comparisons could be made to the TV, movie and music industries.

Traditional companies less relevant?

The video games industry has been run by 3 main players for approximately 20 years in Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo. We’ve seen in the TV and music industries the traditional companies becoming less relevant. Perhaps the streaming services weren’t taken too seriously by the TV execs. Now we’re seeing the streaming services flexing their financial muscles with Netflix spending up to $15 billion on content in 2019. That’s five times the budget of the entire BBC.

Could we see a major player in the video game space lose out? Could one of Sony, Microsoft or Nintendo be usurped by one of the new players?

Technology & audiences

With Google, Amazon and Apple reportedly looking to enter the market they bring their wealth of technological experience and engineering teams with them. Streaming services are all about delivering massive amounts of data to the audience and responding to instant feedback. Could the technology advantage pay dividends here?

Also each of the new players has amazing reach across the globe with hardware and software in many homes already. If streaming games was made possible on all Android, Amazon and iPhone/iPads instantly then those audiences could move away from traditional consoles if the barriers and friction were removed.

Hardware

Since the 80’s we’ve been buying consoles to put under our TVs at home or in our bags as we play games on the move. Could the impact of video games streaming services mean the end of consoles?

Google released Chromecast to the world allowing us to streaming video content to our TVs. Perhaps they will announce something similar allowing us to stream games and connect a controller to any TV?

Everyone has a phone, some people have two. Could these devices be used as mobile gaming ‘consoles’ as companies look to take advantage of the wealth of devices out there right now? Could the removal of the console be a good thing? Perhaps less physical clutter and less cables under the desk.

It would be a sad day when consoles are no longer produced as opening one up is always the highlight of my year. This event has marked so many birthdays, holidays and days off work in my lifetime.

Price

In the TV space the price of a monthly subscription to a streaming services is approximately the same as going out to the movies (or less). This perceived low price for wealth of content draws in customers and gets them hooked onto the habit – providing cheap, on demand content on every device you own.

Could this be the end of £60 video games? Currently we have streaming services prices between £7.99 – £12.99. I would imagine the price point would be an interesting battle ground for companies as there’s a certain expectation set with TV streaming services.

Instant access

We could be looking at a future where we can play the latest games on any device we own where the internet is fast enough. I remember hosting Pro Evo sessions at my house before where friends would come over to play, now we could be on the move, at home or at work and play the latest AAA titles with our friends. That’s no small feat of engineering and looking at how far we’ve come in the past few years blows my mind.

There’s lots to look forward to with the world of streaming services and 2019 looks to be the year where major players come into the market to shake things up.

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