Every year, new tech comes to light and ushers in a new information that prompts people to start with mobile gaming. And yet, the biggest innovation of the year that could forever change Mobile Gaming is…an innovation for regular gaming: game streaming services.
Streaming is simple, instead of playing locally, your game will be running on a machine some distance away with footage streamed to you in real-time (with control inputs relayed back and forth). The device you stream it to doesn’t need to be powerful. It doesn’t need much more than a display and hence, it’s perfect for mobile streaming.
First up, the Google Stadia has been in the scene for a while now and has let people stream games on Android since its launch back in July 2020 and now more recently, on iOS as well with some modifications. Amazon Luna was announced and quietly launched this year in a closed beta, while Nvidia GeForce Now had a surprise launch late in the year.
It seems like in 2020 all the major tech companies laid down groundwork for what we can expect to be a significant 2021 when it comes to mobile gaming. However, there are some issues which we need to talk about first. These issues are more down to business than they are to tech.
Streaming games on mobile isn’t just feasible but it’s even got its advantages. But there are a few obstacles that make the experience unconvincing or even impossible.
- The obvious obstacle is connectivity. Stadia recommends a reliable connection of 10Mbps down for basic playability and resolution, while you’ll need 35Mbps to play in 4K HDR. This might be manageable for people in big cities but certainly not in rural and less privileged areas. 5G network coverage could be a potential solution to this problem with sub-6 speeds reaching 200Mbps to 300Mbps down on carriers (up to over 1Gbps with mmWave), but 5G network coverage is far from widespread.
- Then comes in the question about data. Carrier services have not adapted their pricing models to a new era of streaming massive volumes of data, aside from implementing caps in their unlimited plans after users pass a download threshold, which are pretty low considering casual streamers are using 3-4GB a month, while Netflix and HD video addicts are consuming 6-8GB. We only expect this to grow as folks stream games.
- Finally, the mobile gaming experience. Watching streams of mobile games on smartphones or even playing the games might not be the best experience. Not all games are even remotely as fun when shrunk down to a mobile phone screen size. In that sense, games designed explicitly for mobile will likely be more enjoyable to play over those that run unaltered on phones, at least until streaming services encourage developers to tweak their games for a better mobile experience. Even though there are some roadblocks, we expect that mobile gaming is going to take another step forward with better gaming experiences and obviously through better streaming services, it can be a game-changing year for mobile gaming!