Cloud Gaming: 5G to Bring About a Paradigm Shift

Gaming enthusiasts have a reason to rejoice, as the superfast speeds, massive bandwidth and low latency of 5G Ultra Wideband are going to make gaming more collaborative, competitive, affordable and accessible. Interestingly, Cloud Gaming, driven by the 5G network, will take away the need for discs and consoles, high-configuration graphics cards, or even high-end smartphones. The fifth generation cellular technology will make cloud gaming as easy as streaming OTT content on a smartphone.

The 5G telecom network is knocking on India’s doors. The high-speed internet will be a delight for mobile gamers. It will significantly improve gaming by reducing the latency rate and providing multiplayer experience, besides increasing capacity and enabling cloud-based gaming. There are, at present, 365 million mobile gamers and their numbers are expected to grow rapidly as the 5G network is rolled out, providing superior technology standards for both broadband and cellular networks.

5G offers a whole new experience for the sports fan as it provides support for multiple streams. It will unlock the potential of AR and VR in India. It brings with it low latency and high concurrency. Low latency ensures that the delay between your screen and the actual game is next to nothing. High concurrency means more people can get the same superlative experience at a particular location.

Case study

In an industry first, telecom major Airtel recently hosted India’s first-ever Cloud Gaming demo on a live Airtel 5G test network, and the results were outstanding. Some lucky gamers were amongst a few to experience it firsthand. Airtel, which happens to be the second largest telecom operator in India, brought in pro gamers Mortal (Naman Mathur) and Mamba (Salman Ahmad) to test cloud gaming on its 5G test network at Manesar in Haryana. They used mid-segment smartphones connected to a 3500 MHz high capacity spectrum band, recording speeds of over 1 Gbps and a latency of 10 milliseconds.

Pro gamers Mortal (Naman Mathur) and Mamba (Salman Ahmad) used mid-segment smartphones connected to a 3500 MHz high capacity spectrum band, recording speeds of over 1 Gbps and a latency of 10 milliseconds

Describing their experience, Mortal and Mamba said, “We were totally blown away. This was high end PC and console-quality gaming experience on a smartphone. We can say with confidence that 5G will truly unlock the online gaming scene in India and massify by creating opportunities to build and publish games out of India and bringing a lot of talented gamers from small towns to the mainstream.”

They maintained that while other countries are far ahead in terms of recognising gaming as a sport, Indian gamers will be well on their way to pursuing a career in this space, especially with the introduction of better technologies and infrastructure.

Gaming at home has evolved over the years and has become extremely popular in India, especially during the pandemic, thanks to a plethora of internet gaming options and stronger broadband connections. The digital wave that has gripped the country over the last year and a half has expanded the adoption of gaming to all age groups. However, the one challenge gamers face is hardware requirements to enjoy that ‘seamless’ experience. Ideally speaking, gamers would need a high-end PC with good processing power, graphics card, etc., to play online games without any lags.

Cloud gaming or gaming on-demand eliminates the need for such requirements. It lets you stream a game on any device with a display that you own – it could be a TV, smartphone, or computer screen. The games are installed on the remote server of a gaming technology platform and can then be streamed to a device. This takes away the need for discs and consoles, high-configuration graphics cards, or even high-end smartphones. It will make cloud gaming as easy as streaming OTT content on a smartphone.

Randeep Sekhon, CTO, Bharti Airtel, said, “Cloud gaming will be one of the biggest use cases of 5G, thanks to the combination of high speed and low latency. After delivering India’s first 5G demo over a test network, we are thrilled to conduct this exciting 5G gaming session. Imagine enjoying real time gaming on the go with someone sitting in another part of the world. This is just the beginning of an exciting digital future that Airtel will enable for its customers as we prepare to roll out 5G in India.”

“Cloud gaming will be one of the biggest use cases of 5G, thanks to the combination of high speed and low latency. After delivering India’s first 5G demo over a test network, we are thrilled to conduct this exciting 5G gaming session”

–        Randeep Sekhon, CTO, Bharti Airtel

Game changer

Tarun Gupta, Founder, Ultimate Battle, India’s first-ever one-stop online esports platform, stated, “Internet penetration and accessibility are the backbones of online gaming. With the advent of 5G technology, users will get better connectivity speed which will, in turn, allow them to access and play data-intensive games.”

“Airtel 5G has successfully demonstrated that it can reduce reaction time from 20 milliseconds to 5 milliseconds; which is exceptional. Lag in latency may not impact the casual gaming experience so much, but it definitely would have an impact on the efficiency and experience of online multiplayer games such as battle royale and racing games,” said Gupta.

“It should also be noted that 5G technology will also enable game developers to build games that are high in quality and experience; and not bother about internet speed,” he added.

Also Read: Gaming: A Sleeping Giant Exploded in 2021

“Lag in latency may not impact the casual gaming experience so much, but it definitely would have an impact on the efficiency and experience of online multiplayer games such as battle royale and racing games”

–        Tarun Gupta, Founder, Ultimate Battle

The onset of 5G is set to be a complete game-changer in every way. With growing smartphones penetration and a vast youth population, 5G-backed cloud gaming could spread to remote areas and offer gamers the right ecosystem to compete and excel in the international arena. India’s current base of online gamers, which stands at around 400+ million, is expected to grow to over 500 million by next year. And this means a bigger boom for the gaming industry, as per the reports.

Shivam Rao, the Co-founder and COO at Trinity Gaming which is India’s top gaming talent management company, said “Accessibility to best technology is crucial in the current era of esports and gaming. Considered as one of the most influential and exciting developments, 5G will offer a faster speed and improved latency, which will give the gamers a more competitive edge.”

“For players it would mean winning or losing a match, and to their audience, it would be the advanced experience. With this, gaming would surely take precedence with a higher bandwidth supporting the esports community to thrive,” Rao added.

“Accessibility to best technology is crucial in the current era of esports and gaming. Considered as one of the most influential and exciting developments, 5G will offer a faster speed and improved latency, which will give the gamers a more competitive edge”

–        Shivam Rao, Co-founder and COO, Trinity Gaming

Similarly, Lokesh Suji, Director, Esports Federation of India and Vice President of the Asian Esports Federation (AESF), on the 5G effect on the Indian gaming industry, said, “Among many driving factors that have been accelerating esports growth is access to high-speed internet. The access to high-speed internet connection over 3G/4G spectrum and broadband has impacted the overall gaming experience. In the past, a normal internet connection was not adequate and gamers witnessed lags during gameplay. But now fast-paced internet connections are ensuring seamless gameplay.”

“Easy access to blazing-fast internet helps to develop a larger gaming community of highly targeted esports audience. India has got its smartphone population covered with a high speed 4G network and the launching of 5G is underway which will further strengthen the building blocks of online esports,” Suji noted.

“India has got its smartphone population covered with a high speed 4G network and the launching of 5G is underway which will further strengthen the building blocks of online esports”

–        Lokesh Suji, Director, Esports Federation of India

A win-win situation

According to Himanshu Jain, Senior Market Analyst – Client Devices at IDC India; India, in recent times, has experienced a huge growth in the gaming sector especially in the mobile gaming with the likes of BGMI, Call of Duty, Rummy, etc. This is currently supported by 4G network which enables players with fast network to play data intensive games on the go. “With 5G network available in India by 2022, we expect this trend to graduate, as more high graphics and data intensive games launch, necessitating even faster network speed. We are yet to fully experience cloud gaming in India, but certainly from the prospects of it and fast adapting younger generation, we expect with the launch of 5G network, cloud gaming will steadily witness growth,” said Jain.

“Also, despite the fact that there is no 5G network yet in India, and it’s a “devices go first market” with the first 5G phone available back in February 2020, there are numerous 5G smartphones offered in the market currently, as affordable as INR 15,000. This further ascertains the fact that for cloud gaming to pick up, consumers will be able to access the high graphics games without spending much on either the hardware or the game itself. Currently, the cloud gaming is based on subscription model in markets like US where it costs as low as $5/month and we expect this model to be replicated in India with more partnerships coming into play (brands/telco/gaming vendors),” he enumerated.

“Despite the fact that there is no 5G network yet in India, and it’s a “devices go first market” with the first 5G phone available back in February 2020, there are numerous 5G smartphones offered in the market currently, as affordable as INR 15,000”

–        Himanshu Jain, Senior Market Analyst – Client Devices, IDC India

The India smartphone market is on its growth trajectory with upgraders in low, low-mid price segments, shift from 4G to 5G devices in the upcoming years, however we are still far behind from 5G becoming mainstream. As masses get educated for clear use cases, is when IDC estimates cloud gaming to eventually pick up at faster pace.

Set to boom

The raw speed of 5G isn’t the only benefit it will offer gamers. Higher bandwidth and lower response times means cloud computing becomes more viable. This will allow developers to handle more arduous processing and rendering duties remotely, and stream a higher quality end result to players. This would lessen concerns over whether a game runs on older or lower spec phones – as long as the end user has a 5G data plan, they could enjoy higher quality games.

The key to this is mobile edge computing – effectively, localised cloud servers rather than larger, centralised ones. This basically means the devices in your pocket will communicate with more, smaller data hubs that are physically closer to them – on the “edge’ of the network. Rather than games having to send data to a distant central server, process it, and ping back a response, all of which slows down overall communication speeds, they will be able to access more power, closer to their users.

Also Read: “We see mobile games leading the esports scene in the coming years”

Popular Cloud Gaming Platforms

Google Stadia

Stadia is a cloud gaming service developed and operated by Google. It’s advertised to be capable of streaming video games to players up to 4K resolution at 60fps with support for high-dynamic-range (HDR) via the company’s numerous data centers. It’s accessible through Chromecast Ultra devices, the Google Chrome web browser on personal computers as well as other Chromium-based browsers, the Stadia mobile app on supported Android smartphones, and Chrome OS tablets. There is also an experimental mode with support for all Android devices capable of installing the Stadia mobile app. In December 2020, Google released an iOS browser-based progressive web application for Stadia, enabling gameplay in the Safari browser.

Amazon Luna

Announced in September 2020, Amazon Luna is a cloud gaming platform developed and operated by Amazon. It’s a streaming service for Fire TV, smartphones, tablets, and computers. It competes with the likes of Microsoft xCloud and Google Stadia. Apart from the 4K support at 60fps, Luna is also said to integrate Twitch– a popular video streaming site that allows gamers to broadcast and game simultaneously. Amazon Luna runs on Windows servers and NVIDIA GPUs in Amazon’s AWS compute cloud, allowing developers to port existing games to Luna easily.

Xbox

Xbox is a video gaming brand created and owned by Microsoft. The brand consists of five video game consoles, as well as applications (games), streaming services, an online service by the name of Xbox network, and the development arm by the name of Xbox Game Studios. The brand was first introduced in the United States in November 2001, with the launch of the original Xbox console. The original device was the first video game console offered by an American company after the Atari Jaguar stopped sales in 1996.

GeForce Now

GeForce Now is the brand used by Nvidia for its cloud gaming service. The Nvidia Shield version of GeForce Now, formerly known as Nvidia Grid, launched in beta in 2013, with Nvidia officially unveiling its name in September 2015. The subscription service provided users with unlimited access to a library of games hosted on Nvidia servers for the life of the subscription, being delivered to subscribers through streaming video. Certain titles were also available via a “Buy & Play” model. This version was discontinued in 2019, and transitioned to a new version of the service that enabled Shield users to play their own games. An Android client was also introduced in 2019. The service exited beta and launched to the general public in February 2020. It’s available on Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, Shield TV and Chromebook devices.

Also Read: Truke BTG 1 and BTG 2 Review: More pluses than minuses

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