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Cloud Computing Video Gaming

OnLive is pushing cloud computing video gaming. Rather than selling customers fancy computers that download and run video game computer programs, customers buy thin-client consoles that are basically dumb terminals. All the intenstive game logic calculation and 3D rendering is done on the server and the user’s home device simply displays a video feed and relays controller input to the server.

This is cloud computing video gaming. The obvious roadblock to this has always been bandwidth and latency. Transmitting a fully rendered video feed at thirty frames per second has traditionally been unrealistic, however recently movie streaming services have shown this is somewhat practical. The other issue is latency. Non-interactive movies can buffer several seconds of video ahead of time and automatically smooth out bumps and skips in network throughput. With an interactive game, you can’t really buffer ahead of time and any bumps and skips in network throughput result in game lag between user input and game response.

The benefits of cloud computing are huge. The consumer doesn’t need to buy or maintain fancy processing hardware. All of that is maintained on centralized server farms. Hardware can be easily upgraded on the server side without requiring a new generation of consoles. Routine game software updates can all be done server side where they are much more transparent to the end user.

I’m almost suprised we haven’t heard of this sooner. We’ve seen cloud computing in almost every other aspect of computer software application. However, most other aspect doesn’t rely on real time high throughput video feeds.

This is going to be a major paradigm shift. It may take a bit for the technology to really mature, but this is almost an inevitable direction for games to develop in.