After next generation console reveals from Microsoft and Sony, it become clear that big software companies are trying to move everything into “clouds”, even video games, which, traditionally, have not been well suited for this software-as-service model.
For these companies, cloud dependent software is appealing for many reasons. It is no secret that best selling games are multiplayer based, and, therefore, already “in the cloud”, at least to some degree. By expanding XBox Live and Playstation Network, Microsoft and Sony are trying to make every game dependent on online services.
XBox 360 and PS3 can be considered as first stage of this “cloudification”. With next generation, Microsoft and Sony have gone one step further by making these online services mandatory for any multiplayer activities (Sony) or console operation in general (Microsoft).
The real reason for this change was not the fancy social features or convenience of online storage or cross device integration, all of which are great, by the way, and are possible only thanks to the online services. I believe the real reason behind this “cloud rush” was promise of constant revenue stream from XBox Live and PSN subscribers, as well as extra discouragement for software pirates – hardly anyone will want to play cracked games which will lack stats accounting and social integration of originals.
I, just as well as any reasonable person, have no issue with cloud based gaming as means of combating software piracy. What I am not so happy about is the subscription model.
When I buy a piece of hardware, I really want to buy it and own it forever, without any subsequent payments. If a hardware product like game console is unusable without software product which is subscription based only, I don’t feel like I am ever owning that hardware product. I am, effectively, leasing it from Microsoft or Sony, for a monthly fee.
I don’t like bills, especialy for the ability to use a physical device which I had to buy for 500 US dollars in first place. If Sony and Microsoft want to turn gaming into commodity with a monthly bill, why don’t they go all the way and sell XBox One and PS4 based on a contract for $99 or with no upfront payment at all?
I will be happy to pay monthly for my gaming only when the actual renering, and not just savegames and stats, is done in Microsoft or Sony datacenters. That will be true cloud based gaming and there will be no expensive hardware on consumer end, apart from a controller and favorite big screen TV of choice.
Surey, I don’t have to buy a transformer or substation when I install electricity in my house – service provider pays for and owns all the infrastructure involved in providing the commodity service, and I, as a customer, only pay for consumption.
If one can believe Microsoft’s and Sony’s launch time press releases, both online services will cost as low as 5$ per month. For a console lifetime of 5 years, that would add extra 300$ to purchase price. It doeasn’t seem like a big deal, espacially for someone in the rich end of the world like USA or western Europe. However, when you factor in the very substantial cost of games, expansion packs, in game payments or future increase in subscription cost, this all adds up to a substantial amount of money, enough to fund a new gaming PC or a new graphics card for your exisitng system.
If you are technically minded and willing to take that gaming PC route and sacrifise the convenience of pre-build pre-configured and always optimised console gaming, you will end up with a system that’s more powerful than XBox One or PS4, even if you buy the components today. With each passing year, this PC advantage will extend further, until the next cycle of next generation console launch.
I am sure, there will be plenty to complain about that next round of consoles several years from now. What I really want is that Xbox One and Playstation 4 successors to be entirely cloud based and render graphics inside datacenter. That will truly start a new paradigm in gaming and even I will be willing to pay a monthly fee for a service like that.