When mainstream games begin to embrace the cloud, do we still need to grab graphics cards?

When I was writing a brief history of FPS some time ago, I checked many materials and reviewed various gaming platforms and devices. It reminded me of the same thought in the hearts of gamers back then: I can play anywhere and anytime in the near future. To the game you want to play, there is no limit to equipment or venue.

Of course, this is not only the player's dream, but also the ultimate goal that the game manufacturer hopes to achieve as soon as possible. Just like the game's bottom BOSS, "seduce" the gamer to keep trying and dreaming.

However, the reasons that drive manufacturers to keep trying may not be so romantic. In the final analysis, it is just market behavior.

However, when we put aside the causality, it is a good thing that players can play the game they want to play anytime, anywhere.

When mainstream games began to embrace the cloud…

A few days ago, EVE Online, a large-scale interstellar exploration online game, launched a service called "EVE Anywhere", allowing players to experience the game itself with 1080P 60 frames through Chrome, Edge, Safari, and Firefox browsers. , Currently the service is only available in the United States.

For EVE Online players, this can be regarded as a pie-in-the-sky benefit: there is no additional charge, no need to register for a third-party cloud game platform member, just open it and play .

When I saw this news, I habitually took a look at the official website of National Service Netease. I didn't expect this to happen in China, so I tried it out.

Since there is no need to download the game client, after pressing the experience icon, a new browser tab is directly opened, showing the desktop of the Windows system. There are only EVE icons and NetEase's own online game accelerator on the desktop. The next process is very familiar, login and load one-stop, and directly enter the game.

▲ The loading process has been accelerated

After entering the game, I quickly discovered the little-known reasons for cloud games: poor picture quality and low frame rates. Even under the 100M network, it still fails to reach the level of smooth play. Although the network delay is basically maintained within 20ms, there will still be frame drops and freezes.

When comparing the image quality between the cloud and the desktop client, you can also see a more obvious difference in image quality. The rough texture, lower color depth, and color gradation changes visible to the naked eye will greatly reduce the gaming experience.

▲ The number of frames in the animation is low, but the phenomenon of stuttering can also be seen

This cloud gaming experience gave me the most intuitive feeling that in the 20 minutes from opening the game to exiting, the fan of this notebook did not enter the frenzy mode.

Of course, this is also the biggest advantage of cloud gaming. No matter how big the game is or how strong the picture quality is, it is not limited by the hardware performance of the gaming device. For this reason, manufacturers are willing to continue to invest in research and development even today with many technical defects.

In retrospect, the console manufacturers tried their best for the simple sentence of "playing games anytime, anywhere."

From handheld to cloud gaming, people’s goals have never wavered

In order to achieve powerful functions, the mainframe will inevitably put many parts into it, and it can only sacrifice portability. Even from opening the box to being broken, it has not moved more than half of it, and it has become a "router".

So if you want to let players enter the game world anytime, anywhere, this type of mainframe can only go back a little bit. Game makers who were not reconciled took a different approach and created handheld game consoles that are convenient for players to take out, referred to as handhelds.

In 1976, Mattel Electronics launched the world's first handheld Auto Race. As the name suggests, it can only play one game and one racing game.

▲ Picture source: Padandpixel

After watching the Auto Race evaluation videos uploaded by some bloggers on the Internet, it seems that the mechanics of racing games have not changed.

Mattel used simple red dots and lines to form a car and a track on Auto Race. The fun is no less than the 3A racing game with gorgeous graphics today, and the game is exciting enough.

In 1980, Nintendo launched the Game&Watch game console, which determined the basic form of the handheld, with buttons and a screen. Later versions also added the cross key, which are still indispensable elements of modern handhelds.

In 2020, Nintendo will also re-enact Game&Watch, with three games including Super Mario built-in, so that players can miss the simple and pure game fun of the year.

▲ Game&Watch Reissue

In the following thirty years, handheld game consoles have sprung up like bamboo shoots after a rain, and a series of classic handheld consoles such as GameBoy, PSP, and 3DS have been born. From the design of Game&Watch one machine one game to the later cassette/disc design, players It seems that the dream of "playing games anytime, anywhere" has been realized.

The smart phone that was born later made it possible for people to see this dream.

According to the analysis of the scale and development trend of the global game market in 2020 compiled by the Prospective Industry Research Institute, the revenue of mobile games has reached 40%, followed by console games and PC games.

▲ Picture source: Qianzhan Industry Research Institute

In the GDC 2020 industry report, it can be found that most developers still choose to develop on the PC platform, followed by mobile phones.

And through observations in my life, it is not difficult to find that most of my friends around me prefer mobile games when they talk about games.

First, because the threshold of mobile games is low, ordinary mid-range devices can play mainstream large-scale mobile games, and the configuration has no impact on the game as much as on the PC platform. In addition, mobile games carry social attributes. Chicken, through the teamwork in the game, everyone quickly got acquainted, and the chatterbox gradually opened up as the game progressed.

If console games can also be used on mobile phones to let people play anytime, anywhere, with the hardcore image quality of a 3A masterpiece and social attributes at the same time, what would it be like?

Cloud gaming was born under this demand.

When will cloud platforms rise

It was an American company called OnLive that first proposed the concept of cloud gaming and launched the actual product on the market.

The concept of "cloud computing" put forward by Google CEO Eric Schmidt at the search engine conference held in 2006, enterprises or governments established a computing resource sharing pool, also called "cloud". In the past, scattered computing power was concentrated to achieve With more powerful computing capabilities, users only need to obtain the required computing power from this shared pool just like digging a well to fetch water.

On top of this, cloud games came into being. However, due to bandwidth limitations and immature development technology, OnLive failed to fulfill its ambition of the year, but it has established the embryonic form of cloud games.

In the end, OnLive was acquired by Sony Interactive Entertainment, and jointly developed the PlayStation Now streaming service with Gaikai, another manufacturer acquired by Sony, allowing PS3 players at the time to experience "play anytime" through streaming on PS Vita and Bravia TVs. The fun of "3A Masterpiece", but it is limited to play, not smooth play.

Many players reported that the gaming experience is too much affected by the network environment: sometimes it is smooth, just like local playing; sometimes it freezes, like watching a slideshow.

▲ It can be seen from the blurriness of this picture that OnLive has been around for a while

However, the potential of cloud gaming is still huge. In particular, many experts and media predict that cloud gaming will be the killer application in the 5G era.

This is a prediction that has been born before the 5G concept became popular. However, looking at the mobile game market today, the ones that everyone plays more are still the peace elites, the glory of the king, and even the super-large scales such as the original gods and the collapse. Mobile games, why doesn't the industry follow the trend as experts predicted?

On the one hand, the problem of user-side bandwidth speed constraints that year seems to have not been resolved. Whether it is Google Stadia or Nvidia GeForce Now, it is a "restricted service" that users in a small number of regions can only enjoy.

On the other hand, this pot cannot simply be left to network operators. Cloud platforms also have their own responsibilities.

Whether it is a cloud game or a cloud computer, it has been more than ten years since its inception, but it is still difficult to describe and easy to use, with few resources, simple functions and other defects that still exist today. Not long ago, Stadia also announced the disbandment of its own development team to concentrate on the platform. , It seems that if the majority of players want to see the rise of the cloud platform, they need to crane their necks and wait.

Perhaps by then the game contempt chain will disintegrate, and the game industry will also usher in changes.

What can the rise of cloud platforms bring?

If cloud gaming begins to rise, what changes will it bring to the game industry today? The first and most obvious thing is that the demand for consumer-grade graphics cards has decreased, and players' requirements for graphics computing power on their computers are no longer as aggressive as before.

From the hardware list of Steam in February, we can see that the larger players are the graphics card series two or three years ago, and there is almost no RTX30 graphics card. When cloud games enter the homes of ordinary people, maybe we see When it arrives, it's all set up.

However, for consumers, the money that should be spent still has to be spent, but the role of collecting money has changed.

After consumer-level demand shrinks, hardware vendors such as AMD and Nvidia will inevitably need to find new buyers for their products or computing power, that is, major cloud platforms. So the money saved by the core players for not buying a graphics card went into the pocket of the cloud platform.

The stakes are similar to the buyout system and subscription system of a smartphone app. Players are responsible for determining which one is better, but if the cloud platform really rises, players may not have a choice.

When the game market turns to the Internet in an all-round way, for developers, the workload of special optimization for different hardware configurations is reduced, and even the test link can be omitted, and all the energy is invested in the work of image quality upgrading, which drives The popularity and popularity of VR devices.

The VR headset is no longer restricted by function, the weight of the hardware is released, the shape may be further compressed, and finally merged with AR glasses. As long as the network quality is not bad, even on simple VR devices like Google CardBoard, users can get a very good experience.

However, in the early stage of cloud game promotion, many game manufacturers should choose to "fry cold rice", which not only satisfies the feelings of the party, but also simplifies the development process. Nowadays, shopping around Stadia or GeForce Now is basically a cross-platform migration game. For the time being, there is no cloud platform exclusive masterpiece. It can be seen that cross-platform development will still be the mainstream development direction of early cloud games.

When one day we see the news that a major manufacturer is willing to develop exclusive 3A masterpieces for the cloud platform, it may be the day when cloud games are rising.

But in a short time, the graphics card that should be grabbed has to be grabbed.

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Ai Faner | Original link · View comments · Sina Weibo