Up For Debate - Can Cloud-Based Gaming Ever be a Success?

Written by Jon Sutton on Sat, Jan 6, 2018 4:00 PM

Over the years I’ve dabbled with a fair few cloud-based streaming services as I’ve always been intrigued as to whether it could work. I tried out the dedicated OnLive console, which came with one of the most horrendous controllers of all time, about six or so years ago. Artefacting was the major issue here, with terrible image quality that didn’t play to PC’s strengths. And then, well, OnLive floundered and shut down.

After this Sony bought up OnLive and Gaikai, shut down OnLive and reused the tech for PS Now. In its first incarnation, this allowed PlayStation 4 owners to stream and play PS3 games, and Sony has since rolled it out to PC, as well as adding a handful of PS4 titles to the library. It’s actually fairly decent, and using a controller helps to minimise the perception of input lag compared to a mouse and keyboard. Compared to the real thing though, it’s still got a way to go.

Which then brings me to LiquidSky, a streaming solution which even had the backing of AMD during its live Capsaicin event last year. I’ve been meaning to give it a trial for some time now, and finally gave it a shot this week. And, uh, it really isn’t very good. At all. Here I’ve got a 75Mb/s down / 19Mb/s up net speed, with LiquidSky suggesting a minimum of 5Mb/s download or, for ideal performance, 20Mb/s. The performance was nowhere near ideal. I tried out Gorogoa, a simple point and click adventure game, and the mouse lag was horrendous. It was like playing the game in a pool of treacle with a tub of vaseline smeared over my eyes. This was a panel-based adventure game with very little movement, so the prospect of trying to use LiquidSky for Street Fighter V is enough to make me gag.

And then this week I hear about Shadow, after pretender to the streaming crown. It’s only available in France and California for now, but they claim this is the replacement for desktop gaming PCs. You can either straight to your PC, laptop or even mobile, or you can buy their dedicated streaming box designed to run at 1080p / 144Hz. As I don’t live in France, nor California, sadly, I haven’t been able to give it a shot just yet. Considering my experience with the alternatives though, I’ve got major doubts. While the concept is very neat, it just doesn’t seem like the technology can possibly keep up with the demands.

There’s also the matter of cost to consider. LiquidSky offers a $20 per month package for its streaming service, on top of which you’ve still got to buy all your games and have a decent net connection. That’s $240 a year, or close to $1000 over four years. You could just buy a $1000 PC every four years for that price. You’re effectively paying for a timeshare when you could own your own home.

I would like some form of streaming tech to succeed, but it’s been around a decade now and it still doesn’t feel like we’re anywhere near a solution that comes close to the real thing. Is such a thing even possible on the scale it needs to be? If 20 million players wanted to use Shadow simultaneously, Shadow would need to have 20 million PCs equipped with GeForce GTX 1080’s to accommodate them. That’s just ludicrous.

Have any of you given any cloud-based game streaming services a go? Is there any future in it, or are they all doomed to lag behind a genuine PC or console? Let us know your thoughts!

Will cloud-gaming ever take off in a big way?

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06:05 Jan-07-2018

In future there might be a scope of this, who knows? Right now and in near future it is just ridiculous. The servers are available only in certain places. I don’t think it will be useful for playing any fast paced online multiplayer game due to the latency. You contacting the streaming server, which contacts the game server and back. In distant future, maybe.

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05:44 Jan-07-2018

I must confess that I was fairly disappointed when Jon told about the performance of LiquidSky on his PC. It's bad enough that you have to wait for months to get into their program and when you finally get into their program, you have this.


In a business model, raising hype amongst potential customers is an essential part. But fulfilling your commitment to them after they have expressed their interest to avail your services is important. What we see here is a typical example of what a lot of game developers do to us. E3 trailers are full of stunning visuals and the actual game is.... meh (note the reference).


Here's hoping LiquidSky can actually fulfill their promises and be a good service. Cloud Gaming has potential but such a bad start to it is a bad portrayal of its capabilities.

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02:17 Jan-07-2018

This is a HUGE maybe, why? Simple math, an HDD can go up to 200-220MB/s, an SSD anywhere between 400-2000MB/s read speeds. This is a reason why i still prefer blurays over Netflix, QUALITY. A bluray holds 50gb of data FULLY, 7.1 surround and true 1080p uncompressed. Compression is what kills the quality. Even a 1tb/s connection youd only see 125MB/s and thats if you pay up the butthole in the US. We've seen what happens with too slow an HDD, games suffer. Is it possible? Yea but i wouldn't.

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09:18 Jan-07-2018

actually SSDs can go up to 4GB/s

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13:10 Jan-07-2018

Yea there you go even more and probably even higher in the future lol.

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21:55 Jan-06-2018

Yes, not yet, but eventually. Basically for the most part, I feel once it is cheap enough and with less restrictions, it shouldn't be a problem. Of course it would never replace desktop experience, but hey, for more casual players and lower-mid end gamers, it could be really great thing....

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21:57 Jan-06-2018

..., it removes need for expensive PC, can last longer without any upgrades, it only requires decent internet,... but it is expensive to run, a bit like Youtube, which is still not profitable for Google, despite being around for years. Which is why current attempts are expensive with restrictions.

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23:10 Jan-06-2018

To be fair Google has managed YouTube very poorly over the years but you do have a point.

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21:11 Jan-06-2018

I dont really like game streaming because i like to actually own my games instead of some subscription and what if my internet is off? Nah ill pass.

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23:34 Jan-06-2018

Depends on the service, some of them require you to own the game and only provide the computing power and storage.

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09:18 Jan-07-2018

If you are using, steam, origin or any other DRM, you do NOT own your games, sorry to disappoint you bud :/

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11:46 Jan-07-2018

well yes, but in comparison to subscription based i own them.

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20:24 Jan-06-2018

Will others jump in game streaming ? For sure. Will I do it ? No way. I like to be able to play my games wherever I am when I want. Also I like to own stuff way more than to rent stuff.

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19:07 Jan-06-2018

it's utter nonsense,
only cloud-based gaming solution which would work good is if everyone had home gaming server, and used peripherials and tablets as controllers, uncompressed 4K 60fps requires almost 13Gbit/s so I guess such wireless connection is nowhere close yet

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19:18 Jan-06-2018

wow 1080p 30fps compressed will be a great start if you ask me, as long as there is minimal input lag, which has always been the main problem with cloud based gaming.

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22:29 Jan-06-2018

1080p30fps still needs roughly 1.6Gbit/s steady stream which definitely isn't achievable even on wired 1Gbit LAN network

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00:03 Jan-07-2018

Well, that's why you compress it, something like 100Mbps are more than enough for 1080p30fps. Completely uncompressed is a waste of internet.

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07:48 Jan-07-2018

Thank God for h.264. That stuff at 50mbps would work wonders.

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19:31 Jan-06-2018

dude it used to work I used to use Onlive back then when I left my pc in business and was able to play many games at decent input lag games like Stalker , GTA 4 and fallout 3

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22:31 Jan-06-2018

I remember OnLive, average internet speed in my country is too low for that,
makes no sense to pay for a fast connection when cheaper solution would be to buy a mediocre gaming rig

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22:46 Jan-06-2018

How is it utter nonsense? I'm enrolled in the Nvidia Geforce NOW beta, and even though their pricing will be ridiculous, it's working almost flawlessly. Most of the time I can't even notice the game's running on a different computer.

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22:55 Jan-06-2018

You can't just dismiss the technology as a whole, it's already viable today. Even though it's not perfect, it will eventually reach a point where it's a great alternative for the average user, if priced appropriately.

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17:27 Jan-06-2018

it might work out for most developed countries, but looking at large gaming communities in small countries like mine, Vietnam, it's really hard


we now even have a schedule for a broken internet line for about once a month, and each time it's either 1 line or all of them so it'll be a big no here

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16:54 Jan-06-2018

Absolutely, when AVERAGE world-wide(most of the world at least) internet bandwidth becomes good enough and if there are many regional clouds so that the ping is good, that are powerful enough, absolutely.


This way you will own your games even less, but hey if all it would require is a monitor and internet and some toaster PC or just a Smart TV(I think it was possible with just a Smart TV with internet, maybe, probably... don't remember) it would be super cheap, if the subscription is priced, I mean console users have to pay to play online anyways.

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22:33 Jan-06-2018

and that will never happen,
latency is an increasing problem of networks worldwide,
I have an experience with realtime streaming for broadcast and the major problem going on is the latency jitter, happening by nature of how networks are operating

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09:23 Jan-07-2018

new infrastructures, with much more bandwidth and with more servers in more locations then.
For example I personally have 40-45 ping to the furthest western part of Europe -> Portugal and I live in the Bulkans, apart from Russia, Finland a couple others that's the furthest you can get away from west Europe.
I have around 120 ping to East NA and 190-200 ping to West NA, which is basically on the other side of the world.


Now imagine if every big country had it's own cloud servers, it would be great.

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16:48 Jan-06-2018

it's more about the network really if net speed increases and price & latency decrease then yeah why not!
and also there needs to be powerful GPUs especially designed for cloud gaming which the industry lacks.

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18:02 Jan-06-2018

Guess what could happen if gaming would be cloud based only? Either an expensive subscription or you buy your online library game by game. No pirating (since, you know, games only run on cloud hardware). Kinda weird though, but in the end, the consumers wouldn't need expensive computers.

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18:22 Jan-06-2018

if the subscription be expensive then people get their own PC and isn't no pirating a good thing?

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20:41 Jan-06-2018

Not for countries where most of these games aren't going to be available. I don't promote Piracy, especially for people that can afford to game 100% legit, but for some people it's the only viable option.

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16:06 Jan-06-2018

Why doesn't the article mention Nvidia GeForce NOW? It's in beta right now, but it's much better than LiquidSky. I can play Witcher 3 in my bed and the laptop doesn't even heat up.

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18:06 Jan-06-2018

Sounds great, but it's only for mac computers (however, one of the best highly priced machines to use for cloud gaming imo). If this only was for windows and/or linux distros as well. Besides that, it's still in beta

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22:41 Jan-06-2018

They're planning to expand to PC, I'm guessing it's just for mac now because of the smaller user base and the higher percentage of paying customers. And even though it's in beta, it does feel almost futuristic, I can't notice any input lag and some days I don't get any stuttering at all.

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22:44 Jan-06-2018

But to be honest I'm not paying for it once it goes live, their pricing is ridiculous. It's not set in stone yet, but $25 for 20 hours of gameplay doesn't make any sense, might as well buy a console or a separate PC.

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16:02 Jan-06-2018

Not in the sense the author thinks. However, games have been using the cloud to power AI and destruction physics with impressive results. I see that as the way forward.

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