People are scared of cloud-based game services, and we honestly understand why.
Cloud-based technology is burdened by issues. There’s the issue of whether or not you have access to an internet connection that’s fast enough to use it in the first place. There’s the issue of you not actually being able to own the game that you’re playing. There’s also the issue of just how much all of this is really going to cost once these services are up and running.
There’s another issue that people aren’t talking about which is quickly becoming the elephant in the room. See, there’s plenty of reason to doubt that cloud services will be able to properly handle multiplayer games. By that, we mean that the idea of multiple cloud users with varying internet connections streaming a multiplayer game without noticeable input lag seems far-fetched. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey suffers from some slowdown when running on Google Stadia, and Google Stadia is the most stable example of this technology that we’ve seen thus far.
Considering that multiplayer games like Fortnite and Apex Legends rank comfortably among the most popular games in the world, it might be very bad for business if these cloud services indeed prove to be unable to handle the server load they present. However, that problem could prove to be a very good thing for single-player game fans.
In recent years, we’ve heard the heads of major companies and other industry figures say that single-player gaming just isn’t as profitable as companies want it to be. There are reasons to debate these claims, but there is an element of truth in them. Most single-player games can’t offer the steady revenue generation possibilities that “games as a service” titles offer.
The thing is, though, is that cloud services can offer companies a steady revenue stream. While that’s especially true of the companies that host these services, it’s also true of the companies that provide games to them. Disney recently reported that they expect to lose over $100 million in yearly revenue by pulling their titles from other streaming services.
If these services are going to be dependent on single-player titles (at least for the near future) then the companies that host them like Microsoft and Google are probably going to be pushing for more single-player content to be made. They could even push for more single-player content that’s different from the massive open-world experiences that have become synonymous with the Triple-A game industry as of late.
That doesn’t mean that traditional single-player releases are going to be consumed by cloud-based services but rather that those games are about to have a platform that they can call their own. We saw indie games benefit from appearing on the Switch early simply because they didn’t have to compete against as many other titles. It’s not hard to imagine that the first wave of single-player titles to appear on these cloud services could benefit just as much.
It might sound morbid to suggest that the shortcomings of cloud technology are what could lead to more major studios spending more resources on single-player games, but that’s not the way you should look at this. As gaming evolves, our needs and wants as gamers evolve. Cloud-based technology is coming whether we want it or not, and at this current pace, it feels like it’s going to have to live on for a while without being able to rely on multiplayer titles.
During these changing times, we might just see more single-player games not just because they’re more technologically feasible but because more studios have finally found a platform that allows them to sell those single-player ideas that they genuinely want to turn into games.