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Feb 18 2019

5G takes gaming to the cloud

Since ancient times, games have been a major public attraction. This remains true today, albeit in a more digital world, with the total gaming market volume valued at 138bn dollars in 2018 and with an annual growth rate of 13% year on year.

Obviously, “gaming” as a topic has a very broad meaning and there are several options today, both for the casual and hardcore PRO gamer. While consoles can offer access to exclusive titles, which are rarely available for PCs, this goes hand-in-hand with a higher cost of games. Consoles also feature some gaming nuances within joystick controls, as well as special techniques such as progress saving, which is optimized for consoles.

PCs offer a broad set of game titles in many genres, a variety of gaming accessories and annually updated hardware, with the pricing to match. With an average gaming PC starting at around €1500, if you refuse to compromise and want 4K resolution at 60 FPS with the latest GPU, you could be lightening your wallet by about €4000.

Gaming on portable devices has really gained traction within the last 3-5 years, and some clients, such as World of Tanks Blitz, Pokemon Go and Fortnite, were able to win significant market recognition. There is definitely a future for mobile gaming, but, personally, I see several drawbacks too - no AAA titles ported on mobile devices, virtual touch screen-based buttons do not provide appropriate feedback, and player experience is heavily dependent on the capacity and delay in the cellular network. Additionally, new gaming capabilities, new game mechanics, advanced graphics, operating with the highest possible experience and on any device - these are the expectations of  the gaming audience.

Technological advancements have led the gaming industry towards cloud gaming, which involves ubiquitous and convenient real time streaming of the game. To experience this, there are a few mandatory requirements - Internet access with a guaranteed throughput not less than 25 Mbps and latency not exceeding 20-30 ms to the cloud. The entire hosting, rendering, saving and restoration of the gaming character is processed on the remote infrastructure.

The convenience with which users can access and stream games has been a significant factor promoting market growth, followed by the changes of the entire business model from CAPEX-based (game licenses, expensive hardware, annual hardware upgrades) to OPEX-based (daily, monthly-based subscriptions to the service with access to gaming platforms).

Still, one question remains: “How we can we apply cloud gaming to the massive smartphone-wielding consumer segment?”

Several technology building blocks already exist, but the missing piece is low-latency connectivity, which is where 5G and Edge Cloud solutions can help.

Nokia has conducted extensive testing of cloud gaming using 5G and we understand the nuances that ensure the optimal experience. It’s incredibly exciting when you can play your favorite Doom 2016 or Witcher 3 games, not only on your gaming laptop with integrated graphics processors and gigabytes of memory, but now on a mobile device with the exact same experience and graphics. What a technology shift!

We’ll be demonstrating this at Mobile World Congress 2019 as part of our consumer area. Attendees will get a first hand experience and discover how they can be part of this new era in gaming.

I expect that 5G and Edge Cloud applications will transform not only the telecommunication industry, but lifestyles too. You could compare it with the appearance of the first smartphones, which triggered transformation not only of mobile phones and PDAs (remember those?), but a whole new approach to mobile application development, along with a new consumption, content and sales model.

While 5G is a significant upgrade in technological capability, with increased capacity, low latency, and increased reliability, the true measure of success will be how many service providers can implement and run services at scale that offer new value to their consumers. Ensuring you have the right partner is a key to success here.

While I’m eager to see the first commercial launches of 5G, a mobile any game, anywhere, anytime  service is what I would like to subscribe to and for that, I (and many, many others) would be happy to release some cash from my wallet.

Share your thoughts on this topic by joining the Twitter discussion with @nokia and @nokianetworks using #5G #5GNR #5Gmobility #5Ginaction #cloud #CloudRAN #CloudGaming

About Andrei Kharitonov

Andrei is results oriented solution architect with over 20 years’ international experience and has a proven track record of strategic IT and Telecommunication projects. Within Nokia’s Media & Entertainment Network slices team, he is focused on the introduction of innovative 5G use cases and leads 5G mobile cloud gaming end-to-end solution and strategy development.

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