Cloud gaming, sometimes called gaming on demand, is a type of online gaming. Currently there are two main types of cloud gaming: cloud gaming based on video streaming and cloud gaming based on file streaming. Cloud gaming aims to provide end users friction-less and direct play-ability of games across various devices.
Cloud gaming is an umbrella term used to describe a form of online game distribution. The most common methods of cloud gaming currently are video (or pixel) streaming and file streaming.
"Cloud gaming", also called "gaming on demand", is a type of online gaming that allows direct and on-demand video streaming of games onto computers, consoles and mobile devices, similar to video on demand, through the use of a thin client. The actual game is stored, executed, and rendered on the remote operator's or game company's server and the video results are streamed directly to a consumer's computers over the internet. This allows access to games without the need of a console and largely makes the capability of the user's computer unimportant, as the server is the system that is running the processing needs. The controls and button presses from the user are transmitted directly to the server, where they are recorded, and the server then sends back the game's response to the input controls. Companies that use this type of cloud gaming include PlayGiga, CiiNOW, Ubitus, Playcast Media Systems, Gaikai and OnLive.
Gaming on demand is a game service which takes advantage of a broadband connection, large server clusters, encryption and compression to stream game content to a subscriber's device. Users can play games without downloading or installing the actual game. Game content isn't stored on the user's hard drive and game code execution occurs primarily at the server cluster, so the subscriber can use a less powerful computer to play the game than the game would normally require, since the server does all performance-intensive operations usually done by the end user's computer. Most cloud gaming platforms are closed and proprietary; the first open source cloud gaming platform was not released until April, 2013.
Cloud gaming based on file streaming, also known as progressive downloading, deploys a thin client in which the actual game is run on the user's gaming device such as a mobile device, a PC or a console. A small part of a game, usually less than 5% of the total game size, is downloaded initially so that the gamer can start playing quickly. The remaining game content is downloaded to the end user's device while playing. This allows instant access to games with low bandwidth Internet connections without lag. The cloud is used for providing a scalable way of streaming the game content and big data analysis. Cloud gaming based on file streaming requires a device that has the hardware capabilities to operate the game. Often, downloaded game content is stored on the end user's device where it is cached. Companies that use this type of cloud gaming include Kalydo, Approxy and SpawnApps.
Active cloud gaming systems include GamingAnywhere (open-source) and StreamMyGame (proprietary). Active cloud gaming services include G-cluster, Gface, Kalydo, Playcast Media Systems, PlayGiga, PlayKey, PlayStation Now, NVIDIA GRID, and LiquidSky. Discontinued cloud gaming services include InstantAction (2007-2010), Gaikai (2009-2012) (merged with PlayStation Now), OnLive (2010-2015) (merged with PlayStation Now), Big Fish Games (2011-2013).
In 2000, G-cluster demonstrated cloud gaming technology at E3. The original offering was cloud gaming service over WiFi to handheld devices. Video game developer Crytek began research on a cloud gaming system in 2005 for Crysis, but halted development in 2007 to wait until the infrastructure and cable Internet providers were up for the task. OnLive officially launched in March 2010, and its game service began in June with the sale of its OnLive microconsole. In November, SFR launched a commercial cloud gaming service on IPTV in France, powered by G-cluster technology.
Gaikai, which allows game publishers and others to embed free streaming gameplay trials on their websites, launched its open beta in February 2011 with games from Electronic Arts including Dead Space 2, Mass Effect 2, and Sims 3. Gaikai-enabled games can be embedded directly inside websites, on Facebook, or on mobile devices and IPTVs. In spring 2011, Gaikai went live with multiple partnerships including Walmart and The Escapist, as well as announcing deals with Eurogamer and Capcom. Gaikai-enabled games stream from within web browsers without requiring downloads, special plug-ins, or registration, and can be activated by clicking on an enabled advertisement or visiting a Gaikai-powered game destination. Sony purchased Gaikai, then the largest cloud gaming service provider, in July 2012.
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