In a week or two, Google will be giving more details about its Stadia game streaming platform. Together with the likes of Microsoft xCloud and even older platforms like NVIDIA GeForce Now, it almost sounds like the industry is heading towards a cloud gaming streaming future. That definitely has its perks as well as its drawbacks but there is a sort of middle ground that’s being pushed by Valve and now Samsung in theory, offers the benefits of playing PC games on any device, though with some of its caveats.
Cloud Gaming: freedom at a price
On paper, the premise and promise of cloud-based game streaming is definitely enticing for gamers. The freedom to play game anywhere, on any device, and without the need for heavy hardware, is going to appeal to those who envision themselves playing anywhere the urge strikes them. In practice, though, there are still a lot of pieces that need to fall into place to make that a viable future, and not all of them are technical.
There is, of course, the requirement for fast Internet connections, something that’s not available everywhere. But more than just the bandwidth, there are also considerations of ownership and access, especially in the future when publishers pull out games from those services. While Google promises the games players buy on Stadia will be theirs forever, the digital gaming distribution market is anything but permanent.
While not exactly new, Valve’s Steam Link has recently undergone a transition. Removing the Link hardware from the equation, Steam Link now directly streams games to mobile devices. It had a rough start, especially on iOS, but that is well in the past. Now even the Android app has finally gotten out of beta.
With Steam Link, gamers will be able to run continue playing their purchased Steam PC games on their mobile devices. That gives them the freedom to move around the house or area within the same network, provided the network is fast enough.
Surprisingly, Samsung seems to be playing around with something similar. A video that almost flew under the radar revealed what the company has branded as its PlayGalaxy Link that seems to operate in the same way. Start the game on a PC and then continue on a Samsung phone with a special control.
At the moment, this unannounced system still has many unanswered questions, like compatible devices and games. Suffice it to say, Samsung seems to be interested in dipping its toes in this kind of gaming service.
Ownership and Control at home
Unless PlayGalaxy Link allows for remote streaming, both it and Steam Link are technically limited to running in a local network. It gives players some limited freedom but that still requires them to be in the same fast Wi-Fi network. For some gamers, however, that may be fine considering what they’re getting in return.
That pretty much boils down to keeping control over games they play on the mobile phones. Admittedly, games can still disappear from Steam but users have more control and choice compared to being at the mercy of cloud gaming servers and the deals they make with publishers and developers. Yes, they might not be able to play when away from home, but those hurdles may be easier to overcome when you have more control over the platform and have not surrendered everything to the cloud.