Soren Johnson: “So far, the big question for cloud gaming is when will it be feasible, but ultimately, the more important question is what will it enable.”

From Soren Johnson’s Designer Notes (itself a reprint of an article in Game Developer magazine):


Ever since OnLive’s dramatic public unveiling at GDC 2009, the games industry has been watching and wondering about cloud gaming, at times skeptically, at times hopefully. The technology holds the potential to revolutionize the business, perhaps forever destroying the triangle that connects consumers with hardware manufacturers and software retailers…


… Most importantly for consumers, cloud gaming should change the economics of pricing. By removing the traditional retail middlemen, not to mention secondary drags on the system like rental and used-game sales, a developer could easily make as much money selling a game for $30 via the cloud as they could selling it for $60 via a traditional retailer. The industry could finally approach a mainstream price point, with games priced comparably to movies, books, and music – instead of the $60 price point (for a $300 console) which is absurdly out of reach of the average consumer.


Indeed, the economics could change for developers too. If entirely new business models emerge, with consumers paying for a game daily, weekly, or monthly – or perhaps with a single subscription to all available games (a la Netflix)  – the design incentives change. Cloud gaming could reward developers for depth of gameplay over ornate, scripted sequences; infinitely replayable dynamic games like Left4Dead or StarCraft might suddenly be more profitable than hand-crafted semi-movies like Call of Duty or Uncharted


.. However, cloud gaming’s potential is much, much greater than changing the economics of the industry; in fact, it could revolutionized the very way games are made…


… Perhaps the group which has the most to gain from this new model would be small, independent developers, for whom the idea of building an indie MMO seems laughable given their tiny resources. One can’t help wonder what Mojang could do with a cloud-based version of Minecraft, seamlessly updated, playable from any device or browser, that connects every world end-to-end. So far, the big question for cloud gaming is when will it be feasible, but ultimately, the more important question is what will it enable.


Definitely worth a look (and while you’re there, check out some of the older posts — in particular, the two about theme vs mechanics are some of my favourite pieces of games writing.)

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