The Information reports that Amazon is putting together a game streaming service that will beam titles from the cloud right to your devices, so you can play without installing them, or even owning a powerful machine to run them.
The service will see Amazon compete with Google – which is currently testing its Project Stream service in the US – as well as Microsoft, which is building its own platform, hardware maker Nvidia, and publisher Electronic Arts. Sony’s PlayStation Now service is already up and running, and charges players $99.99 a year for access to more than 700 games.
It makes sense for Amazon to enter this arena, as it’s the largest provider of cloud computing services on the planet – ahead of Google and Microsoft by a long shot – and can therefore easily build out the necessary infrastructure to support a demanding game streaming service for users around the world.
A number of such platforms have been built, tested, and shut down in the past few years, mostly owing to low demand and unsatisfactory performance.
The idea is that the service will handle all the heavy computing needed to run graphics-intensive games in the cloud, and then stream it to your computer or mobile device so your experience is indistinguishable from running those titles natively on a high-end gaming system. With improvements in broadband networks in recent years, that’s now a lot easier than before, and issues like lag and latency aren’t as hard to solve as in the early 2010s.
I imagine that Amazon might also leverage its Prime subscription service to woo customers to try its gaming offering. People who pony up for the plan not only unlock free or expedited shipping, but also get access to Amazon‘s streaming music and video services in countries where they’re available. Last April, the retail giant revealed it had more than 100 million Prime subscribers worldwide.
It’s also worth noting that Amazon makes a line of Fire devices to stream content over the internet to your TV, as well as a game controller that lets you play a wide range of Android-based titles when used with the Fire stick dongle. If the company can get its service to work with these products, it could gain an edge over its rivals.
It’ll be interesting to see how cloud gaming affects existing game stores’ business. Most publishers and indie developers rely on customers purchasing games outright from online shopfronts like Steam, EA Origin, and UPlay for revenue. It’s currently at the point where Epic Games’ brand new store – which is still lacking in many crucial areas including customer support and user reviews – managed to entice some distributors away from its competition by offering better revenue sharing terms. What happens when your players don’t want to buy – but merely stream – your games?
I’m all for game streaming, and for competition in this space. The notion of upgrading your console or computer solely to improve graphics performance seems dated and tedious, particularly when it’s increasingly becoming easier to offer massive libraries of other kinds of entertainment media over the internet. Bring on the cloud gaming revolution, I say.