Let’s start this article with some eye-opening statistics about the global online gaming industry in 2019:
- A Global Games Market Report estimates that by the end of 2019, over 2.3 billion online gamers are estimated to spend over $150 billion on online games (up from $137 billion in the year 2018).
- Smartphone-based games account for over 50% of the global revenues for the gaming industry as compared to just 25% for console-based games.
- The number of online gamers across the globe is estimated to increase from 2.3 billion in 2018 to 2.725 billion by 2021.
Since 2010, the gaming industry has seen a gradual shift towards online gaming away from the trend of purchasing physical or console-based games. As reported by the NPD Group, the number of digital downloads for games crossed 11.2 million (in the first 6 months of 2010) as compared to 8.2 million units of physical games, and this trend in online gaming data has continued to grow to this day.
Thanks to the rapid growth and adoption of cloud computing across business domains, the role of cloud computing in the gaming industry is slowly beginning to gather momentum. With the growth of cloud-based technologies in other entertainment domains like music, television, and movies, it was only a matter of time for the adoption of cloud-based solutions for the gaming industry.
In the following sections, we shall evaluate how cloud-based solutions are transforming the online gaming industry along with the role of artificial intelligence and machine learning in the gaming industry.
What is Cloud-based Gaming?
Also known as cloud gaming, cloud-based gaming is in simple terms, an online gaming service that is powered by cloud technology. Just like the benefits of any other cloud-based service, the online gamer does not need to invest in high-end gaming hardware or a gaming device to avail of a cloud-based gaming service. An industry example of cloud gaming is the growth of Pokémon Go on the Google Cloud platform.
Technology companies like Microsoft and Google are leveraging their investments into cloud-based solutions for the gaming industry with the recent launch of the Google Stadia and the Project xCloud platforms that are designed to run on any personal device including smartphones. Some of the other popular cloud gaming services for gaming lovers include the PlayStation Now platform (with over 500 online games). GeForce Now (for online streaming of video games), and the Playkey.net service.
The growing popularity of live streaming is now being adopted in the online gaming industry with the launch of streaming cloud gaming. What is streaming cloud gaming? Simply, the live streaming of online video games on a personal computer or smartphone without the need to download and install the entire game. A major benefit of this is that online gamers are not restricted to a single device and can play (or resume) their games on any device.
In the next section, we shall discuss the role of Big data analytics and artificial intelligence technologies in the gaming industry.
Impact of Cloud-Based Solutions on Online Gaming Industry
There is no doubt that cloud gaming has tremendous potential and benefits as it allows high-end games with high processing speeds to be executed on low-end user devices, along with the increased accessibility of games on multiple platforms. Even as cloud computing in gaming has reduced many of the challenges in the online gaming industry, the fact remains that even cloud-powered systems have limited processing speeds, thus creating constant speed lags in games. As an example, the Google Stadia platform would optimally require a 20-Mbps Internet connection to power an online game with a resolution of 1080 pixels and 60 frames per second.
The use of artificial intelligence (or AI) and deep learning technology in games can foster a much more seamless gaming experience for enthusiasts. AI and deep learning technologies has been long known particularly in the game of chess with human players being pitted against advanced machines. A recent example is that of StarCraft II that has included AI-powered characters in video games to improve their resourcefulness in any gaming scenario.
So, how is deep learning and AI making online games a better experience for gamers? Here are some examples of the implementation of deep learning technologies in games:
- Deep learning technologies can improve cloud streaming thus creating an optimum quality of experience for the online gamer. For example, AI-powered Deep Neural Network (or DNN) technology can improve its data analysis from previous game instances, thus enabling efficient compression of high-resolution video images to low compression levels. This, in turn, can improve the gaming speed and create a high-definition gaming experience.
- The scope of AI in cloud gaming (particularly in the public cloud platform) can boost online gaming security thus making the cloud environment a far safer platform for storing sensitive data. An example of this cloud-based solution is using the Microsoft Azure gaming platform that can protect your online game from a host of DDoS attacks.
- Deep learning and AI technologies are also playing an active role in improving gaming experiences through innovative game designs and development. One particular example of this use case in the area of virtual scene generation, where online gamers can create their own customized and virtual gaming universe and invite their friends to play the game with them. Additionally, academic research papers on artificial intelligence in gaming highlight the various AI application in gaming such as speech recognition, natural language processing, and computer vision.
As an implementation of AI, the use of machine learning in the gaming industry is enabling the development of “smarter” games with better 3-D models, artificial players, or even a customized background audio track for your game. The use of virtual and augmented reality technologies is enabling game developers to create more visually appealing game designs that is attracting more players. Apart from the visual and design aspects, ML-based algorithms are improving the “intelligence” levels of computer games, as was seen in the AlphaGo computer program that recently defeated the world’s top-ranked player in the popular Go board game.
Can Big data analytics play a crucial role in online gaming? Yes as Big data is crucial for the development of online games. AI-powered Big data analytics is powering key gaming KPIs and metrics such as:
- Number of active gamers and their geographical location
- Number of new sign-ups for online games
- Number of daily and monthly active users
- Customer lifetime value (or CLV)
Big data analytics can derive valuable insights from millions of playing hours including the game elements that are most popular. Gaming companies are using game data analysis tools to improve user engagement, reduce game abandonment, and find any issues in the overall game design. As an example, AI-powered gaming analytics company, Anodot can use anomaly detection methods to detect any major anomalies in gaming KPIs and provide timely alerts to the game developers.
Cloud-based and AI-powered solutions are driving greater adoption and innovation in the online gaming industry across the globe. With cloud gaming recording impressive growth, AI and deep learning technologies are enabling a more impressive game design and removing barriers associated with cloud computing platforms.
With technology-based services in the area of cloud visualization, cloud analytics, and cloud engineering, Countants is proving to be the right partner for global businesses looking for customized cloud-based solutions.