During the pandemic, I started playing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild for the third time, only this time it is for my daughters to watch. They can not fight enemies or solve puzzles on their own, but love watching me battle, ordering me to go here and there and laugh when I fail (many times, of course).
Cloud gaming impact on game viewing
Watching others play right next to you is as entertaining as playing by yourself. Like a sports game the outcome is unpredictable each time. Like watching your friends or kids play sports, the experience is intimate. The communication triggered by the games are also an essential part of game viewing.
The arrival of online game streaming has enriched game viewing further. There are videos for almost every aspect of the game, such as tutorials, walkthroughs and clear time attacks. Communication tied with the games has expanded to strangers with the same interests all over the world.
Cloud gaming may be considered as a way to stream games. But it also has the potential to change game viewing, enabling developers to deliver unique gaming and viewing experiences in real time. It also may diversify creation and delivery of gameplay videos, affecting the business landscape of video game streaming and esports.
Developers cannot directly interact with viewers
Currently game streaming is divided into two parts: developers providing games, and players (with streaming platforms) providing game play videos. Developers and viewers are connected indirectly with game streamers as the middleman, as the diagram below shows.
This has created huge revenue for both game streamers and game streaming platforms, since they control the content creation and distribution. From developers’ standpoint though, they can only watch streamers and viewers interact with videos generated by their own games.
Streaming the game and gameplay videos simultaneously
Cloud gaming will enable developers to stream the game AND game play videos at the same time, as illustrated in the diagram below.
Developers will be able stream their titles’ game play videos on their own. Streaming videos like what we see today is only the first step. Developers can create their own viewing experiences tailored towards their games. New entertainment products and services may emerge, combining playing and watching videogames in real time.
These new entertainment services will also prompt new business models. Because they are likely to cross the boundaries of gaming, video streaming, and social media, there is no need to stick with game industry traditions. They may not even need to sell titles and items to players, by charging viewers or advertisers instead.
Customizing viewers’ screen
There are, broadly, three ways to create unique viewing experiences. One is to personalize the screen for viewers. Today, viewers watch the same screen as the streamer. But with cloud gaming, viewers can watch customized screens as the players play with their own screens, because it is the developer who streams the video, not the players.
Customized screens for viewers will differ by the type of games. For instance, viewers may see an overall view while players battle with first person view. They may see additional information such as dark vision which players cannot see. They can communicate with each other with screens suitable for communication, which players may not need.
Watching a game from a different angle than the player is new. We have always watched the game from behind the players, but now there are chances to watch the game much closer and quite differently from the player. Am I the only one who sees opportunities?
Customizing viewers’ communication.
Different types of games deserve different kinds of communication. But game streaming platforms provide only a fraction of what can be exchanged among viewers, because they support various titles. Designing communication suitable for each game is the second way to develop unique viewing experiences.
For Animal Crossing text, sound and images might work for viewers to comment and advise each other. For FIFA, text and video works better for viewers to clip goal scenes and discuss with each other. Different ways of communication require different interfaces, which is difficult to provide for Twitch or Youtube.
Communication around games has always been at the core of gaming experiences, and cloud gaming will add another dimension. Developers can provide communication tools customized for their games, without depending on social platforms. This can be a huge differentiator among competitors and a driving force for sustainable revenue.
The third way to create different viewing experiences is viewer participation. A brilliant example is Stadia’s Crowd play, where viewers of a particular live stream can request to participate in the game being played.
The demo featured a viewer joining a live NBA 2K stream as one of the players, but viewers do not necessarily have to play the same way as the streamer. Viewers can create maps and allocate enemies for RPGs. They can create stages for puzzles. They can be the judge or scorer for a sports game. These are all familiar, but combining these sorts of plays in one place and providing them in real time, is the true value of cloud gaming.
From viewing to participation
As I am halfway through playing Zelda, my daughters are beginning to grab my controller. They are still scared of battles, but started playing the easy parts like cooking, hunting and exploring towns. Well, I guess everybody likes to take control!
With cloud gaming, developers will be able to create unique viewing experiences. This may lead to new business models, as monetization towards viewers becomes possible. It may also change the power balance between developers, game streamers and game streaming platforms as we see today.
This is not to say that game streaming platforms will lose ground. Rather, they are likely to remain as the destination for most titles’ game viewing. But viewers will have more options, and it is up to the developers to provide them.
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