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Unity CEO on streaming AAA games

In the wake of the launch PS4 and Xbox One, David Helgason, CEO, Unity gives his thoughts on the evolution of gaming beyond the console, and onto the cloud.

The PS4 and Xbox One launch raise questions around the creation of brand universes, increasing the life cycle of games and improving downloadable content. While there is no doubt that next gen consoles will play a central role in the next decade, the potential of digital gaming to deliver on these fronts can no longer be ignored. 

The potential of the cloud to deliver deeper, richer environments, delivered in ways that players most want – whether integrated in consoles or not – looks set to explode. The Holy Grail for cloud gaming has been an always online, streaming service where the consumer no longer requires physical hardware to enjoy the games they love. We recently caught-up with David Helgason, CEO, Unity – a keynote presenter at the Cloud Gaming USA conference (7-8 October, San Francisco) – to discuss the evolution of games on the cloud. Download full conference details here

What are your thoughts on the evolution of cloud gaming so far?

Helgason: I’ve been really excited by cloud gaming since it popped out in about 2009. A lot of the industry wondered if it would work, but I was one of the people who believed it would work. I’m not sure that makes me smart or not, because it hasn’t really taken off, at least in its full form, where the game is all run on a server. There are a few reasons why it hasn’t taken off in the full sense. I think we underestimated the speed by which chips would get better, in phones and tablets in particular. The devices we have in our pockets are plenty powerful enough to play the games. Most people are happy either with their mobile devices, or they’re hard core gamers already, and they have their consoles. There was probably a miscalculation of the evolution of bandwidth versus chips. The chips got faster more quickly than the bandwidth did. And then when the bandwidth got better, people wanted four times as much. Download the full, complimentary interview here.

What sort of business models are emerging around the cloud? 

Helgason: There are lots of situations where it really makes a lot of sense. It seems to me full-on cloud gaming is going to happen for certain situations: certain game genres, certain types of gamers, on certain devices. For example, people who are not self-identified gamers on devices that are not really game-capable, like a low-end smart TV or a TV with a set-top box, could be good targets. They are people who will not spend extra money to get specialized game devices, but still want to play games. That seems to be a category where it would make sense.Though there are not any commercial services at the moment, there are several in development. In China, there are a few companies, like Cyber Cloud and Cloud Union, doing interesting things. If they can get the monetisation right, they should have something. And the good thing is that isn’t very difficult. You just need a few people within a large population who are willing to do it. Then you’ve got a business going. The reason it might happen in China is that they have fewer PCs there, and smart-phones are not very powerful. If these companies can place servers close enough to people, in local networks, they can offer something really fast, with low latency. 

What sort of gaming will the cloud enable in the future?

Helgason: There are things that excite me that are less tactical in nature, but are around user experience. For example, players could be known to the devices and they remember your preferences, and not only on one game but between games. I want that to happen because it will make my life more enjoyable! It will be better to set up and install games. It would know who I am and keep my status and maybe recommend other games that I might like. It’s sort of happening in different forms already. But it can only get better with a fuller cloud stream, and the clouding of gaming in general. Download the full interview here

David Helgason will further explore gaming on the cloud in a keynote presentation at the Cloud Gaming USA conference (Oct 7-8, San Francisco). David will be joined by North America’s top ten publishers including Sony, Microsoft, Ubisoft, Activision, T2, Capcom, Sega, Wargaming, Telltale and many more, as the biggest names in games come together to move the industry forward. 

You can download the full agenda and speaker line-up here.

From me... “This conference is set to provide invaluable insight and networking for all those involved in the future of games, new disruptive technologies, and capitalizing on the digital era.”

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