Google's Stadia, Amazon's Luna, Microsoft's xCloud, not to mention the pioneering Playstation Now, LiquidSky and Nvidia Geforce Now, streaming platforms are multiplying. Perhaps they will revolutionize the way we play games. But if so, what could be the consequences for development studios?
Let's start by defining what is meant by streaming a game: The game runs on a remote server and only sends back the generated images to its user. So this should not be confused with subscriptions like Apple Arcade which download the games to the player's gaming machine, which does all the work.
If you plan to develop a game intended to work on these new distribution platforms, here are some recommendations:
Avoid games that require low latency
Streaming platforms swear that they will deliver a minimum of 30 frames per second, regardless of the game mode. Despite their best efforts, the uneven quality of the networks may not allow them to guarantee such performance. It is therefore prudent to favor games offering slow gameplay or not requiring great precision. Developers of mobile games offering synchronous multiplayer have already faced this problem and found solutions to deal with it.
Choose your business model wisely
This issue is common to virtually all games, but streaming platforms are likely to encourage studios and publishers to offer their games as part of a subscription offer, also known as games-on-demand. The principle is simple; for a fixed, and often very reasonable, fee, subscribers can access and play a huge selection of games as much as they want. If this formula is interesting for a publisher with a large catalog, it is rarely so for a studio, which offers only one or two titles, due to the method of revenue distribution. For more details, I invite you to read my Gamasutra publication devoted to this theme. Favor economic models where you can charge players directly.
Think about collaborative game concepts
As streaming will make it much easier to see games in progress, why not design games where the spectators themselves can participate in the action. For example, the latter could vote on tactical choices before and during the action. Absurd? Impossible? And yet it already exists: United Managers is a collaborative coaching web app for a real French football team: the Avant-Garde Caennaise, which plays in National 3. The members of the community, called Umans, make all the decisions a coach takes before the matches thanks to a real-time voting system. The game was invented and promoted by Frédéric Gauquelin, a sports and video game fan.
E-sports should no longer be just about a handful of complex games. Tomorrow, e-sports may become more democratic by giving almost all players the opportunity to engage in local or self-organized competitions on their own. These games will certainly be less elitist than those which are in the news today because they must be able to be understood by the greatest number; in other words, the spectators will be able to appreciate the action which they will watch even if they do not play the game. However, streaming greatly facilitates the broadcasting of games since it allows to broadcast the images of a game in progress to n any other media. If you are interested in the development of e-sport, I invite you to read my Gamasutra publication on this subject.
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Creative director & game designer, freelance
25+ years of experience serving studios and publishers