The videogame industry has seen incredible change and growth over the last 20 years, but one constant has always been that you need the right hardware to play: 5G gaming could be about to sharply disrupt the status quo.
While mobile gaming has been progressively expanding over the years, games like Candy Crush and Clash of Clans have been top downloads, both of these are not heavily reliant on graphics or CPU processing.
However, some of the most recent releases on mobile devices such as Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds or Fortnite, will eat into a device’s computational power and quickly run the battery down, both are issues that 5G gaming can solve.
It’s not all going to be smooth sailing: Oliver Baker, MD of Intelivita, a web and mobile application development firm told Computer Business review that writing code for 5G applications is “going to be a pain.” Why? Games need to be compatible with an array of devices that operate using Android’s OS, for example; it’s fragmented OEM ecosystem.
Now with the rollout of 5G clients will want applications to be both 5G and 4G compatible. Baker says that they will have to essentially write code for each application; one to support 5G and another for 4G.
(As 5G rolls out further, businesses should be considering the impact and the possibility of this shift. There are opportunities for enterprises to gamify their applications, there are data centre opportunities, and of course plenty for developers.)
In recent years devices have being connecting to bandwidth via frequencies ranging up to 30 GHz. This has resulted in a congested frequency range, where data rates are often restricted to 1 gigabit per second and are gobbled up by numerous users.
5G will make use of extremely high frequency or millimetre wave that spans frequency ranges from 30 to 300 GHz. Using these frequencies 5G enabled devices should be able to access bandwidths that are not congested allow for connections of 10 gigabits per second and higher.
As a result the effect that 5G gaming is going to have on the mobile gaming market could be explosive.
The low-latency that 5G promises to deliver means that developers and game delivery platforms can offload most of the heavy computational work to datacentres running the latest hardware. Players on 5G networks can stream their gaming content in a similar fashion as video streaming services Netflix or Amazon Prime.
Due to latency issues causing lag or delayed input response in games it was not feasible to stream videogames over networks using 4G or 3G.
When a player presses jump, the character needs to jump on command or else the game will feel sluggish and out of sync. But companies like Microsoft and Google have been getting ready for 5G gaming for some years and as we edge ever closer to 2020 we are starting to see their plans come to fruition.
Microsoft recently launched a public preview of its cloud-based videogame streaming service Project xCloud. Players will be able to play Gears of War 5 on mobile devices supporting a 5G connection. Gears is a recent release and has been created using Unreal Engine 4. When running on an Xbox One it pushes the console to the limit, to stream something of this complexity would be unthinkable on previous networks.
Meanwhile Google’s videogame streaming service, Stadia, is due for release in November of 2019. Google has stated that its service, delivered via a controller and dongle combo, will be able to stream games at 4K resolution and 60 frames a second.
A major advantage for developers being opened up by 5G gaming is the capability to bring new genres to the mobile market, such as first person shooters (FPS) and real-time strategy (RTS) games. Yes there are currently FPS and RTS games on mobile devices, but they are often poor copies of their console and PC counterparts. RTS games like ‘They Are Billions’, where up to 20,000 character units can be shown in real-time, would be a real struggle for a smart device as it simply would not contain the hardware, but it’s perfectly feasible if were streamed from a datacentre.
AR and VR gaming is almost the ideal fit for mobile gaming, but as that genre evolves it will require more computational power than a mobile device can provide without reducing said device’s speed down to a crawl. AR and VR are both heavily reliant on real-time data input and conversion both of which require decent hardware to operate.
For those tasked with delivering 5G gaming the technical challenge will be immense, but whoever cracks it and provides gamers with a low cost option to seamlessly play the newest titles available will surely be reward financially. And the repercussions may wel be felt further outside the gaming sector too…