A Netflix for video games?

Major companies including Microsoft and Verizon are exploring how to replace game downloads with Internet-based game services, hoping to do for video gaming what Netflix and Spotify have done with TV and music.

February 26th,  2019

Unlike passive forms of media, such as movies and music, playing games over the Internet calls for highly responsive technology that can interpret a player’s actions from afar, process them within milliseconds, and relay the results back to players and their opponents instantaneously.

The challenge has stymied gamers and game companies for years. But with advances in computing power, the adoption of high-speed broadband and fresh investments by tech behemoths, what was once a lofty technological and cultural goal for the game industry seems closer at hand than at any point in the past decade.

“Game streaming services will be the ultimate driver of a rapid transition from the sale of games in boxes to digital consumption,” Yosuke Matsuda, president of the game company Square Enix, declared in a New Year’s letter to the public. “Streaming also lends itself to new subscription-based business models, so we believe deciding how to engage with these forthcoming trends will be key to future growth.”

As more Americans turn to mobile and online entertainment, executives across the media landscape have recognized that they are competing for the same quickly diminishing resource: consumer attention. Even Netflix this month acknowledged that it views the hit game Fortnite as an even bigger competitor in some respects than HBO.

In the war for consumer attention, cloud-based gaming represents tens of billions in additional profit for game publishers alone, analysts say. Beyond the simple convenience of playing games off a central server, what makes the idea so attractive is the capability to turn even the weakest laptop into a fully functional gaming rig.

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