Is 5G Cloud Gaming the future? Hint: ask SK Telecom, Microsoft

Gaming
Image credit: eelnosiva | shutterstock.com

The gaming market will be worth $152 billion in 2019. Mobile gaming accounts for $68.5 billion of this (source Newzoo). Cloud based gaming is still in its infancy, but the forecasts look promising. According to analyst firm IHS Markit, it is predicted that cloud based gaming market will be worth $2.5 billion by 2023.

If we were to look at the shift towards streaming services in the home entertainment market, then it could be argued that the cloud gaming market forecast is a bit conservative. The console based gaming market is worth $48 billion in 2019. Going forward, why would people go out and buy a games console and games when they can get a perfectly good streaming service, with access to a wider range of games for a fixed fee per month? Will games consoles go the same way as CD and DVD players?

One of the problems with cloud based gaming was that Wi-Fi often was not good enough for serious gamers. Delay and lag could interrupt gaming sessions. Anyone who works from home and is on a Skype video call knows all about it when someone starts to watch Netflix in another room. 

Well it’s the same for gamers. There’s only so much shared bandwidth in a household to go round, and while PC gaming typically takes less than 1 Mbps data transfer, when it’s shared with hi-def video (8 Mbps for 1080 and 15 Mbps for 4K video) gaming performance takes a hit. This is why serious gamers all try and use wired Ethernet connections. According to pcgamer.com, gamers should have, “a router for gaming with robust Quality of Service (QoS) to prioritize gaming traffic, and not allow Netflix or YouTube to drag down gaming performance”. I can’t see that working in your typical household – you can just imagine the arguments that this would cause.

Enter 5G

Network slicing enables operators to set up 5G ‘sub-networks’ with their own characteristics – such as quality of service or latency. Being able to guarantee different network attributes, such as QoS, enables operators to roll out specific services. For example, a gaming service. Or even going more granular, a gaming service, with say, Nintendo, or Google Stadia. For the gaming companies, they get a route to market with a robust delivery channel (5G) that delivers the speed and performance necessary to ensure the best gaming experience for the customer.

There’s then different gamification aspects to the service, where consumers can ‘win’ access to new games, get gaming based loyalty offers and even gaming based incentives if they refer a friend to sign up for the operator and gaming company’s 5G gaming service.

Gaming is just one example of delivering a new content based service using 5G network slicing. Openet has been discussing gaming over 5G for some time (check out Jonathan Plant’s blog on Google Stadia and 5G) and the recent webinar on 5G network slicing. The key is for operators to have the systems and processes in place so they can quickly develop and roll out new offers with new partners. Gaming is just one example. Indeed there could be different variations – e.g. advertising funded gaming, where gaming service is free / or low cost to the consumer, and the operator and gaming companies get paid by the advertisers.

5G will see more partnerships between service providers and content companies. The speed of 5G and the ability to offer QoS could open up the floodgates to meet the demand for mobile content based services. Just last week, the Openet blog highlighted consumer research that showed that around a third of customers want their mobile operators to deliver more value to them and better engage with them.

It will be interesting to watch the take up of the SK Telecom and Microsoft 5G gaming service in Korea. Already, the take up of 5G in Korea, with 2 million subscribers in just 4 months, has bypassed expectations. Gaming could open up a new market and take it to the next level.

Niall Byrne, Head of Automated Networks, Openet Previous to this he ran engineering, as well as support & managed services in Openet.

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