Rovio, the Finnish video game developer best known for the Angry Birds game, recently announced its forward-looking deal in the South Korean 5G market. Rovio’s spinoff, Hatch Entertainment, will start offering 5G-enabled cloud gaming with a 3-month trial subscription included with Samsung’s new 5G-capable Galaxy S10 devices. Hatch is already collaborating with other 5G early adopters such as NTT DOCOMO in Japan and Sprint in the United States.
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New Players in the Gaming Industry
Rovio, the Finnish video game developer best known for the Angry Birds game, recently announced its forward-looking deal in the South Korean 5G market. Rovio’s spinoff, Hatch Entertainment, will start offering 5G-enabled cloud gaming with a 3-month trial subscription included with Samsung’s new 5G-capable Galaxy S10 devices. Hatch is already collaborating with other 5G early adopters such as NTT Docomo in Japan and Sprint in the United States.
The landscape of the gaming industry is rapidly changing, with many heavyweights recently announcing new cloud gaming platforms:Google unveiled its new cloud gaming platform Stadia this March, and Microsoft’s xCloud service started to stream Xbox games to PCs, consoles, and mobile devices. Amazon is developing its own cloud gaming service, which it will launch potentially in 2020. Furthermore, Apple is also expected to launch Apple Arcade in the second half of 2019.
Huawei first launched its cloud gaming service in 2015, which currently has more than 20 million users, while 70% of these are also using the mobile platform. This platform already provides 50- to 100-millisecond end-to-end latency, with 4K 60 fps for PC and 720 30 fps on mobile devices. The Chinese giant has the largest cloud gaming platform in China, but the company also plans an international expansion shortly.
5G Will Disrupt the Gaming Industry
ABI Research estimates that the revenue of the total gaming market will achieve US$150 billion this year, and the share of cloud gaming is expected to increase and even open new markets. As mobile broadband disrupted audio and then video consumption in the last two decades, the same pattern is expected to happen in the most data-intensive and latency-sensitive area: gaming. As 5G networks become faster and faster and latency becomes lower, streaming will also dominate the gaming industry. This will disrupt the entire gaming market and the Spotify or Netflix of gaming will emerge.
But the advanced capabilities of 5G networks are needed. On the one hand, 4G networks have been proven to provide 50-millisecond latency in the best-case scenario, and stable connectivity of 10s of Mbps in a real-life environment. On the other hand, Wi-Fi can provide lower latency, but it can also suffer from interference and a congested frequency band, leading to an unstable and less reliable connection for cloud gaming. 5G and Mobile Edge Computing (MEC) will overcome both issues, reducing the number of hops in the network and providing even 10-millisecond latency.
How to Be the "Netflix of the Gaming Industry"?
The gaming experience is expected to significantly improve, caused by the complete redesign of the game engine, moving from one-machine architecture to multi-server architecture. This means that more than 10,000 players can play on one persistent map simultaneously, with 8K texture with ultimate user customization. Moreover, this improved user experience will not necessarily cause higher costs for end users. Gaming will be also more affordable, resulting in the disruption the entire gaming industry. There are four areas that the next gaming Netflix candidates should prioritize:
Opening New Markets: This cloudification and 5G will allow any device to run high-end AAA games without the cost of a high-end console or computing platform. Currently, the hardware is the biggest entry barrier for most gamers, while ABI Research expects that almost 1.6 billion smartphones and 180 million Internet-ready TVs will be shipped just in 2019. These may become the next dominant gaming platforms with cloud gaming.
Moving from the expensive local computing and storage capacity into the cloud will be beneficial for both the gaming service provider and gamer. The removal of this hardware burden opens less mature markets with lower willingness-to-pay customers, and for those who already own a smartphone or smart TV.
Providing Healthier, Recurring Revenue: The customer won’t be restricted to buying US$500+ hardware or downloading and owning the software locally—they can start playing immediately. On the other hand, cloud gaming can enable a much more favorable, subscription-based charging method for cloud game providers. It can smooth out income and secure a much healthier recurring revenue flow for gaming companies.
Advanced Pricing Techniques: Gamers are expected to be charged after game usage, based on the Quality of Service (QoS). By its nature, the network externality effect will be way more relevant in cloud gaming compared to music or video. Cloud game providers are recommended to consider advanced pricing methods, such as bundling opportunities: friend, “clan,” and family plans. Based on the demand-side economies of scale, cloud game providers are also advised to provide significant early discounts to reach critical mass before others. Monetization technics in the gaming industry will transform to the same extent as they did previously with the music, video, television, and film industries.
Provides Upsell Opportunities:Being able to offload the processing of gaming to the cloud will open up a new generation of thin client devices. Beyond the cloud gaming subscriptions itself, companies are also recommended to monetize upsell opportunities, such as hardware accessories and VR devices. Providing sponsored gaming content and displaying advertisements also have significant revenue potential similar to other existing streaming services.
Mobile Service Providers (MSPs) are recommended to start preparing to sell premium gaming slices, which can have bandwidth and latency policy control, based on device QoS. MSPs are also needed to adapt and align their data strategies: Openwave Mobility believes that cloud gaming could represent 25% to 50% of 5G data traffic by 2022. Furthermore, MSPs should focus on partnerships with both vendors and platform and game developers.
For the equipment manufacturers, cloud gaming is a great opportunity even in the early 5G times, thus gaming servers must be near to the end user to provide sufficient latency. With the disruptive impact of MEC and 5G, the race has started for the Netflix of online gaming. Equipment vendors, mobile network operators, device manufacturers, and game developers should all prepare for the new era of cloud gaming. High-throughput and low-latency 5G connectivity will enable more demanding, higher-resolution games and open the door for Virtual Reality (VR), which has hundreds of Mbps data traffic requirements.In the fast-paced gaming industry, several currently successful companies will experience a situation similar to that of record shops and video rentals not so long ago.