What are the immediate benefits of 5G? What makes it so much more fascinating than 4G? I guess gamers could give one of the answers.
In the beginning of 2000, mobile data made MMS and video calling possible. By 2010s, when the era of 4G arrived, mobile communication and data transfer was advancing at a rapid pace. And from now on, with the continued enhancements of 5G, the high speed and low latency properties create a wide array of use cases. This includes the evolution of games presented in Hollywood films like Ready Player One. Such an immersive experience might be realized in the future.
According to NewZoo studies, mobile gaming (smartphone and tablet) remains the largest segment in 2019, generating revenues of $68.5 billion and accounting for 45 percent of the global game market. The number is expected to go up to 59% in 2021. It means that an increasing number of gamers play on handy devices like smartphones or tablets, especially in China. But still, smooth gaming experiences are restricted by $300 to $600 hardware.
Gaming experience unconstrained by devices
However after games are “unleashed” in the cloud, gamers could play triple-A games like Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey on their smartphones, without being constrained by the functionality of their devices. “Streaming is the most convenient way to play games. Cloud gaming will be totally different from current games.” A speaker from the cloud gaming company said. “Hardware is still a big barrier for most of the gamers globally. Sometimes they can’t play them because they don’t have the hardware. Cloud gaming is the solution. Cloud gaming has expanded the market of triple-A games from hundreds of millions of devices to a billion users, which is a three times larger market.”
Streaming is hardly a new idea. In the music industry, there is Spotify. For videos, there is Netflix. In China, we have three major video streaming platforms that have gone wildly popular, iQiyi, Tencent video, Youku. In terms of online streaming, major live gaming platforms, such as Douyu, HUYA, and even short video platforms like TikTok have all done a perfect job. All the areas these apps cover can actually be business scenarios for cloud gaming, which theoretically attracts hundreds of millions of existing users. Chinese players have been able to access cloud games through video websites. “We could use any device. One click and start to play.”
At Qualcomm’s booth at Shanghai MWC 2019, users tried out the demo of Naruto. It’s actually a PC game uploaded onto a cloud server, that connects to smartphones using the 5G network around the venue. Just as predicted, it is incredibly fast, with exceptional latency and high definition projection.
Note that with 4G networks, approximate end-to-end latency ranges between 50 to 100 ms, while for 5G, the minimum latency could be down to 1ms. With edge cloud technology, cloud gaming servers can be deployed near the users. “Anyone can play any game on any device, anywhere.” The speaker said.
Qualcomm and Tencent Instant Play
On June 27, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc., a subsidiary of Qualcomm Incorporated announced a joint demonstration with ZTE of 5G-powered cloud gaming on a live 5G network. The demonstration – which utilizes the cloud gaming solutions from Tencent Instant Play on 5G smartphones from OnePlus, Vivo, Xiaomi and ZTE – aims to demonstrate that console-quality mobile gaming experiences are achievable over live 5G networks. This shows the massive growth opportunity for cloud-gaming ecosystems. The demos will use China Telecom’s live 5G network, ZTE’s 5G NR commercial system infrastructure, and 5G commercial smartphones featuring the flagship Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 855 Mobile Platform with the Snapdragon X50 5G Modem with integrated RF transceiver and Qualcomm Technologies’ RF Front-End (RFFE) solutions.
Cloud gaming solutions provided by Tencent Instant Play leverage the cloud’s capabilities for rendering and processing, while utilizing high-speed 5G networks to send users’ commands to the cloud which streams back the rendered frames to local devices. This allows users instant access to graphically demanding games via 5G smartphones without the need to download and install them on the devices, delivering a smooth “games on demand” experience. All premium 5G smartphones based on the Snapdragon 855 Mobile Platform include Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ Elite Gaming features – providing mobile gamers with a competitive edge for both on-device and cloud-based game experiences.
“This cloud gaming demo in cooperation with Tencent is actually the best demonstration of the great throughput of the 5G network.” Said one of Qualcomm’s public relations officers at Qualcomm’s booth. “Just as the 5G commercial license was released, many began to download speed test apps on their phones. People would say I know it’s super fast, so what? That’s why we made this demo on entertainment which is most relevant to the lives of ordinary users.”
“We believe that cloud gaming is one of the key trends in the future of the entertainment industry. The arrival of 5G is expected to set off a new revolution in cloud gaming. 5G’s high speed and low latency make it an ideal connectivity fabric for cloud gaming which can support improved image quality, provide more fluent interactive experience, and effectively reduce the cost per user of services, thereby bringing high-quality gaming experiences to a wider range of users,” said Jian Wang, head of operations, Tencent Instant Play. “We will continue to work on the enhanced cloud gaming experience based on various gaming scenarios and stay focused on innovative experience and high-quality content.”
“China’s 5G era has officially begun, and it accelerated from its original timeline thanks to the work of the whole mobile ecosystem. With the readiness of 5G commercial networks, China is poised to have a fast large-scale 5G rollout, and within this year Chinese consumers will have access to numerous use cases and enhanced experiences, such as cloud gaming, powered by 5G and the Snapdragon 855 Mobile Platform,” said Pomp Sheng, vice president, sales, Qualcomm Communication Technologies (Shenzhen) Co., Ltd. “Qualcomm Technologies is committed to sharing opportunities with Chinese partners, and we are excited to be part of this extensive cooperation across operators, OEMs and content providers for facilitating the improved user mobile experience through 5G innovations.”
Huawei and NetEase
Huawei and NetEase launched a cloud gaming joint innovation lab. Recently, Huawei X Labs and Thunder Fire of NetEase completed the optimization of a large online game, Treacherous Waters, which is now available on Huawei cloud, ready for Huawei and Honor phone users. With the issuance of 5G commercial licenses in China, cloud games will continue to benefit more ordinary users, which will lead to the popularization of high-quality games.
“Cloud games have broken the boundaries of the devices. Console games create gigantic worlds, with fine design, exquisite production and huge market potential.” Hu Zhipeng, President of Thunder Fire of NetEase, said at the ceremony of the establishment of the joint lab. “Cloud gaming will provide a “golden window” for the console gaming industry.”
“In the age of 5G, we transform industries across the globe.” This is the slogan of Qualcomm at 2019 Mobile World Congress. In a word, giants like Huawei and Qualcomm are integrating resources to advance the industrial landscape so it is adaptable to the 5G era.
Featured photo credit to Gabriel Li/Pandaily