The hype has gone up and down for the cloud game a few times in the past, but it has never been hotter than it is now. Google's announcement of its Stadia platform is the strongest statement of intent ever made by a company with the resources to become a major player, while Microsoft's xCloud service is expected to be revealed soon.
The usual questions about bandwidth requirements and business models remain, of course. Google does not tell anyone what or how you will pay for games on Stadia. Many people still prefer to buy physical games rather than digital downloads, even if they are lucky to have no speed or heading problems. Internet. And especially in the United States, with its huge land mass and distributed population, poor internet connectivity can still be a problem.
But it's not like this technology was out of reach everywhere. I live in Japan, where The fast Internet access is ubiquitous and I have played various well-known AAA games that run entirely on the cloud. This has been going on for a while – Square Enix has released a streaming version of Final Fantasy XIII for the iPhone in 2015, for example. And now, game publishers in Japan are starting to associate cloud gaming technology with what might be its ideal device. The Nintendo Switch is not powerful enough to run many recent high-end games on its own hardware, but it's a stand-alone portable system with all the controls you'd expect to find on a full-featured console controller. And of course, Wi-Fi.
Capcom was the first to broadcast an AAA game at Switch with a version of Resident Evil 7 last May, but it was well over a year after the launch of the game on the market. The biggest output to date is that of Ubisoft. Assassin's Creed OdysseyOn the same day, retailers began selling their PS4 and Xbox One copies, giving gamers a unique opportunity to experience AAA play for the first time via streaming technology. (It should be noted that Assassin's Creed Odyssey was also the title used for Google's Project Stream test last year, suggesting that Ubisoft is particularly willing to offer its games on flat screens. streaming forms.)
Both Odyssey and Resident Evil 7 operates on the GameCloud streaming technology from the Taiwanese company Ubitus; Ubitus has existed in Japan for some time, originally launching a cloud version of Dreamcast Classic. Sonic Adventure for NTT Docomo in 2011. Given the popularity of the switch and the prevalence of high-speed Internet in Japan, this scenario should be as close to the best scenario as possible for streaming games. So, with Stadia and xCloud looming, I decided to play Assassin's Creed Odyssey for myself and see where the current state of knowledge is.
The benefits of cloud gaming for a system such as the switch are obvious. There is no way that the hardware of the mobile class of the system can make software like Odyssey with a fidelity close to that of a PS4, and the game of 45 to 50 GB does not even fit on a board Game Switch or in its internal memory. Indeed, you can affirm that the GameCloud version of Assassin's Creed Odyssey is the best game on the switch.
My biggest surprise was the responsiveness of the game. Assassin's Creed is not exactly Street Fighter IIIbut its combat system is fast enough that any unpredictable lag makes the game unplayable. And yet it was not a problem for me. According to Japanese standards, my home Internet setup is not impressive – I have a 100 Mbps fiber optic connection and three Google Wifi access points – but playing Odyssey on the Switch seems to be as good than a PS3 game with sometimes uneven framing rhythms. That is, even if I do not want to play something like Sekiro: the shadows are dying twice So, I think that's enough for many games.
However, Ubitus seems to have favored this responsiveness over image quality, even more than other cloud gaming platforms. sometimes Odyssey This sounds great, but in dark scenes, or when you move quickly, or when there is a lot of foliage – the same moments that could be a problem for a video on YouTube, in which you can not see it. Other terms – the quality is degraded. The colors also look strangely flat. And you have to make sure that you are close to your router, because even my mesh network has lived up to the notoriously low Wi-Fi performance of the switch when I tried to play on the roof.
The poor image quality is not unknown on the switch, of course. Countless games from Condemn at Xenoblade Chronicles 2 dynamically reduce their resolution to maintain performance, sometimes with fuzzy results in an alarming way. Assassin's Creed Odyssey seems generally better than these cases, especially in pocket mode, because the source visuals are clearly of high quality and the noticeable resolution is not so low. But at first, it's strange to play. It's like controlling a Twitch stream rather than a game created before your eyes.
Still, it's undeniably cool to have a portable version of Assassin's Creed Odyssey that I can play in bed. I would not buy it myself on the PC or console versions, but for people who only have one switch, I do not think it would be a terrible buy … if it does not. is that the price is tared. The cloud version of the game sells at the MSRP of the standard version of 9,072 yen, or about 80 USD, and that does not even mean that you own it: this unique price guarantees you 730 days of access.
I really do not know of a Switch owner who would accept this price structure for an expensive game that requires a good internet connection and whose license expiry date is two years. It's possible that some Switch owners only are particularly interested in this game and prefer to check it rather than buying a PS4, but I get the impression that most people who are more interested in Assassin's Creed should probably buy a PS4. The advantage of cloud games is that you do not have to buy expensive hardware; I'm not sure that many will be influenced by the high prices of software rentals.
Assassin's Creed OdysseyThe cloud version looks like a technical realization; I even sometimes forgot that the game did not work on local hardware. The low latency is impressive, the quality of the image seems to be repairable in the short term and, overall, I saw myself surely take a look at games on the cloud, at least on an experimental basis. But there is no way I recommend anyone to buy a streaming game only at the full price that self-destructs after two years, regardless of the technology.
Given the collaboration between Nintendo, Ubisoft and Ubitus in Japan, I find it difficult to question the long-term potential of cloud gaming, at least for some titles. I also think that Google and Microsoft have the technical skills to make their services work for a large audience. The hardest part will be determining the price to pay.