Blog a Week - 2018

The future of Gaming – could VMware and Citrix benefit? (BAW14)

As you may have heard as part of the E3 announcements last week, there is a strong belief that after the next generation of games consoles, development on future games consoles will stop.  This type of thing has been muted around on a number of occasions but it has never really happened, so why could it happen this time?

With the previous iterations of games consoles, the manufacturers have always said that they are unsure about whether they will develop a new console.  If you think about how quickly IT moves, a games console is often years in the making and the available technology could bound ahead whilst the manufacturers are still developing their hardware.  This is why a lot of the games consoles have some form of proprietary hardware but development of proprietary hardware is expensive and therefore could take years to recoup the development costs.  This can be coupled with the fact that if you cannot get the games developers onboard with major titles, then your hopes of the console lasting more than a few months will be dashed.

An example of this struggle can be seen with Nintendo’s Wii U.  This was following on from the highly successful Wii but the device did not capture the hearts and minds of the people who purchased the Wii and developers such as EA Sports refused to support the console.  That could have been the opportunity for Nintendo to stop pushing hardware but they have hit back with their Switch console, which does appear to have lots of people purchasing and playing it… although, it is argued that serious gamers would not touch it.

So, there are a lot of risks involved with developing a new games console and this may be why both Microsoft and Sony released updated specification versions of their consoles with the XBOX One X and PS4 Pro.

The next generation of consoles are well in development and we will see these consoles hit the shelves over the coming years but what does the future hold after that?

As I started discussing at the beginning of this post, there were discussions about where gaming would be heading, from E3.  Mainly the discussion is that all future gaming will be streamed gaming.

This means that the games would all be centrally hosted and could then be streamed to nearly any type of device.  Much like Netflix does with movies and TV shows.  At the moment, though, there are issues with this vision.  When you stream a movie or TV show from the likes of Netflix, you may still see the dreaded buffering icon (although this is a lot better now), you also may see the quality of the stream be lower until it is buffered well in the background and then it returns to full HD (or higher) quality.  So this is just one way streaming, the streaming of the pictures to the device you are watching on… when it comes to gaming, there are a lot of signals that need to be sent back to the console to do with the move or action that you are performing and these need to be represented on the screen with little or no delay – at the moment, these commands would take too long to send across, resulting in massive lag during gameplay.

There are a lot of games that are handling these issues at the moment but they all require the game to be downloaded onto the console, allowing for small amounts of information to be uploaded when online gaming is performed… even then, there are lots of occasions when you will experience lag in gaming.

So where could VMware and Citrix benefit from this type of situation?

There are a couple of areas where VMware and Citrix could benefit.  Firstly, there is hosting.  If all of the games will be streamed in the future, then there will need to be a way to host these games.  I can see that Microsoft will take the lead on this side of things, as they could utilise the Azure platform for hosting their XBOX environment… but we may discover that games developers will not be looking to replicate what has been done in the console environment but instead just build games using more generic tools.  This would mean that they may not wish to have their games hosted on an Azure type platform and therefore may be looking at the virtualisation technologies available from VMware to support them.

The second way that both VMware and Citrix could benefit is around the streaming elements.  VMware and Citrix have been working on VDI technologies for years and part of their development has been around being able to stream desktops and applications to any device to provide a local feel to a remote desktop or application.  This has meant that some of the protocols being used have been developed to a high level to allow the use of video streaming and 3D CAD to devices.  With the use of desktops and applications, there is a requirement to send commands back to the desktop to perform tasks, in a similar way to a games console – the only real difference is that the commands may not come as quick as they would from a games console.

So the underpinnings of the technology are available but need further development to reduce the amount of data being sent, or there will be a reliance on internet speeds to get faster and faster.  The internet speed thing, may happen anyway but you would alienate a number of countries globally if they were unable to provide super fast download and upload speeds, plus streaming games to play with others would put people on slower internet connections at a disadvantage if they were trying different moves, only to see them defeated quickly because their commands could not be uploaded quickly enough.

In the end, we may see that it is the big software houses that own the games market with their own streaming platforms (I believe that EA is already working on theirs), the hardware manufacturers won’t be focused on hardware anymore and will switch their attentions to developing games (this can already be seen with Microsoft enhancing their games studio in preparation).

We’ll have to wait and see!!

Blog-a-Week 2018 Posting (BAW):

In previous years, I have had periods throughout the year where I have been unable to post an entry to my blog.  During 2018, my aim is to post a blog entry each week of the year.  I’m hoping that the blog entries will all be useful bits of information or items that I’ve been working on recently but if the standard of the entries drops, I apologise now, as this could have been a busy week and I wasn’t able to put in as much time as I would have liked into the post

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