Cloud Gaming: 5G’s killer app?

5G promises superfast connectivity. Many established sectors (and some new ones) are gearing up to translate that speed into better products and services and a more sophisticated user experience. The mobile games sector is a great example. Low latency will throw the doors wide open to things like cloud gaming, putting multiplayer formats in the hands of anyone with a 5G handset.  Games analytics company, Newzoo teamed up with chip company, Arm, to produce a report on what that reality might look like. Here Tianyi Gu, Market Analyst at Newzoo, outlines the headline results.


The fifth generation of mobile networks (5G) is undeniably one of the most exciting developments in mobile technology, offering users far faster speeds and more reliable connections than ever before. The applications are practically endless, with countless sectors on course for a shake-up—gaming chief among them.

To help uncover the impact of 5G on gaming, we worked together with Arm to create a report dedicated to the tech. It dives into the technologies that led up to 5G, the new era of networks, 5G readiness, the new gaming experiences brought about by 5G, and more.

The 5G Ecosystem

After years of planning, 5G became a reality for some consumers in 2019, with South Korea being the first country to roll out commercial 5G networks on a large national-wide scale (in early April). Many countries, including the US, the UK and China followed suit. By the end of 2019, there were more than 20 countries in the world that had already laid down 5G infrastructure (with commercial networks).

 

On the hardware front, leading mobile brands like Samsung, Huawei, Xiaomi, Vivo, and OPPO have already launched their first 5G handsets and are set to introduce a full line up of 5G devices this year. Apple is also rumoured to launch a 5G iPhone later in 2020.

5G and Cloud Gaming

By the end of 2019, 0.2% of all active smartphones globally were 5G-ready—or 7.5 million devices worldwide. As you can see in the image below, however, this number will skyrocket to more than one billion by 2022.

 

Even though 5G is still in its infancy, the technology is already on track to dramatically affect the games business. One of 5G’s major use cases is paving the way for a smooth cloud gaming experience.

The global games market is moving towards a future in which platform choice is less relevant, driven by cloud gaming, cross-platform game services, and even cross-platform multiplayer—all powered by 5G.

Peter Warman, CEO, Newzoo

The technology’s low latency, combined with the convenience of smartphones, will make mobile a key platform for cloud gaming.

Today’s mobile-first gamers are increasingly exposed to midcore, immersive, and competitive game experiences—titles that were previously available only on console and PC. Cloud gaming and 5G will make many more of these premium game titles accessible to more consumers, via mobile.

What’s more, it’s unclear whether 4G connections will meet the minimum requirements for cloud gaming. It is, however, likely that a better quality of experience will be required, making 4G unsuitable long-term. In the end, 5G will be necessary for gamers to enjoy virtually latency-free cloud gaming on the go.

Echoing how video and music-streaming capabilities were major selling points for consumers to upgrade to 3G to 4G, cloud gaming could well be 5G’s killer application.


Tianyi Gu, Market Analyst, Newzoo