It’s upon us. The whispers about next generation hardware are growing to a murmur. Sony has confirmed that they are working on another console. It should be clarified that it has not been confirmed to be a next-gen playstation, which does leave some room for speculation as to what it may be. Are they challenging the Switch? Or will they continue to simply make a more playstation-y playstation? Or maybe they will go in another directly entirely? If so, what would that direction be?
Truth be told, this subject fascinates me. How does the future of consumer computers (gaming consoles, laptops, etc) look? As many others in the industry, I believe it lies in the wispy, mysterious Cloud.
We know that a lot of different companies are experimenting with offloading heavy-duty computing to a cloud of servers, with services like Nvidia Now, Parsec, or Google’s Project Stream, which Jason Schreier wrote about just recently.
Personally, I don’t believe this is how gaming will be done in the future.
I believe this is how ALL computing will be done in the future.
I can see a future where your “home computer” is nothing but a souped up ChromeCast that connects to a cloud-based computer and hosts “client windows” of whatever programs you want to use along with a barebone OS. Buying a computer, then, will be less about what power you need for your application, but rather what kind of utilities you need and how mobile you need your workstation to be.
In this way, starting up Unity on your home computer, per example, would simultaneously assign you a number of Unity threads from the cloud hardware that does all the actual rendering of the game you are working on, and simply returns the result of the rendering to your local computer in the form of what is essentially an interact-able video stream.
Basically, I believe that in the future, computing-as-a-service will become an entirely reasonable alternative for the VAST majority of people, with only a select few areas requiring dedicated hardware solutions. People dedicated to online gaming will likely still want their own hardware, because no matter what you do, offloading computing to the cloud will ALWAYS incur an increase in latency, and this is one of the few areas where this can be noticeable.
As for payment structure, I can see two alternatives: one where you pay based on the actual computing power used by your account (think electricity bill), and one where you pay for a set amount of computing power, with different payment tiers giving you access to more power (think broadband). The type of payment structure will likely, during the beginning, vary from supplier to supplier, with a singular solution eventually rising to the top and becoming a de-facto industry standard.
I think the possibilities for this sort of service are super exciting, particular for single-player gaming, where there are really no drawbacks to it. Imagine never worrying again about your hardware breaking, or about budgeting for the release of a new console because it would cost maybe 100€ at most, etc etc.
Do you have any thoughts about this? Let me know in the comments. I think it’s a super interesting topic to discuss, and I’m curious to see other perspectives on it.