Androids used to dream of electric sheep, now they’re gaming in the cloud.
We’ve grown used to the ever-increasing performance of our smartphones, and not without reason – console-like gaming performance is now within reach on a handheld device. This is probably why we often forget about one small, but truly essential fact – there’s a limit to the computational power you can cram into a smartphone. Will cloud gaming help us move past it?
Moore’s Law, while not an actual law, has been proven over and over again. It states that the number of transistors per chip just about doubles every two years. In layman’s terms, this translates into an exponential increase in performance every few years. As a result, transistors have become so small they are nearing the size of the most fundamental element of ordinary matter – the atom. This is a barrier that no amount of engineering can overcome. When building a laptop and desktop PCs you have a work-around – just make the processor bigger and throw more energy at it. But, with smartphones you’re also limited by the form factor.
For those who grew up with feature phones and early smartphones, the amount of computational power contained in our pocket is a revelation. Our smartphones now often have more RAM than our laptops. But, with Moore’s prediction expected to fall apart by 2025, and considering there’s limits to the how far one can go in increasing the size of smartphones, can the cloud be the solution to a scenario of technological stagnation?
The idea of using the cloud to overcome the physical limitations of a device isn’t new. The now defunct Nextbit launched a Kickstarter campaign in 2016 to sell Robin, a smartphone marketed as “cloud-first”, relying on the cloud rather than a micro SD card for storage expansion. While Robin may have been ahead of its time, 2020 may be the perfect time for cloud gaming to take off.
2019 saw two tech giants enter the cloud-gaming arena, Google and Nvidia. Both bring considerable knowledge and resources to the table – Internet infrastructure, AI, graphical processing, and more. Still, it’s the developments in connectivity that make cloud gaming more relevant than ever. 5G often makes headlines for its download speeds, but latency – or lack thereof – is the unsung hero. It’s the latter that allows cloud computing to be a solution for something like gaming, where every millisecond count.
While they’re both competing in the same arena, these two companies took two fundamentally different approaches to cloud gaming. While Nvidia provides access to what is mostly a powerful cloud computer to run your own games, Google is a platform and digital storefront, but the differences don’t end there – library size, streaming quality and compatible devices are just a few of the many things that set these two apart. Thankfully, both services are available on the OnePlus 8 Series and provide free tiers and trials of their pro version, allowing you to find the right service for you, if any.
Regardless of the platform you choose, playing AAA game titles on your smartphone couldn’t be any easier. The benefits don’t end there: streaming is more energy-efficient than rendering the game locally and it doesn’t require heaps of storage. Simply put, streaming allows you to play more.
I have no doubts that cloud gaming, and cloud computing in general, will play a major role in the future of the smartphone beyond Moore’s Law. But whether the current cloud services will be a part of that future, only time will tell.