The day will soon come when gamers can simply stream titles to their consoles instead of buying hard copies or downloading them digitally. That’s because gaming is on the verge of an industry-shattering paradigm shift toward cloud gaming. But Nintendo seems to have a different view.
A top Nintendo executive believes that the traditional gaming industry has a future despite the advent of streaming technology. Here's veteran Nintendo designer Shigeru Miyamoto:
"I think that cloud gaming will become more widespread in the future, but I have no doubt that there will continue to be games that are fun because they are running locally and not on the cloud."
Is Nintendo living in the 8-bit past?
There’s absolutely no doubt that streaming is the future of the video gaming industry. According to a third-party estimate, cloud gaming is expected to clock a compound annual growth rate of 46.7 percent over the next five years, hitting a size of $450 million by 2024.
This is why the likes of Sony, Microsoft, and Google are betting big on the cloud gaming market. In fact, console rivals Microsoft and Sony made the bizarre move to join hands on video game streaming less than two months ago.
— Microsoft (@Microsoft) May 16, 2019
Sony could use Microsoft’s Azure cloud service to deliver games to users, which seems like a logical move as Sony doesn’t have a cloud infrastructure of its own. The advent of blazing fast internet speeds and the roll-out of superfast 5G wireless networks could render consoles redundant, and Sony needs to be ready for that time.
Microsoft, on the other hand, will most likely use its Azure cloud service to bring a new streaming console to the market when it launches the Xbox Two next year. The company is rumored to be working on a low-cost, cloud-specific console that will act as a streaming box to deliver games to the user right from the cloud.
So Nintendo’s comments that games played locally from the console still have a future seem out of place. After all, there's incredible convenience in streaming a game right from the cloud, such as less costly hardware, instant playability, and ability to stream across devices.
Keeping its streaming schemes close to the chest
The Nintendo executive might have said that locally-played games will still have a future in the era of cloud gaming, but the company is reportedly testing cloud streaming with some partners in Japan.
For instance, one can stream a cloud version of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey on a Nintendo Switch and pay around $80 for 730 days of access.
So there’s a good chance that Nintendo is bluffing, as Miyamoto points out that the company does not go public with products or services until it actually releases them.
Moreover, Nintendo president Shuntaro Furukawa hinted that the company could be working on cloud gaming tech.
— The Verge (@verge) July 6, 2019
"We see a future where cloud and streaming technologies will develop more and more as a means of delivering games to consumers," he said. "We must keep up with such changes in the environment.
"That being said, if these changes increase the worldwide gaming population, that will just give us more opportunities with our integrated hardware and software development approach to reach people worldwide with the unique entertainment that Nintendo can provide."
We can conclude that Nintendo is working toward a hybrid model wherein it sees the co-existence of both streamed and locally-played games. So Nintendo might publicly say that games might not need streaming, but don't be surprised if its larger rivals call its bluff.