Cloud gaming was originally designed as a streaming service like Netflix only for video games. The idea is that you can connect to a remote server that does all the game's processing, including player input, AI, physics, audio, and graphics rendering. This allows for two major features:
- Any system capable of connecting to the server can play any game the server is offering. This has broad appeal for users of lower-end computers and mobile devices, allowing them to play games at graphical fidelity possible on higher-end systems.
- In the case of the PlayStation 4, implement backwards compatibility without having to design it into the hardware or software of the unit.
On top of this, these services, if they're not free, run on a subscription based system and that allows you to access all of the content.
Despite the positives, people were quick to point out its drawbacks:
- When cloud gaming first launched, you needed a really good internet connection. At the minimum a 1.5Mbps for SD graphics was needed, with up to 8Mbps for HD streams, on top of being reliable. This isn't so much of a problem today, however.
- If the ping time between you and the server is too much, it creates jarring input lag. This can make many games unplayable
- Since the services are subscription based, you are at the mercy of the service to provide you the games you want to play. If the service goes defunct, you lose the ability to play those games as well.
If you're looking to play the games you do own, you can use a remote play tool. It's the same concept as cloud gaming in that you're having a computer connect to a server to handle all of the game processing. The difference is your computer, or in some cases game console, is the server.
Examples of Cloud Gaming Services
- OnLive, now defunct.
- Gaikai, now owned by Sony.
- PlayStation Now, for PlayStation family titles.
- Project xCloud, a planned service for Xbox games.
- GeForce Now, available for PC and mobile devices.