Cloud gaming is maturing, but not quite there, says Capacity Europe panel
In a two-part panel session DOCOMO Digital's Filippo Giachi and Rahul Mughal unpack the booming sector that is cloud gaming, to mixed views.
The session entitled, cloud gaming – How telco operators can advance to the next level, saw Giachi joined by Andreas Schmidt, head of international data sales at A1 Telekom Austria;
Rashid Ali Al-Ali, VP of international sales of Etisalat; and Malek Hammoud, chief investment and digital officer at Zain Group.
Kicking off the discussion with a general overview of the cloud gaming market Ali Al-Ali as a sector that is "maturing very fast"
"Based on the numbers that we have as of today, roughly two point something billion, we predict that by 2023, the total market size might could reach up to 200 billion."
Impacting all aspects of the industry from networking to operations side, B2B and the consumer side he says "it's a full blown ecosystem that promises a lot for cloud businesses, mobile services, for the wholesale business, connectivity-wise, data centre and at Etisalat we are watching this community very closely".
A1's Schmidt says that "the future [of gaming] is potentially huge" comparing its scale to that of a Netlflix or some other pay-per-view aggregator, in terms of growth, and that cloud gaming and the telco business "fits perfectly together".
"One trend we see in the market right now is that of the CPU (semiconductor) shortage, meaning that hardware in the market will be expensive over the next few years, which will let this community focus more cloud gaming for the short term."
From Hammoud's perspective Zain's region comprised mostly of the GCC countries /Middle East, has seen a surge in demand across all its territories.
"This partnership between cloud gaming and telco makes lots of sense. When you operate in multiple markets, you have lots of different conditions," he said.
"This is where you really have to understand whether cloud gaming works or not. You have to look also at the validity of devices. This is where there's a big incentive for operators like us to look for the best solutions and launch cloud gaming solutions to ensure that the demand is met for our consumer base."
As conversation turned to that of game publishers and the B2B proposition, Hammoud believes it all boils down to the infrastructure "and this is what we've been working on".
"When 5G technology came to life one of the key use cases was how to maximise the use of a technology that is as fast as 5G. As such we had to evolve the infrastructure to include a very strong wholesale offering to include a proper data centre that meets the requirements of big publishers. The demand is very high and game publishers want to be next to the gamers in our region," he explained.
In the case of A1 Schmidt says the company is taking a multi-level approach. One such example is a marketing approach where makes the aggregator visible in its home markets.
"So, in all the countries we are active, we make them visible, and set up possible carrier buildings for them and contribute with a revenue share model, " said Schmidt.
Ali Al-Ali believes that gaming publishers are less concerned with traffic size, for them it is more about latency and getting closer to the gamers themselves.
"We've done a lot of massive network enhancements and we developed a couple of services and products where we give the developers the ability to get closer to the users."
Ending on the topic of 5G, Schmidt calls for a differentiation between the types of gamers, players and watchers, what they might need and how 5G can deliver.
"The application-based gamer has different needs, looking at the last fortnight update which about 160Gbps, they need to carry big portion of data from A to B, therefore, a network slice must be usable for them with the big pipe. For the real time gamer or the cloud gamer, tt's really the latency and stability that they require. There is also a group of people like the Twitch and YouTube watchers, which requires a network slice on demand - mostly upload."
For Hammoud "it's about the experience", while Ali Al-Ali took a different approach saying "the full potential of 5G will not be completely realised for another two to three years. 5G is promising, but under two conditions, the right data package and the handset availability cost-wise".
Conversation drew to close on the area of payment integration Hammoud believing it needs to be "a seamless, simple experience" and Schmidt agreeing adding that "for the gamers, it must be seamless, easy and quick, and for the aggregators and publishers, it must be safe".
Ali Al-Ali took it a step further saying we need to view it as "another stream with huge potential … the OTTs are doing it" and telcos should be doing the same.
As a follow on to this panel, another session followed closely afterwards where Rahul Mughal, Global Marketing Director at DOCOMO Digital, spoke to Greg Beitchman, chief revenue officer at Antstream Arcade, and Yiannis Pagkalos, global head of Stadia business development and product partnerships at Google Stadia.
Speaking from the publisher/aggregator perspective on their thoughts on the cloud gaming market Beitchman said that Antstream Arcade sees it as "a new way for consumers to easily get access to content without having to download two devices, without having to have a certain kind of process or device to play a game. But we also see it as enabling new kinds of experiences."
Pagkalos agreed even going so far as to say that they don't see cloud gaming as a replacement to consoles or other means of consumption and channels.
"It's an additional way for users to consume gaming, without the restrictions of the device or the devices capabilities," he said.
As for 5G Beitchman agrees that it opens up a "tonne of opportunity with that processing power, closer to the consumer and also through more advanced devices that consumers will have" but it's very early days.
Pagkalos says that as 5G evolves and starts moving more strongly into millimetre wave implementations, "we will realise a lot of the benefits of very low latency connectivity, which is obviously essential for cloud gaming delivery".
Also mobile in general, "once you develop cloud infrastructure that enables AAA gamers to stream directly to a mobile device, which previously wasn't necessarily an available surface for them - you're entering into all sorts of new thinking."