Game streaming services for console titles aren’t a new development, with Sony being the first to enter the market with PS Now in 2014. Microsoft’s xCloud followed suit in 2019, bringing their games to other devices in a somewhat less necessary manner. Finally, Nintendo entered the fray in 2021, adopting a different tack from their competitors. Having spent some time with their service, we’ve found Nintendo’s approach to be promising, but problematic in some ways that might ultimately prove self-defeating for some. So, what’s all this about?
Though core technology behind game streaming is the same, each console has a different approach when these systems are put into practice. For those unaware, game streaming operates like a more active version of something like YouTube or Hulu. While almost all of the data and processing of games is done on a server offsite, a separate user device receives video and audio and sends commands back in real-time. This means that, as long as the internet connection is solid, a small and weak device is capable of playing even the most advanced games at full quality.
Sony’s PS Now streaming adopted this method to allow people without access to a PlayStation to play their games over a PC or mobile browser, as reported by PSnowguide.com on their detailed timeline. With this approach, even if you don’t want to buy a PlayStation console, you can still play most exclusives as long as you have an active PS Now subscription.
Microsoft’s xCloud (now rebranded as Xbox Cloud Gaming) followed this idea, though with an effort not quite as helpful as Sony’s. Since many Xbox games are released on PC anyway, having games streamable to PC isn’t as much of a benefit, though it can still offer advantages to those with less powerful desktops or laptops.
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Nintendo takes a different approach. Rather than streaming Nintendo games to PC, Nintendo uses its system to stream some demanding games to Switch that otherwise wouldn’t run. This is necessary thanks to the lower power of the Switch relative to other consoles. Though some impressive port efforts have been able to downgrade big AAA titles like Doom Eternal to run on the Switch, a comprehensive review of which was published earlier on Fiz-x.com, such an approach is not always possible. Thus, with Switch streaming, games like Control and Kingdom Hearts 3 can finally make their way to Nintendo’s machine.
The reason for this move by Nintendo is obvious: it’s a way to stay competitive in an ever-evolving market. Similar approaches have been seen across aspects of the entertainment industry. For example, video streaming services like Peacock and Amazon manage their competition by buying improving libraries and offering exclusive content.
Meanwhile, on an interactive front, online casino directories, such as Casinos.za, compare region-specific services to ensure quality and usability. These also lean on specials like deposit matches and free spins, as a market-specific type of advantage. While video games haven’t been able to match this approach directly, the move that online casinos have made into accepting currencies like bitcoin has been tested by some video game entities like Steam.
Looking back at the Switch, we’ve noticed a couple of big problems that could hold its streaming back. The first is that the system has widely been touted and celebrated as a mobile handheld system. The problem is, however, game streaming relies on extremely low latency that is only really possible when plugged into an internet cable, or when the user is right next to the router. Playing out in public, or even when paired with a 5G phone, is going to introduce enough lag to make the experience frustrating at best.
The other major concern is that when you buy a game like Control on Switch, you’re not given physical media. Instead, players have to rely on Nintendo’s servers, which can go down or perform slowly. Additionally, inevitably, these games will become unavailable as Nintendo changes its infrastructure some time down the track. While this is likely at least a decade away, it means that your game will inevitably disappear into the aether.
As a solution to the Switch’s performance concerns, game streaming makes a lot of sense. It’s also an inherently flawed technology, however, which could make it entirely non-feasible for some users. While it’s possible that the next generation Nintendo system will offer free physical installs of these games to eventually address these issues, we’re still talking Nintendo, so making predictions is never a winning approach.