Video streaming blasted into the mainstream shortly after YouTube was acquired by Google in 2006. Until then, there were a few services offering video streaming from the web – most notably DivX.com, a pioneer in the area launched in 2001. But Google spending more than $1.6 billion on a service pretty much unknown to the world (that’s more than $2.3 billion today) shifted our focus toward the possibilities of this new technology. In a few years, we’ve seen the first live streams emerge, along with Netflix that successfully shifted from sending DVDs in the mail to providing its customers with a library of online videos. In time, streaming expanded into other areas, changing social media, telecommunication, and video games as well.
One of the first areas to fuse gaming and streaming was iGaming. Online games of chance were traditionally built around random number generators run on the service providers’ servers. No matter if it was a game of online roulette or a slot machine, the principle behind it was the same. This changed in the mid-2000s when the first live dealer games emerged.
These games successfully merged live video streaming and a digital interface through which players could wager. The dealers sit in a studio doing what their real-life counterparts would do – spin the wheels, deal the cards – but instead of people sitting across the table, they do it in front of cameras. These cameras don’t just record video – they also recognize the cards dealt or the winning number on the wheel, evaluating the players’ wagers based on them.
Live dealer games were a novelty back in the mid-2000s – today, they have become a widely used and highly appreciated form of online entertainment.
Cloud gaming, or gaming-as-a-service, sounds like the Holy Grail of the video game industry. In a nutshell, it means running games on a remote server and streaming the screen output to the player. The gamers can use their own PC or laptop to play without having to invest huge amounts in gaming hardware – all they have to pay for is a subscription and the games themselves. Considering how expensive gaming hardware can be today, this is an attractive option for hosts of gamers around the world.
The first company to offer cloud gaming services was G-Cluster, a startup that focused on IPTV set-top-box users, in the early 2000s. In time, other services like OnLive and Gaikai emerged, paving the way to the emergence of today’s big players, Google’s Stadia, Geforce Now, and Xbox Cloud Gaming.
Cloud gaming is evolving as we speak. Some companies are experimenting with a new, peer-2-peer model that can solve a series of problems (like the huge costs of running gaming servers) and allow gamers to ‘rent out’ their computers to earn money. One of the proponents of this new model, Clastr Gaming, are planning to beta-test their service in early 2022.
Playing the latest games often requires serious investment in gaming hardware. After all, the gaming community demands higher FPS, more realism, and more action. Keeping up with the games may be hard – but not when you have a remote server doing all the heavy lifting for you. In the age of broadband internet, having a super-powerful gaming PC has become optional. No matter if you plan to play a few rounds of online roulette or run the latest Triple-A blockbuster released by your favourite developer, you can do it on pretty much any hardware configuration you can think of. The only requirement is that you have the necessary bandwidth to do so.