Rumor: Cable Companies To Roll Out On-Demand Gaming
It’s no secret I’m largely a skeptic of the notion that consumers will willingly embrace cloud gaming, or that the transition would be anything other than a gigantic clusterfrack. But if there’s any model by which a cloud gaming scheme could possibly work, it’s the on-demand television and movies model pioneered by cable companies. And if a Bloomberg source isn’t blowing smoke, it looks like the cable companies have realized it.
Bloomberg reporter Ari Levy reports that, according to ‘people with knowledge of the matter,’ AT&T, Verizon, and Time Warner Cable are all planning to launch some form of on-demand gaming very soon. Supposedly, they’ll be testing such services before year’s end, and possibly rolling the services out in 2013. The catch? It appears these services will be web-based rather than cable based; An AT&T rep confirmed to Bloomberg that the company is “exploring unique ways to offer cloud gaming services to our TV and broadband customers.” (Emphasis mine.)
This brings us back to the problem I identified in my feature on streamed games, namely the terrible state of America’s broadband access. (That’s not even getting into the fact that full priced games should come with full priced ownership, or our severe economic stratification.) Remember people, bandwidth allocation is constantly held up as a reason to totally screw Internet users on even basic usage. If the cable companies make streamed games an online service rather than a cable TV service, count on customers to be ripped off. Even Uverse, which isn’t remotely cheap, doesn’t provide customers with the kind of data package needed for streaming to really work. On the other hand, perhaps this kind of scheme will finally force them to admit that the bandwidth crunch isn’t a looming disaster on par with peak oil, but a problem with solutions that don’t require gouging consumers after all.
For what it’s worth, Verizon has essentially denied the the report, telling Bloomberg it does not “offer anything regarding HD cloud gaming.” Meanwhile, the failure of OnLive can’t be ignored. Let’s not forget that prior to the spectacular collapse that turned out to be nothing but a scheme to sell the company without the stockholders profiting, the company wasn’t making money hand over fist. We’ll argue over why that is but I’m convinced it’s because the demand for cloud gaming isn’t high enough to sustain a service as anything other than one option among many offered by companies who also provide traditional gaming. This news could therefore be what’s known in political commentary as a ‘trial balloon’, a means of seeing if consumers really want it. We’ll see come 2013, I suppose.