Is Game Streaming The End for Modding & Game Preservation?

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Published by FileTrekker 3 years ago , last updated 1 year ago

With the news that Google are entering the space with it's new Stadia service, and even rumours of Walmart being interested, it begs the question; what would the long term future of game streaming services hold for the game modding and preservation scenes?

It's a very real question, given the sheer proliferation and research going into the technology currently, and although such changes wouldn't happen overnight, much like video rentals and music all went the way of the cloud, with the ever increasing advancement of bandwidth and the cost efficiency of centralised hardware, it  may be that video games will be going the same way.

And there's a good reason why video game publishers really want to push for such platforms. It all but eliminates video game piracy, and gives full control over the games, content and platforms that games are played on. There's not much chance of pirating a game streamed from a cloud service on propriatory hardware and software.

There's an economy of scale, too - it eliminates the need for costly, often loss making home hardware, with centralised raw computing power being much cheaper to implement for companies, as they often share existing server and datacentre infrastructure.

Of course, there's a downside to all of this: the day will be coming, maybe not this year, but in the not too distant future, that games will be released exclusive to these online streaming platforms. Now the first and most obvious issue this presents is the impact on the modding scene.

There'll be very few if any options to mod games that are entirely hosted in the cloud, without those cloud providers providing more access than they'd like to their infrastructure. It would all but eliminate the concept, except perhaps for mods hosted within the game created by a select few with the specialised access that would be needed.

While such a situation would be nothing new to console gamers, it would signal the end of significant freedoms to customize and mod games that PC gamers have enjoyed for many, many years.

Perhaps more of an issue is the role of gaming historians. The great thing about games that are released on physical media, and even downloaded, are that they are preserved and playable regardless of how technology evolves. I can still play Sega Genesis games, Amiga games, PacMan, time has not hindered the preservation movement that ensures that these key cornerstones of gaming history are not lost to time, via emulation and hardware preservation.

There's nothing to preserve with a cloud based, streaming service - it's entirely dependent on the company running it to want to maintain the hardware, or, update older software, to ensure it's continued availability. Should such companies run into financial issues, it could mean the end of a huge swathe of gaming history in one fell swoop.

We've seen something of these issues already in the form of online gameplay being crippled once the developer / publisher decides they no longer want to support that game, and there are already some online only games that are effectively consigned to the history books thanks to their support being withdrawn.

This problem would be hugely magnified in the online only streaming world. Everything would dissapear. The game would simply be gone overnight, never to be seen again except for videos on YouTube or Twitch.

It's unlikely that video game streaming will take over any time soon, of course, there's still plenty of demand for powerful PC hardware, and internet connections still have some way to go before the latancy and lag is resolved to an acceptable level, not even considering those who live in rural locations with low bandwidth connections.

That being said, it's a glimpse into our future, and frankly, it's perhaps a future that I'd rather not live in.

What are your thoughts? Let us know below!

Comments on this Article
3 years ago by Plok

It will be if everyone jumps into it like the fad-following sheep that they are. No game that is afraid of preservation is worth experiencing.

3 years ago by GuyNamedErick

I agree with that, if a game doesn't want to be remembered or be replayed, it has no right of either happening. I sincerely hope gaming communities are still devoted to maintaining games they love instead of jumping in on the next sequel of every soulless series. That kind of move will only give companies the incentive to jump in on cloud gaming only seeing how the top heads more often than not don't care about video games.

3 years ago by Superfluous Curmudgeon

I think the feasibility of market dominance by streaming is a long ways off. Perhaps in Europe and parts of Asia it could be done with no problem, but in the Americas, Australia, and many other parts of the world where there is low population density and low incentive for ISPs to provide fast, reliable service, I don't think it's remotely feasible. Game devs would just be cutting off too much of their potential market. My previous home had speeds that averaged 1.5 Mbps or less; usually the speed didn't exceed 0.5 Mbps in times of high activity and it had constant connection issues. And this is pretty standard in a lot of rural areas of the country.

From an efficiency standpoint though it makes a lot of sense. A datacenter of 1000 desktop PCs worth of computing power will always be more time and energy efficient than 1000 desktop PCs in individual households. Computational power can be more efficiently utilized, and it's more likely that the server provider will be choosing more energy-efficient parts, whether it means higher efficiency power supplies or more efficient computational hardware.

3 years ago by Lindæl

There will always be those of us who put hundred of hours into a single game. For example, I have:

* 1,600 hours in Skyrim

* 30 hours in Banished

* 116 hours in American Truck Simulator

* 86 hours in Euro Truck Simulator 2

* I probably have a year's worth of hours in Knights of the Old Republic, and another year's worth in The Sith Lords.

The reason why is summed up in one word: MODS. Mods are what make a game worth playing more than once. When I get bored of a game, find a new mod, and play around with that.

For gamers like that, like us, preservation and modding are not going anywhere.