Gaming: up in the air
Is there a cloud-gaming Spotify out there?
Cloud gaming seeks to emulate what Netflix and Spotify have done in TV/video and music by aggregating content from producers and bypassing the traditional mode of distribution in favour of streaming over the internet. Archetypal perceptions of gaming have historically centred on consoles made by Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo, but these have now been joined by new entrants seeking to open up new and larger audience segments.
Some 2.5 billion people worldwide are active gamers, putting the pastime on a par with music and video streaming despite having far less mindshare and public profile. Spotify, Apple and Netflix provide a benchmark for how big cloud gaming could be. How large will depend on the price elasticity of the 1 billion casual gamers who currently pay little or nothing but could be tempted into a monthly subscription.
The drive towards streaming is part of a broader reinvention of gaming to attract new demographics and formats. While VR has failed to take-off after a period of hype in 2015/2016, gamers are the most fertile ground due to the obvious benefits of immersion. Work continues at pace behind the scenes on the content front, with gaming libraries growing for Oculus, Sony and HTC. E-sports are a further intriguing opportunity.
Cloud gaming presents a risk to Sony and Microsoft’s business model from the cannibalisation of console sales. Their strategy will be to sell into non-console owners and sign distribution agreements with telcos and cable firms that can bundle with 4G, 5G or home broadband tariffs. Google and Apple share common advantages in having ready-made ecosystems to leverage. However, they also share a common challenge in inferior content libraries.