5G has the long-term potential to bring significant improvements to cloud gamers. But for now, 4G will continue to be sufficient for providing solid user experiences, said Paul Yang, technical lead at Tencent Cloud, during Emerge at TechCrunch Shenzhen 2019. The industry’s development is not dependent on the rapid mass-adoption of the next-generation communication network in China, he added.
While acknowledging that 5G will be a “plus,” he said that 4G was already enough. Tencent remains focused on delivering a “good” 4G-based experience for casual gamers, and even some pro-gamers.
The commercial rollout of 5G announced on Oct. 31 has been touted as a boon for cloud gaming, where games reside on company services and are streamed directly to devices.
Ultimately it means better graphics and less lag, an issue which can often frustrate gamers. 4G took three to four years to become mainstream, while 5G will likely be slower, said David Dai from research and brokerage firm Sanford C. Bernstein. 5G penetration in China is expected to reach 30% by the end of 2021 and 54% by the end of 2022, said Dai, citing his own company’s data. 4G penetration rates for China Mobile in the same time frame were 47% and 67%, respectively.
Cloud gaming connections tend to be stable as long as people stay still. Yang said that switching base stations means users could experience a jitter. But even when users are in taxis or riding the subway, he believes that 4G will be enough. “The strategy for cloud gaming is little to no buffer, so users will see a jitter scene and jump to the latest scene,” said Yang.
When asked whether AR and VR technologies could integrate with cloud gaming, Yang said that VR equipment currently was too clunky to create a seamless experience. Until more lightweight gear arrives, cloud gaming may see more integration with existing trends like live broadcasting. Fans currently watch their favorite gamers play solo, but cloud gaming could make it far easier for them to play alongside.