What is GaaS?
What is Games as a Service
Games as a Service is a different way of thinking in the games industry and relates more to how games are developed, deployed and operated than it does to how they are played. Game architecture is changing with more and more of the logic moving to the server as this gives developers a new level of agility that is vital for them as they navigate the ever-more complicated world of devices, markets and business models for their games.
Most of you are probably wondering what Cloud gaming actually is; let me explain It to you. Cloud gaming has been around for a while, but just recently it has made its self-known to the general public. Ever since the Atari 2600 and even before that, people have been going to their local gaming retailers and physically buying games, going home and playing the game until their eyes burn and their hands cramp – Cloud Gaming, is going to change all that. The idea of it is to stream full games over the internet and straight on to your TV, essentially removing the “middle man”, if you will. It uses a box, not unlike your actual console, except much smaller – this unit will allow the user to access a vast library of games in which the user can choose any game and buy it, the game will then be streamed over the internet and straight onto the user’s television. There are of course numerous advantages and disadvantages to this system, some of which are as follows.
The term is mis-understood, much like the related term, Cloud Gaming. It has ended up meaning so many different things to so many people. Outside of games, the ‘as a Service’ terminology is well understood and rapidly becoming a mature model. At a recent Microsoft Cloud Gaming conference, Rob Fraser, CTO of Microsoft Azure UK shed some light on this. The term encapsulates a server-side deployment model where functionality is centrally hosted and made available to the masses via easy to use interfaces (APIs and SDKs). However, it encapsulates more than software deployment, it also encapsulates the business models that underpin how it is provided. The ‘as a Service’ term implies a utility model where people pay as they go and pay based on what they use. All of this is extremely relevant to both how consumers play and pay for games today and also how Games as a Service solution providers (like GameSparks) sell to the game development community.
While SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS are already making their foray into industries, there’s a new zest in the market for GaaS – Gaming as a Service. With significant developments in the game streaming enabling cloud computing paging technology, gaming developers have done their best to integrate it with their game design and refine it. The reason why cloud paging technology is being tagged as the firestarter for the cloud gaming revolution is because it helps supply zero latency performance, which facilitates the optimization of in-cloud calculations that are passed on from end-user consoles. Efficient cloud storage solutions are allowing users to directly download and install games on their devices without the need of purchasing physical CDs to run them.
That is quite a general cross-industry compatible view of Games-as-a-Service though. It’s worth diving deeper and looking more specifically at what it means for game developers. It is becoming increasingly rare for developers to be able to design and build a game, distribute it through stores, charge a premium price and then walk away onto the next project. For one thing, in-game monetization is a complex area and difficult – if not impossible – to get right first time for all players and for all markets. Most people are accepting of that point at this stage. Therefore, unless there is a publisher to take on the burden of running the game, it is really left to the developer to operate it on an ongoing basis and optimize it across player types and markets.
Cloud services are impacting most industries not just games but are they enough? The average game developer does not really want to be faced with capacity planning, server configuration, tuning, patching, database programming, load balancer configuration, firewalls, routers, denial of service attacks, monitoring, 24 x 7 support etc. A solution like GameSparks removes all of this from the game developer and handles it all. GameSparks exposes a development and game management interface to the developer that makes sense for games allowing them to adopt server-side game development and run their game as a service post launch. GameSparks has been called ‘the Unity of the server-side’. It runs on Microsoft’s Azure and extends all of the incredible benefits that platform brings as well as adding on a whole lot more in the areas of analytics, dynamic content management, player management, eCommerce, social integration, multiplayer, in-game monetization etc.
The Benefits of Integrating Cloud Infrastructure with Game Design
Although it is in its infancy, cloud hosting technology is another promising facet that can suitably address the long-drawn problem game developers have been facing with regards to the implementation of custom video settings to cater to the standards of diverse consumer devices. The dream outcome from this advancement in cloud technology and integration in game design, which can trigger a gaming renaissance of sorts, would be a full streaming service that can refine your experience without banking on your own personal hardware.
Microsoft’s admirable efforts in developing better cloud infrastructure hit an early jackpot recently with the launch of the game-changing new CLR equivalent system named Orleans exclusively for their Azure cloud platform. Although Orleans has been in development for a few years now, its latest avatar has made it possible to access cloud computing storage and processing power as seamlessly and efficiently as utilizing local resources. Why am I throwing so much cloud tech jargon your way, you ask? Well, brace yourself gaming fans, because Microsoft’s next flagship Halo project is being built for the cloud!
In order to adopt the Games as a Service paradigm, a developer needs nothing more than Unity and GameSparks. GameSparks provides an out of the box integration with Unity which is quick and easy to set up (under 10 minutes). Once the Unity SDK has been configured, the full set of GameSparks functionality is available via a simple to use API. Simply put:
The materialization of digital distribution services and cloud storage platforms has paved a whole new land of opportunity ready to be cultivated by the gaming industry. It eliminates the large-scale investment made by gaming publishers in production of physical games that are globally distributed each year, and makes it uber-convenient for users to instantly purchase and play the hottest games in the market at the touch of a button. This allows publishers to upgrade their monetization strategies and eliminate redundancies.
• The ability to play any game, any time is appealing to a lot of people. Cutting out the travel and inconvenience going out and buying a game can have, having most games at your fingertips is a very attractive prospect to a lot of people.
• It’s a much more practical and portable way of gaming, the idea of not having to carry around loads of games when taking your console elsewhere can be a satisfying thought, although may only appeal to a select market.
• The ability to have an abundance of games at your fingertips without filling an entire room up with game cases.
• Cloud Gaming services are extremely reliant on servers not crashing, which most people do not have the patience for.
• The satisfying feeling when buying and un-packaging games is removed, which for a lot of people is a huge part of the enjoyment.
• Streaming quality is dependent on your connection; in most cases it can never be as good as using a disc.
In conclusion, Cloud Gaming is something that we need to seriously consider as something that is there and will happen eventually, but are we ready for it now? In my opinion, we aren’t. Things are still developing in the console area, with the release of Playstation Move and Kinect around the corner; the industry is just not giving way for the expansion of the digital age. With the release of OnLive come and gone, the leader in Cloud Gaming hasn’t seen the huge influx of subscribers it was hoping for. One day Cloud Gaming will become a reality and we will have to learn to adjust, but that day isn’t just around the corner.