Cloud gaming has been around for a while now, allowing users to stream games straight to their TVs and PCs while a rented computer does all the rendering for them. It’s a great solution for users who don’t own either a console or a gaming PC, but still want to partake of that sweet, sweet gaming bliss.
However, there’s one problem inherent to cloud gaming: As an internet-based solution, it’s subject to the issues that arise due to the physical distance between the user and the cloud. In other words, unless you live very close to the cloud servers and have a very high speed connection, you’re going to struggle with lag, input delay, and other undesirables. This applies to all users unless the developers take into consideration these problems when they’re coding their game. And even with measures to reduce lag such as a good netcode with lots of compensation, this doesn’t eliminate the problem entirely, especially for input-sensitive titles such as fighting and shoot ‘em up games.
Luckily, SEGA is putting some serious funds into fixing this issue, and they could be already onto something with their new “Fog Gaming” technology. Let’s take a look and see what it’s all about.
What is Fog Gaming?
Since a big problem with cloud gaming is the issues that arise from physical distance, the obvious solution would be to bring the servers closer to the gamers. By closing this gap, users might be able to enjoy a lag-free experience, even while streaming games from a cloud. However, setting up cloud servers in many points around a local community or city is prohibitively expensive— the costs of setting up and maintaining the servers is basically what stops us from going full cloud at the moment.
But what if we used locations that are already hotspots and that already have dozens of computers running simultaneously, and use them as cloud servers? Like, say, for example, arcade centers? After all, arcade cabinets are already big computers with powerful hardware that could easily function both for gaming as well as for working as cloud servers whenever the FEC is closed or when the business has only a few customers. This is SEGA’s proposal for eliminating latency issues with cloud gaming, by effectively bringing the cloud closer to the ground, hence the name “Fog Gaming.”
Now, this tech comes with a few caveats.
First of all, the current arcade cabinets that are already in the market are not equipped with the technology to function as cloud servers, and upgrading them to do so would be prohibitively expensive. For this reason, SEGA is already investing significant resources into creating new machines with this capability, and their purchase and installation would serve a dual purpose by functioning as standard arcade games for FEC owners and operators to produce revenue, while also doubling up as cloud server installations.
In essence, this will transform the FEC from just an arcade center, to also a server farm for cloud applications, and for a relatively low cost compared to investing in setting up and maintaining a regular cloud node.
Secondly, this technology only really makes sense in places where there are significant concentrations of amusement venues. Thanks to its limited geographic size, high population density, and high number of game centers, Japan serves as the perfect testing ground for this concept. That said, Sega is not ruling out expanding the technology into other parts of the world, but time will tell whether it is viable in vast places like the United States. Either way, Fog Gaming technology is a potential gold mine for FEC owners since they can double as an arcade center during the day, and a cloud center when the business is closed or where there are only a few clients walking around, generating additional income from their machines. This is also prudent for crisis situations like the pandemic-induced shutdown that has caused so many locations around the world to shut their doors and lose revenues, since they have been unable to serve up their games over the internet.
However, while this technology aims to solve the latency issues inherent with cloud gaming, we don’t actually know what it’s going to be used for since SEGA was very explicit when they said that Fog Gaming is NOT a cloud gaming service. They won’t be using it for streaming arcade games to people’s homes. However, they have mentioned important applications such as allowing these cloud machines to be used as virtual machines for businesses, or even as render farms for video production studios, among others.
We guess only time will tell. But for the time being, Fog Gaming looks like it will pave a new path for cloud gaming.
Thanks for reading! Here at PrimeTime Amusements, we like to keep ahead of the curve in arcade game rental and sales and pride ourselves in providing the best service in the country. If you’re looking for a game in particular, or have a few questions about the industry, feel free to give us a call at 1.800.550.0090 or to swing by at 5300 Powerline Rd. Suite 210, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, 33309.