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Certainly the biggest news in mobile gaming this week comes from Nvidia, with a new Kepler-based graphics chip that aims to revolutionize cloud-based gaming. Unveiled at the GPU Technology conference in San Jose, Calif., the new chip will make cloud-based gaming more economical, faster, and less reliant on end-user hardware. The heavy lifting is done in the data center, where the graphics chip lives, so a gamer needs only their mobile display to play a game. This goes for low-end smartphones and other displays, including tablets, PCs and even television sets.
What’s special about the Kepler-based graphics chip is that it’s reportedly able to handle four times as many server-based games simultaneously, using half the power and running at half the cost. That’s a game changer for an industry that’s anxious to grow the mobile gaming sector, particularly in a multi-device world where the average consumer has two mobile gadgets, a laptop and a TV. Shifting away from the need for a console, while minimizing the need for an end user to constantly upgrade their hardware, virtualized game clouds are unifying the experience across the board.
Less hardware demands more software
It’s a topic we discussed last month with the launch of Google Drive, a potential opportunity for Google to layer-in its new storage service with Android games. Enabling game data to be stored in the cloud means gamers can pause a game on their smartphone and pick it up from their last save point on their tablet or PC. And as more details emerge around Android 5.0 Jelly Bean, touting it as Google’s effort to consolidate its dispersed ecosystem, we could see some cloud perks designed for game developers sooner rather than later. This could help Google beat Apple to the punch, and compete with Microsoft’s plans to connect the mobile and XBOX experience across devices.
Of course, there are others like Ubisoft who are much further along than Google when it comes to cloud-based gaming. Focusing on storage, Ubisoft already lets you start a game on one device and pick it up where you left off on another. This is yet another instance where the heavy load is being shifted away from the end user device to a centralized data center, where hardware and software can be more uniformly maintained and updated.
Pretty soon our smartphones and tablets will be little more than touchscreens with cameras, connected to the web in order to run software instead of downloadable applications. This happens to be a long term vision for Google, which launched the Chromebook a few months back with minimal hardware and ready access to web-based apps. The world wasn’t ready for the Chromebook, and it will be some time before we let a data center take on the full responsibility of our handheld devices as well. But with constant innovations from a range of technology providers, we’re certainly moving in that direction.