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Industries + 5G: 5G Transforms the Gaming Industry and Facilitates Cloud Gaming

5G network with aerial view of Tokyo

As 5G sees rapid development, what is gaming giant NetEase’s plan in integrating 5G with gaming? At the Customer Strategy and Pain Points Analysis Conference (CSPA) recently held by Huawei, Hu Zhipeng, NetEase Vice President and President of NetEase Thunder Fire Studio shared with the audience about how NetEase understands 5G and gaming.

The development of the gaming industry has encountered difficulties as China’s demographic dividend is disappearing and an increasing number of short-video apps are grabbing people’s attention. To stimulate industry development, we need to feed gamers with something “different”, in which 5G can play a transformative role.

Hu Zhipeng NetEase Vice President

Hu Zhipeng, NetEase Vice President and President of NetEase Thunder Fire Studio, speaking at CSPA 2019

“With the high bandwidth and low latency it provides, 5G can significantly improve the mobile gaming experience, further improve the quality of games, and boost the development of VR and AR. In addition, 5G will also facilitate the rise of cloud gaming, as it requires stable network with low latency (less than 70ms),” according to Hu.

5G to transform the gaming industry

It is estimated that the global gaming market in 2019 is worth US$150 billion. With the large number of gamers in China, Japan, and South Korea, the total number of gamers in Asia Pacific amounts to 1.3 billion.

Every technological revolution has created huge opportunities for the gaming industry. 3D video cards, broadband internet, and many other technologies have totally changed the industry, said Hu, and it is obvious that it has been transformed by every communication technology revolution.

For instance, 4G enabled the rise of mobile gaming markets, for which market prospects will reach nearly US$100 billion by 2021, Hu said.

When the concept of 4G first emerged in 2013, China’s annual mobile gaming market was worth less than CNY10 billion. One year later, when 4G was commercially available, the annual value of the market more than doubled to exceed CNY27.5 billion. Now, the growth of mobile games has exceeded that of traditional PC games.

5G networks with high bandwidth and low latency will definitely revolutionize the traditional gaming industry. When 5G is deployed, consumers will experience the racing downloading speed of cloud gaming. “5G will drive the growth of the gaming industry based on the brand-new gaming experience 5G brings. Cloud gaming will only see explosive growth if it can provide a gaming experience that other types of games cannot,” said Hu.

Hu Zhipeng believes that 5G will bring a unique gaming experience from the following three aspects:

  • First, high bandwidth and low latency will significantly improve the mobile gaming experience.
  • Next, 5G will further improve the quality of games. Faster downloading speeds, better picture quality, and smoother gaming experience are some of the examples.
  • Last, 5G will accelerate the development of VR and AR, which will in turn facilitate the rise of cloud games.

5G cloud games to make high-end games more approachable

High-end games need to be run on high-configuration devices. During this speech, Hu played a stunning clip from the PC game Treacherous Waters Online. The pictures in this video are rendered using a flagship RTX graphics card, which costs around US$499. For an average gamer, the price is a bit steep.

Additionally, devices must have a minimum storage of 69 GB to run this game, and its weekly updates are as large as an addition 1 to 3 GB. The high device requirements and the frequency of updates can easily cause a shortage of users and create obstacles for most gamers. Similarly, the mobile app version is increasingly large, and developers need to optimize the game for various hardware.

These obstacles can be eliminated through cloud computing. 5G networks with high bandwidth and low latency will drive the prominence of cloud gaming. The industry believes that cloud gaming will be an application scenario for 5G eMBB.

Hu introduced how cloud gaming works in the 5G era in his speech: Game companies will put rendering and computing on a cloud server. Visual content will be compressed through video coding, sent to the devices, and decoded for gameplay.

According to Hu, 5G cloud gaming has various benefits:

  • It makes high-end games more approachable, taking away the need for high-end PCs or consoles.
  • No need to download, install, load, or wait.
  • It saves game progress on the cloud for access anytime and anywhere. Cloud games can be run on various devices regardless of their OS, making game playing simpler.

Game developers, on the other hand, will no longer need to invest heavily in the adaptation and performance optimization of games for devices.

Hu also highlighted that gamers don’t need to worry about not having high-configuration devices when they are not home since cloud gaming does not have high requirements for devices. They can simply play games on cloud with their mobile phones.

5G cloud gaming creates huge value and transforms the gaming industry. Cloud gaming will close the gap between mobile, PC, and console games, said Hu. For example, gamers only need a network of 35Mbps and pay US$10 per month for a gaming experience with 4K resolution, 60FPS, and 5.1 channel surround sound on Google Stadia. Gamers can access the latest 31 console games on this platform, including customized SAY and Lara Croft. In 2020, Stadia will launch cloud games commercially. Advanced cloud computing is one important reason for Google to be able to offer such high-quality service at such low rates.

Multiple measures to increase adoption of cloud gaming

Speaking of development of cloud gaming in China, Hu expects there to be the following application scenarios:

  • Cloud gaming at home (iTV, intelligent TV, TV box)
  • Cloud gaming on mobile phones (such as Mate 20 X 5G)
  • Cloud gaming using key applications of 5G uRLLC such as cloud VR/AR

“There are only a small number of console gamers in China, but mobile gamers account for 60% of the all gamers. Cloud-based mobile games will soon take the main cloud gaming market,” according to Hu.

Cloud gaming is an inevitable future trend. However, we still need to optimize the industry chain to boost its development. According to Hu, on one hand, the core components and key technologies of cloud servers are still expensive, which is a situation that game companies would like to see changed. NetEase is using TaiShan Servers which come with Huawei’s self-developed, ARM-based Kunpeng 920 CPU. The excellent performance of this server is beyond NetEase’s expectation.

On the other hand, the latency of cloud gaming still needs to be shortened. When you play cloud games, you are using a computer that is hundreds of miles away. There are still many problems to be solved, including latency. Gamers can only have a smooth gaming experience when the latency is less than 70ms, which requires many edge servers and more mature coding solutions. Hu recommends that carriers should be forward-looking and build large-scale edge computing capabilities to solve latency issues.

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