Cloud gaming may be on the cusp of going mainstream

Epic Games’ hugely popular battle royale Fortnite has come to Xbox Cloud Gaming, giving players another way to access the game on iPhone without any need for a subscription. Earlier this year, Epic brought Fortnite to Nvidia’s cloud service, GeForce Now. The news is not only encouraging for Fortnite fans on Apple devices (since they can’t download the game), but it’s a sign of the continued push by leading game companies for cloud gaming as a viable way to play high fidelity video games – Sega recently labeled cloud gaming a “natural extension” for the future of gaming.

Cloud gaming initiatives in the past were largely ahead of their time because the internet infrastructure in the US wasn’t up to snuff. Over the last decade, however, we’ve seen broadband penetration rise from around 60% of US consumers to three-quarters, according to Pew Research. Consequently, much of the gaming audience now has the minimum viable equipment and internet bandwidth to facilitate cloud gaming.

For Microsoft, there’s clearly a strong vision in place, as the tech giant believes the cloud and its Azure technology will allow the firm to one day reach 3 billion gamers globally. Xbox recently announced that more than 10 million people have streamed games through Xbox Cloud Gaming (as part of the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription), and the company has worked with over 125 developers to make more than 350 games from the Xbox Game Pass catalog cloud enabled.

Moreover, Microsoft is pushing in the direction of making Xbox gaming a strong proposition even for consumers who never buy an Xbox console. The company is actively working on its own streaming stick to enable Xbox Cloud Gaming and is teaming up with smart TV manufacturers like Samsung to integrate its cloud gaming app into the TV OS.

Sony, meanwhile, has transformed its PlayStation Plus subscription program, adding in PS Now cloud gaming access. The addition of cloud gaming to PlayStation Plus, which currently has over 47 million subscribers, should give Sony’s cloud gaming business a shot in the arm. PS Plus Premium, which becomes available in June, will offer subscribers over 700 games, including 400 downloadable PS4 and PS5 titles, PS3 games available via cloud streaming, and a catalogue of classic games (original PS, PS2, and PSP) to either download or stream.

Cloud gaming is not without its hiccups and quirks, and diehards will still prefer downloads or physical copies to eliminate latency, but the market has never been in a better position. According to Interpret’s New Media Measure®, nearly a quarter of the US gaming audience is somewhat or very likely to purchase a cloud gaming subscription in the next three months, while among Xbox and PlayStation owners that figure increases to 30% of those respective audiences.

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