Business, technology, and the future of gaming

Image Credit: Marco Verch, used under CC

Will advancements in gaming technology ensure the future of gaming is safe, or will walled-in ecosystems and anti-competitive measures make sure gaming remains a battlefront for companies to compete for revenue? E. Keogh Discusses

The 2020 Samsung Unpacked event revealed a series of new Samsung devices, however the virtual crowd and socially distanced presenters ensured that viewers did not forget the impact of the pandemic they were living through. Videos of the new devices and slogans that fail to instil a sense of hope in the viewers for the future. Nevertheless, the Samsung event did bring lots of new software and hardware developments to the table, specifically in the realm of gaming.

Microsoft-Samsung devices such as the Samsung Galaxy Book Flex have been around for a while, and the development of Samsung Dex, the software used to make your high end galaxy devices into slightly less-functional computers, has even transitioned to no longer needing a dock to use (that is if you have a modern enough Samsung smart TV). This new collaboration with Microsoft has allowed not only further software integration between your phone and computer, but has further integrated phone and console.

Xcloud, Microsoft’s game streaming service first announced in late 2018, has entered its final stages before release in September this year, and the Samsung event gave us a look at the future of gaming. The new Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra are the first devices to have Xcloud debut on, and special bundles can be pre-ordered from Samsung, which include a controller and three months of free Gamepass, which will include Xcloud game streaming once it launches. The idea of game streaming is nothing new to the community, with Sony and Microsoft trying to one up each other at every chance, but the partnership with Samsung specifically allows the seamless experience of streaming games directly to your phone. Samsung said that the final version might not be exactly the same as the demo they showcased, but this is the first big news that the two have announced during their partnership, and might just be enough to push the Xbox and Xcloud experience over the line in terms of the race to win over consumers.

Although Apple didn’t make a direct reply to the multiple jabs Samsung made at its products, it was revealed that the beta test for Xcloud had been discontinued on the Appstore. This is due to the strict regulations and rules of the walled-in ecosystem that Apple provided. Specifically, in relation to how they handle streaming on their devices to ensure customer and device safety. Apple claims that it’s due to the fact that they have no way to make sure all the titles on Xcloud would be suitable for the Appstore, yet it is known that Apple has been working hard in the background to bring its own game streaming service to life. 

CEO’s from Apple, Google, Facebook and Amazon have all had to testify in front of the US congress for the anti-trust hearing on July 27th, and whilst it’s amusing to see congressmen so out of touch that they confuse Twitter for Facebook, there was one big problem with the testimony from Tim Cook. Whilst under oath, he claimed that “We [Apple] treat every developer the same, we have open and transparent rules…”. This simply is not true, as Apple is not only blocking Xcloud from the Appstore, but Google’s game streaming service Stadia, GeForce Now and other cloud game streaming services. Apple claims that these services will be allowed back on the app store should they submit each game for individual review, and would have to include the games in charts and search in the Appstore. This highly restrictive and unfair rule is not subject to every developer on the Appstore, as Netflix, Spotify and Amazon Prime video can stream content to any Apple devices, yet their content is not reviewed individually by Apple.

This policy becomes even more unfair when you consider the Fortnite ban that came into place. The reason Fortnite was banned from Apple and Google’s respective app stores was because Epic games allowed players to buy in-game currency and items for a reduced price on their website, instead of paying a larger fee on the Appstore. This larger fee is due to Apple taking 30% of the money made for the first year on the Appstore, and 50% after that. Google’s business model is similar, and both app stores pulled Fortnite, with Google later restoring its status on the play store after massive backlash. These anti-competitive measures ensure that Apple’s own service will remain on the top earners list of cloud game services. 

Essentially, Apple has become a sort of ally to Sony through this process. Sony’s own streaming service won’t be available to either Android or Apple devices, as it is exclusively for use on Windows PC and Sony consoles. However their Remote Play app doesn’t violate Apple’s terms, as the consumer is streaming directly from their own devices, rather than Sony servers. This allows a workaround for Sony, as all you need to play games on any device is a decent internet connection, a PS4 and an account, and either the game or a subscription to PlayStation Now. 

The future of gaming is certain; it is going to involve a lot of legal battles between everyone with a stake in the gaming market. It is going to be exclusive to certain app stores and devices, and with the new consoles releasing in the vague “holiday” period, it is sure to be one of the most expensive hobbies yet.